I’m so glad that I was able to finish the semester. I ended up not taking a class like STAT110 this semester, but since most of my classes were studio-based, I was bombarded with projects to complete at the end of the semester. In amidst of numerous projects I did, I want to write down a little about my learnings from my core studio class.
During the core studio class last semester, I had one mini-project and one final project which totaled to 2 projects. The mini-project finished in 3 weeks so I almost spent most of my semester working on one single project. Just like the previous studio class, the theme of the studio was mobility, and the class was tasked to design a product that identifies and solves a specific problem in this world. For this project, I teamed up my fellow cohort members, consisted of a Fulbrighter from Mexico, a product designer from Korea, and the former IBM consultant which we did the mini-project together.
Looking for Problems
When we started to work on a project as a group, we had to agree upon what problem to work with. Personally, I think that if we can identify a problem that no one has ever considered, that’s already a huge win in terms of the output. Therefore my focus was trying to find a problem that is intriguing on its own. Moreover, I think it’s more important to take to have a “stock” of these interesting problems so that you don’t have to go look for one when you’re asked to do so. From that stock of problems I had, I brought a few of them to the team meeting and discussed what would be a good project to work on in light of the theme mobility. After a few discussions, we settled upon making a cane.
Bring Prototypes, Now!
My instructors told countless times for us to make prototypes. They told me that however rudimentary it is, we should start making prototypes. To be honest, during my last job, I used to write decks a lot but never had that much opportunity necessarily to iterate on designs by making prototypes. I always feel like spending as much time as possible when asked to make something, but given the time limitation, I decided to take the advice and start by making something.
I initially thought that the prototypes I’m making are somewhat phony, but the good thing about at least making is that the discussion progresses by making prototypes. However primitive the prototype may be, there will always be a meaningful discussion because of the fact that the prototype exists. For our team, new research directions emerged through the process of making prototypes and having a discussion based on the prototypes.
After a few iterations, we decided to design a cane that focuses on basophobia(fear of walking). By making a smart cane that is capable of sensing and responding to the user, the aim of the design is to alleviate the fear of walking and therefore eliminating the user’s fall.
My fellow teammates worked on the prototyping, and I focused on the electronics so that the product can be used for demo for the final presentation. I wasn’t good at making electronics at all, but I got used to messing around with Arduino after countless debugging and frustrations.
The biggest struggle was miniaturizing and integrating all of the electronics into the cane handle. I was first building the electronics using Arduino Uno under the assumption that once I can develop a working prototype, it’s not that difficult to switch it to Arduino Micro which is smaller, but this was a big mistake. Moreover, my estimation on the spacing inside the cane handle was not good enough, so I had to struggle towards the very end of this project to realize everything.
After numerous trials and errors, I somehow managed to build the electronics. Not just building the cane itself, but to demonstrate the cane is sensing data, I also wrote a software that visualizes the incoming realtime data from the cane.
After consolidating semester-long research into a deck, we approached the final review at the end of the semester.
As a Team
The scope and the amount of the work related to this project were immense, and I would have never been able to complete the project without the collaboration we did as a team. One of the team members was extremely proficient in research and he led the research. Two of the product designers in the team was amazing when it came to designing the form of the product. Among such a great team, I worked on the software/hardware aspect of the project. On daytime, we would have meetings to share the direction as a team, work on specific tasks individually, and confirm the updates on the next meeting and proceed to iterate this process for weeks.
Given the time constraints we had, everyone in the team leveraged their unique skillsets and through the process of prototyping, we knew better what to do as a team. Prototypes have functioned not only as a means of new learning but also as a glue that connected and united the team members as one.
After going through this class, I feel like I now better understand how to work on designs as a team.