D.school collaborative reflection

If you haven’t noticed yet, this weeks blog format is a bit different than my regular blog posts. I decided to do an audio reflection with my fellow cohort member and sister, Catherine,  using the StoryCorps app, I hope you enjoy!

Just a bit of a preface:

2 weeks ago was the interim week for my school, MVPS. During this week, the iD program went to the graduate school at Stanford called the d.school where we designed for building friendship and establishing community on the Stanford campus. https://storycorps.me/interviews/collaborative-interim-reflection/


Speed bumps on the Road of the Venture

It has been a while since my last post, since then, my team and I have accomplished a lot. We learned a lot with our 1/2 scale cardboard prototype, we learned how to join the pieces in a very convenient way, and we ironed out the design for the hinge system. To join the pieces, we are using finger joints, sometimes called box joints, so that when the students put it together, it is very easy to figure out and require no extra materials join them. We already had a pretty final design for the hinge, but we needed to test it to make minor adjustments and make sure its perfect for the intended purpose.

The next step we took was learning to use the laster printer to suit our needs of cutting triple ply cardboard. For this, Margaret created a logo for ReSpIn to be cut out by the printer. On a Thursday morning, the logo having been completed, my team and I headed over to the lower school campus, where the Director of Media and Maker Programs at MVPS, Mr. Tiffin, walked us through the process of laser cutting. We brought with a file that had our design in it, and he brought his experience and a laser printer. Over the course of about an hour, with the help of Mr. Tiffin, we ended up with a peek of how to operate the laser cutter, and 2 copies of the ReSpIn logo. One of the logos was engraved into cardboard, and one was cut out of the cardboard. When we saw the logo engraved into the cardboard, we had an idea, what if we engraved a straight line into the cardboard, so it was much easier to bend, and then have those spots as our corners. Without these cuts into the cardboard, the cardboard would not be able to be bent to our satisfaction, at least not with the triple ply cardboard that we planned on using. Something that was very cool was that Mr. Tiffin had a class in Studio (i) while we were in there, and they were very interested in our logo,, asking us a lot of questions and commenting on how awesome it is.

After that learning experience with Mr. Tiffin, we were left with questions we had to ask ourselves, “Will our dimensions fit in the machine?”, “Where will we get the cardboard?”, and “What kid-friendly resources can we use to join our pieces?” We presented these questions to Mr. Boden, who in turn connected us with Mr. Tompkins, who is a Lab Manager for the Digital Fabrication Lab at Georgia Tech. Looking back on it, I think it is most valuable and helpful connection we have made so far. We arranged to talk to him about our design and learn more about the machines we can use to create our product. We arrived at 9:15 on a Thursday morning to what looked like a building attached to a warehouse, contrary to my expectations, which was it looking like a big school. When we arrived, Mr. Tompkins and his awesome beard were there to greet us and show us around. He first showed us a lot of his students’ work, most of them were beginners, having never touched a 3D design program before, while others were obviously more experienced. Next, he showed us all the machines that he had in the lab (which looked more like a warehouse than a lab). These machines were everything from a water jet and a $250,000 CNC (computer numerical control) machine, to a styrofoam cutter and a welding station. While these machines were all very cool to see and understand how they work, they all seemed a bit overkill as possible machines to cut our simple cardboard with. After the tour of the whole lab, we were left with little time to actually discuss the RISE system and our ideas with him. We had to make the most of what little time we had, so we settled down in a quiet room to discuss our ideas. We presented the design and our hopes for the outcome of the product, which he listened to very tentatively, and once we were done, he gave out his thoughts on it. Many of the beginning thoughts that he gave, we already implemented or were aware of, like putting the word “landfill” on the trash container, or making a distinction between the social changes we want to inspire, and the actual product. Then, he introduced many possible and likely problems we will run into when creating and implementing the product. The first of which, was our joinery system, as I said earlier, we were planning on joining our product together using finger joints, but one problem that Mr. Tompkins saw in this was that if we wanted our product to not fall apart, we would have to use a different material, as cardboard is very soft and the joints would very easily become undone. Then, continuing why we shouldn’t use cardboard, is that if the product gets wet, which trash and recycling bins often do, the cardboard will disintegrate and will no longer be able to function in the classroom. One question this poses is, “Is it worth it to replace the product every 2 months just for the luxury of being able to use cardboard?” We immediately decided as a team that the answer to this question is no, as it just wouldn’t be an efficient way to spend our time or money. Then, he brought up a problem with the model of how we plan to have the students put it together. We were planning on having the students fold a piece of cardboard into 4 sections, forming a box without sides, twice, then placing 2 long pieces of cardboard into slits on the sides to unite the 2 boxes and fill in the sides. However, Mr. Tompkins said that the current model that we present will not be strong enough to hold up a recycling bin and anther sideless cardboard box, and that we would have to put that model on its side to have enough support to support said recycling bin and cardboard. Since wood was already on our minds as a possible material, I think using wood will be much better than continuing on the path of cardboard as a material for the product. Using a wood as an alternate material will solve a lot of the problems that we have been running into, but I don’t know if using wood will create even more. After that, we had to depart and come back to school to be on time to our other classes, so my team and I thanked him and retreated back to school. Since we do not have iD on Fridays, my team and I did not get a chance to discuss about the roadblocks that he brought up, but the conversation that will take place today will decide the future steps we will take with this venture.

Sharing my Venture Work

As you may have read in my previous postAnya, MargaretMaclean, and I decided to continue our design challenge, a more sustainable recycling/trash bin combo, as a CoVenture. Since we split off, we have done a lot of research and consulted with several experts. At first, we had a very specific vision for our first product, we would make it out of wood, we would have a small scale to measure how much waste is being recycled, and the top would be a surface a teacher could use to reduce clutter around the room. However, as we continued to do research, we realized that there was a large computer science aspect to putting a scale into our prototype, which none of us are familiar with, so we decided as a group to hold that off until a later iteration. We also decided to change materials for our first product because we want our bin to be not only portable and easy to assemble, but also be recyclable itself. We also decided to change materials because we discovered products that are very similar to ours, but we didn’t find one made out of cardboard, so it adds a unique aspect to our product. We also met with Mr. Jones, a venture investor, who we connected with because he is a parent of an MVPS student and is funding a project somewhat similar to ours. We met with him last Thursday for about an hour and he advised us on how to go forward and taught us a lot. He identified a lot of the questions we still have to answer such as “Is your product a social innovation or a commercial innovation?” and “What outside expertise do you need to complete your product?.” This really got us thinking about what our final vision of this product is. We decided that we want to make a social change in the school, not to make any money. He also inspired us to seek help from Mr. Edwards’s TED class to help with the CAD  aspect as we only have one CAD expert and it was getting done very slowly. This will not only help us speed up the CAD process and give the TED class experience, but will also give some exposure to our product and the problem in the middle school. Mr. Jones also recommended that we make a business plan before we pitch to a company if we move forward beyond the school. I believe that this will surprise companies we are pitching to because they might expect a group of high school students who know nothing about a business pitch, and be blown away by our level of knowledge and preparedness. As of right now, we don’t know a whole lot about business plans, but Mr. Jones was kind enough to give us an outline of one. A business plan consists of: target market, is there a need to fill?, description of product, plan for getting materials (money, expertise, tools, manpower, etc…), plan of how to put it on market (advertisements, website).

Though our talk with Mr. Jones was very helpful and brought to light some things we should consider, we still have a lot of work to do. Because we are in the early stages of our product design, we can still  pivot easily. Like when we switched from wood to cardboard, we were faced with an obstacle and were able to instantly pivot and avoid those obstacles, it’s like you are drawing your own path. I would personally value advice from the facilitators, because when we were with iD as a whole, sometimes the facilitators would listen to our conversations, ideas, and our thought process and chime in, asking us questions and telling us what ideas to zoom in or out on. However, as much as I value it, the process and the outcome will be so much more valuable since we have little advice from the facilitators and we will know that we mainly got there on our own.

The Easy Part of the Design Challenge

Have you ever wondered into a place where you couldn’t do anything?

I am a novice design thinker in the program Innovation Diploma, were we learn many things, one of which is the DEEP design thinking process which I demonstrate in the challenge below.

I walk into the Lightbox, a large room with many windows, on a Thursday morning for iD, where we see a piece of paper with a picture and a prompt on the table.

My team, Maclean, Nina, Claire, Melina, Anya, Margaret, and I started observing and asking questions to find the problem.The garden was run down and has obviously not been touched in months, maybe even a year, there were weeds all over and there was no trace of the plants that were once there. We asked questions like, “What are other uses for this space?” “How can the school use this garden?” “What does this lack of concern for this garden say about us?” “Why wasn’t the garden sustainable? Why isn’t someone helping it become sustainable?”

In the end, we decided to put all of this into one question, our HMW (how might we)

We started to do empathy interviews, first interviewing Dr. Jones, the Environmental Science teacher, and Ms. Domby, a 5th grade teacher who is passionate about the environment. From these interviews, we observed that people often think of recycling when the word “sustainability” come into conversation. From this, we deduced that the problem was not the garden, it was recycling in MVPS (Mount Vernon Presbyterian School). So we looked into past recycling project that students did at MVPS, and we noticed one trend, they never got completed, they hardly even got past the ideate stage, so we promised ourselves to see this through and defer from the trend. When we looked more into why recycling was a problem at MV, we discovered why it was such a big problem. MVPS is made from 3 schools, the Lower school, the Middle school, and the Upper School. One of these schools, the Middle school, has 1 recycling bin throughout the whole building! The bins were removed for very specific reasons that could be solved easily, so we decided to solve these problems with the RISE sustainability system.

Since the Middle school isn’t very big, space was a big issue, so the RISE sustainability system solves this problem by utilizing vertical space instead of horizontal floor space. We also built an anti-laziness element to it because many students throw recycling in the trash simply because it is more convenient, that is why we put the recycling bin on top of the trash bin. Another feature of the system is putting a landfill sign on the trash instead of a trash sign, so the user thinks about where the trash is going after you put it into the bin. Another problem they had was that the students in the Middle school didn’t know what to and what not to recycle. When custodial staff see trash in the recycling bin, they dump the whole bin into the trash dumpster. We are actually still in the process of solving this problem, we tried to implement a poster with pictures of what you can recycle, but students ignored the poster. We know this because when we interviewed the custodial staff, they side that trash items were still going into the recycling bin. This is ok, because even though that part of our prototype failed, we learned something from it. In my mind, a failure is never a failure if you learn something from it, or as Mount Vernon puts it, fail up!

With our first full-size prototype finished, we launched ourselves into the testing process. To track the uses of the recycling bin part of the prototype, we hooked up a Makey Makey to the door. We put our prototype into 3 different classrooms over an 8 day period, in Mr. Song’s room (a middle school classroom), the prototype got 30 uses into 1 day, in Mrs. Graham’s room (another middle school classroom), the prototype got 60 uses in 2 days. The last classroom we put it into was actually Mrs. Domby’s classroom, a lower school classroom, because we wanted to see how a younger audience would respond to our prototype. The feedback we got was overwhelmingly positive, and we received outcomes that weren’t even expected! It was reported that rooms were noticeably cleaner and our prototype was even sparking conversations about the environment.

Our next step is to make a product development plan, which we don’t have the skills to do, and is why we need an outside expert to help us with it. Some definite steps are to make many prototypes out of different materials, implement them one by one into all Middle school classrooms, and receive tons of feedback and results. With each iteration of our prototype, we will change it according to our feedback to make it better each time.

We don’t know what the outcome of this barrage of testing will be, the recycling bin may even be the wrong solution to our problem. If it is the wrong solution, we will go back to the drawing board and try to come up with the right solution. As I said earlier, something that fails is never a failure if you learn something from it. We even have began talking to potential buyers of our product.

Council on Innovation 2015

I have always wanted to connect with adults in a situation where I had some information to teach to them, not the other way around. Friday, October 23rd, I had that opportunity through an annual event that MVIFI hosts called Council on Innovation, referred to in this blog as COI. COI is an event where about 20 adults are invited to learn about design thinking and Mount Vernon’s take on it, DEEP DT. DEEP DT is an acronym for Design, Empathize, Experiment, Produce, Design, Thinking and is different from David Kelly’s original design thinking model. The day started out with your run of the mill meet and greet, during this time, I matched the names I have been studying to the faces from Google Images. It was a great start to the event because it got the participants familiar with having students around and talking a bit about Design Thinking with them. For the next hour and a half, iD students such as myself sat on the sidelines as the MVIFI team and Dr. Jacobsen (Head of Upper School (high school)) and other important parts of the faculty formally introduced themselves and gave a short speech about what COI and Mount Vernon means to them. We had to sit down and observe for 30 more minutes as they discussed the article “Curiosity Is as Important as Intelligence.” As an iDiploma company, we discussed this article before the Council members had a chance to, and I was surprised to discover that our conversation was more in depth than theirs. iDiploma mostly talked about how EQ (emotional quotient) and CQ (Curiosity quotient) can be measured, and they talked about the importance of it in problem solving. After that, we had a short break, and then were bussed down to the lower school where grades kindergarten-6th grade are located, but most importantly, where Studio(i) is located. Studio(i) is a maker space that everyone can utilize, but since it is an inconvenience to Upper Schoolers to walk all the way to the lower school then back in a 50 minute period. Here, Mrs. Cureton, a facilitator of ours, as well as Anya, a Disney Cohort member (Disney cohort was the first iD cohort, has been in the program since last year) presented a MoVe talk. MoVe stands for Moment of Visible Empathy, the connection that happens between user and designer when they are collaborating to co-solve an issue together. Their talk focused on iDiploma and Design-Briefs, where a company approaches iDiploma to solve a problem with them such as their work at the CDC last year. After that, we split off into groups of 4 for micro curiosity conversations. I was grouped with my peer Megan Lineau to interview Carlos Herrera and Jeff Mills. We asked each of them about what they do and a project that they are doing. Carlos Herrera is the Chief Economist for Coca Cola, which isn’t restricted to only numbers and the changes in them, but also the reasons behind the changes. The problem he has right now is trying to remove the stigma behind Coke and how when people think of it, they think of obese children and sugar, but when people think of cake, they think of birthdays and celebrations. Jeff Mills is the Vice President at Enterprise Rent-a-car, where in contrast to Carlos, he only works with numbers and has a very black and white job. A problem that he consistently has is the recalling of cars, he has to tell people to give replacement cars to the people who have the recalled model and that really messes with the flow of he has developed over the years. After our curiosity conversations, we all reconvened in Studio(i) just in time for Mr. Adams (another one of the iDiploma facilitators) to give a very short MoVe kind of talk about the plans for a new Mount Vernon School. To be completely honest, I don’t know what place this had in the grand scheme of things as it had nothing to do with DEEP DT or the rest of the day.  After that short talk, we had another short break and moved back to the Upper school for the main event, the Flashlab. The Flashlab is the fun part of the day, it is the part of the day where you take what you learned and apply it. We started with a short explanation of what it was, a sample DEEP DT experience, then moved into some making exercises, where we made a pair of glasses and a sesame street puppet with pipe-cleaners and popsicle sticks. Then we moved to the real experiment, we came up with interview questions and interviewed 2 COI members, Jeff Mills, the Enterprise Chief of Finance (the man I interviewed earlier), and Emily Soelberg, the Executive director of Strategy at AT&T. Since the theme of this COI is Disruptive Curiosity, we wanted to figure out ways that both Jeff and Emily could be more creative with their jobs, making sure they are constantly experiencing new things and questioning everything. During our interviews, we asked questions like “in what settings do you feel most comfortable and uncomfortable?” and “Tell me about a time when you were curious?” Through these questions, we determined what would make them more curious, and since Jeff had more of a “black and white” job, we decided to focus on him. Through a brainstorming session, we found that it would be most effective if we pulled Jeff out of his usual setting and put him in another one for a day once in a while. This setting could include another section of Enterprise such as Marketing, or it could be a sort of field trip to Roam or even an art museum. Since obviously we cant create a physical model of this idea, we created a box out of popsicle sticks and had a pipe-cleaner man stepping out of it (stepping out of the box). I think if we had more time, we could have come up with a better idea, but since the facilitators stressed that being pressed for time makes you spit out ideas, good or bad, in the heat of the moment you don’t really care the quality of the ideas because your bad idea might spark a great idea in another person. I don’t really agree with this, because if you have an hour or two to come up with ideas, you will probably have more and better ideas than just 8 minutes worth. Obviously this theory only works if time allows, which it didn’t in the case of COI, since it only lasted as long as the school day as it was a school event. In reflection, I don’t have much to go on, as this is my first year in iDiploma and my first COI event, but it was a good one if I do say so myself. I feel like the students could have had more involvement towards the beginning when we were just sitting there listening for 2 hours, and the Council members were also confused as to why we were there at the beginning as they kept stealing glances at us and shared confused looks.

Recycling Bin First Stages of Testing

As you may have read in previous blog posts, my team and I have been building a recycling bin as part of an effort to make sustainability a part of our DNA. Since my last post, we have finished the prototype of our final product, hooked a Makey Makey device to it to count the number of times it will be used, and put it into Mr. Song’s Middle school classroom. We implemented it into the classroom at the very end of the day on Friday so the Middle Schoolers would come back from their long Columbus Day weekend and investigate it for the first time. When we checked on it at noon on Tuesday, it already had 13 uses! It felt pretty great that something you created with your own hands and ideas helping to make our school and our Earth, a better place. Today, Wednesday, October 14th, we did some interviews and checked up on our creation yet again. Our prototype, which now had 30 uses, was a great success, an interview with the custodial staff revealed that it wasn’t just helping solve the problem of recycling, it was helping the room be significantly cleaner. In response to this information, we asked what room was the dirtiest of all the middle school classrooms, and put the prototype to the test in there. We also interviewed Mr. Song, the math teacher who teaches in the original classroom, and he also said that the prototype has been a resounding success, it has sparked conversation between the students about what you can and can’t recycle and what the effects of recycling are. Although they are having these conversations, the custodial staff say that there are still items that they found in the bins that cannot be recycled. This is a big problem, it shows that the informative poster part of our prototype isn’t effective. Since people don’t take the time to read, we could have a button that you press that will activate a recording of someones voice, telling them what to recycle, then congratulating them for recycling, since the students we interviewed wanted a sort of interaction or reward for recycling with the prototype. In our pitch, we touched on that really well with a clip from Wall-E and the photoshopped picture of trash all over MVPS, however, that isn’t translating onto our poster or our prototype. Some next steps we are thinking of taking include, but not limited to, adding a student artwork competition component where hold an art competition and the best piece goes on all of our bins, creating a second prototype to collect two times the data, and revising our poster to make it more effective. I think our first couple days of testing went pretty spectacularly, but my group and I should really emphasize something that came up in an interview with Dr. Jones a couple of weeks ago, how does recycling effect middle school students and why should they care about recycling? Since our prototype proved so successful, with a little changing to our prototype, I want to put one of these in every room on the MVPS campus!

The inside of the then uncompleted prototype
The inside of the then uncompleted prototype
Hooking up the Makey Makey to the prototype
Carrying the prototype to the middle school

Maker Faire Atlanta 2015

Maker Faire from the stands
Maker Faire from the stands

A couple of weeks ago, my mom pointed out an interesting event that was taking place in Decatur and asked if my sister and I wanted to go. The 2015 Atlanta Maker Faire was held last weekend — it’s a family friendly showcase of invention, creativity, resourcefulness, and innovation. People from all trades host booths to showcase new strategies, cool inventions, and overall interesting stuff, new or not. They also network with like minded individuals to expand their own understanding as well as ‘share the well.’

At the Maker Faire, I met so many interesting people, including Mr. Stan Berry of the Gwinett Experimental Aircraft Association who told us about a program for teens at Lawrenceville airport that lets you build and fly your own airplane and take flying lessons for free on Saturdays.

The program where you build your own airplane information
The program where you build your own airplane information
A boy in a handmade gyrocopter that is fully operational
A boy in a handmade gyrocopter that is fully operational

The Google booth fascinated me and, judging by the crowd, tons of other people. They had all sorts of circuit boards and hacking tools. They also had a bunch of Google phones that when placed in cardboard Google glasses created a virtual experience for you to enjoy. My virtual experience was a roller coaster ride — my brain could feel going up and up and then a sudden drop. This is really cool because even when I clearly know I am not on that roller coaster, my brain still feels like it is and makes my body reacted to all the drops even though they weren’t real. I experienced VR (virtual reality) for the first time in August at Samsung’s booth at Lollapalooza, a music festival in Chicago. Samsung’s experience was more interactive, let you spin in your seat and look around, while Google’s offering at Maker Faire was just watching a video up close.

Another great guy I met was Adam Mangone, a local startup expert and entrepreneur who was filling in for his wife at the Innovation in Action booth. Innovation In Action is a project based design thinking training program for Atlanta high school students. If you have the weekend free, I highly recommend their event at Atlanta’s Center for Civic Innovation on November 14 and 15.  High school students will get a chance to participate in a real world design thinking challenge (or competition) either with a group of friends or strangers or just yourself. Groups will bring a design problem with them or choose to solve a problem for one of the corporate sponsors. The task is to find a solution, prototype it, and present it to a group of judges. It sounds exciting and I plan to convince some of my iDiploma friends to join me in November

Information for the Innovation In Action event
Information for the Innovation In Action event

I also saw a group who came up with all sorts of creative designs for bicycles. They had everything from couch bikes, to bikes with a welded sculpture of a fish around you as you drove. I didn’t get to try out the bikes as the line was very long, but it looked pretty fun and intriguing.

A very comfortable recliner hacked to fit on a bike
A very comfortable recliner hacked to fit on a bike

Finally, for all you drone fans out there, I met Marcy and JC who told us about the F3 Expo. The F3 Expo is the place to go in November (same weekend as Innovation in Action’s design challenge) to see real drone races and drone acrobatics where some of the drones will fly up to 80 mph. Marcy and JC introduced us to “hacking” drones, taking regular drone parts and manipulating them to fly faster, achieve new heights, and can be rebuilt easily when they crash (they always crash).

If you are on the fence about visiting the Maker Faire next year, I 100% recommend that you go to this very fun and fascinating event and work up the courage to talk to the people running the booths who are so friendly and knowledgable.