Monthly Archives: March 2015

2.009 – Product Engineering Process (Part III)

So I realize this has been a long series of posts, but bear with me, here is the good part (previous still-good parts here). Because I’m limited on time and I want to get this out there, below is the ultimate spoiler, the video of the presentation! Though I was working way too hard on final electronics an code revisions to be a main presenter, I was awake enough to answer questions at the end (2nd video). Check it out, our presenters did an incredible job!

Final Presentation: Pink: Origin from 2.009 @ MIT on Vimeo.

Final Presentation: Pink: Origin Q&A from 2.009 @ MIT on Vimeo.

I couldn’t be more proud of everyone on Pink Team, it was an incredible semester and a ton of fun. GO PINK!

I’ll probably post some more technical stuff soon, but I have to get back to psets.

2.009 – Product Engineering Process (Part II)

If you just got here and want to know more about the background of course 2.009 at MIT, check out this post part I!

Otherwise, another spoiler is appropriate:
origin-board
But hang on, we haven’t talked at all about the product design process! And what an exciting and challenging process it is.

portable-mechanical-coolerThe ideation process taught in 2.009 is Professor Wallace’s preferred method, and is the same as the one taught in 2.00b. Essentially, the first round of the process is to gather a many ideas as possible, without filter, to amass a huge board of thought-provoking and not-provoking ideas. Participants should be encouraged to generate derivatives and spin-offs, along with fresh material. From there, a brief grouping process can show connections between ideas, and optionally filter ones that were off topic. With some clearer categories, a more focused brainstorming session can generate new concepts, flesh out old ones, or remix a couple. At this point, attention should be paid to the core concept of an idea; what problem is it trying to solve? The first implementation that comes out on paper may not be the best.

From here, we took a fairly democratic path by voting on concepts that seemed interesting and tractable to test, and finally developed a Pugh Chart to try and select three concepts impartially for initial testing. The cooler here was one of my concepts that reached the initial stages of testing (and we continued pursuing it until the final vote). Some other popular ideas we worked on were actively regulated thermalwear, an ice depth testing device, and a portable light-based sports field line marking system. After several stages of testing, mixing in new ideas and performing more tests with old ones, Pink team reached a point where we had three strong, tested, and exciting ideas. A pivotal moment for every team in 2.009 is the meeting where the final product is decided. Luckily, Pink team was full of intelligent, impartial, critical thinkers, and the decision making process went smoothly (and relatively quietly!).

What I said about the first implementation not being the best? It’s probably true quite frequently, and it was certainly true for our final product, Origin. Originally (hah! get it?), another team member and I came up with fairly similar concepts for a wrist-mounted proximity beacon to alert sky divers of others around them, in hopes of preventing canopy collisions (the #1 cause of death in skydiving). Initially, people were concerned about the market size and utility of such a device. At some point, someone considered the broader need; location information for social/safety/datametrics reasons in areas outside the range or use cases of cell phones. That was the moment of birth of the idea that grew into Origin, our final product.

2.009 – Product Engineering Process (Part I)

First, the hook.

Origin Wristband - Pink Team 2.009

Photocredit to Victor Hung

Hopefully now you are wondering, “What is that?”, “Where can I buy one?”, “How did you guys get to test the next [tech company] wearable?”. Tuck yourself in, and I’ll tell you the story of 2.009

One of MIT’s best known courses, 2.009 takes over 150 MechE seniors through the beginning stages of product design, up to the point of presenting a (hopefully!) functioning prototype product to a live and streamed audience of a couple thousand. So highly esteemed is the course on campus, within 2 hours of the RSVP system going live, every available seat in Kresge Auditorium (1,200 according to the campus activities site) was claimed. There’s one reason for the hype, and I can tell you that us students deserve no credit in the class culminating in this incredible final event.

2.009 Pink Team dismantles electric go-kart The course is taught by Prof. David Wallace, who pours his heart and soul into making the class an unrelenting experience. As soon as the class is sectioned into 8 teams of 24 (yes, there were 24 people in a team), we start doing team bonding tasks that are cleverly disguised as learning activities. One of our first tasks as Pink Team was dismantling a product and determining the materials used, how it was assembled, and trying to determine the materials cost of the product. These activities were way more enjoyable than your typical name-game group activities, and really began to shape the team dynamic. We learned early on who was loud, who to trust, who had good ideas, etc.

DSC_0160 Later we worked on assembling a strange contraption manufactured by the shop staff. An earlier lecture, we had been asked to sketch out an idea for a multi-person vehicle that could load and carry cargo without the operators touching the cargo or the ground. I had sketched out what was essentially two bikes, side by side, with a bucket in the middle, and a scoop to pile cargo in. The shop staff apparent found this idea entertaining, so they built it, with some modifications as you can see. Our team assembled it, then a couple of us took it for a test drive. We knew this wasn’t the last we would see of it.

Photocredit to Landon Carter

Photocredit to Landon Carter

It certainly wasn’t. The next week, each team took their mobile, stuff-getting, people-transporting device out to Killian Court, the home of the iconic Dome. Today, however, it was home to tiny volcanoes, stacks of blocks, and hidden treasure! The teams were given a crate of pom poms and some other paraphernalia with which to cheer on their team as pairs went out to uncover their treasure and bring home the gold. We had been told ahead of time that there would be a prize for first, but also a prize for spirit. Knowing that our dual-bike thingy “hobbled” at best, as a team we decided to strike out for the team spirit prize. We started preparing for the event hours before! I pulled together some cruft foam insulation to make giant Pink letters, found some surplus scrap wood from Next Big Thing, and took along some rope. Another division went to a nearby fabric store to get a couple yards of pink cloth. We ended up building a 20-foot, guy-line supported Pink flag, which we proudly displayed during the competition. It was a huge team bonding moment because, although we came in dead last getting the treasure, we had a ton of fun being the loudest and proudest out there. It was a good moment, and I knew every member of the team was in it for the right reasons.

Enough about team bonding, and on to the technical stuff!