Last Thursday our class of took a Field Trip, in separate groups, to nearby stores to search for potential materials. For this specific outing we did not actually buy any products, but simply took pictures and recorded prices of items we felt that could potentially serve some purpose in our building stage. This trip was us “Tooling Up” for the next stages of the ARS Maker Cycle to come.
Before going on the trip our class read an article, Revolutionizing Medical Tech With Dollar-Store Devices by Jonathon Keats. In this article MIT inventor Jose Gomez-Marquez is changing the way medical technology is manufactured by making it more practical. How practical? Dollar Store item practical. As head of MIT’s Little Devices Lab, Gomez-Marquez, invents medical technologies, built from affordable items, that replicate hundred-thousand-dollar machines. These devices are meant to be user friendly, easily manufactured and affordable, so that they can be recreated or used in remote areas of the world that lack important medical equipment, that is otherwise normally expensive and complicated to use. This article was helpful to read before our trip, because it provided guidelines for production (which are very similar to some of the our original product goals):
1.User Friendly- nobody wants a device that they can’t use without difficult, devices are meant to make life simpler not more complicated
2.Easily Manufactured- if it takes a metal 3D printer to make then it’s too complicated to make, again we are a team of high school seniors so this devices has to been easily manufactured out of materials and equipment available to us
3.Affordability- with enough expenses to pay in life, consumers do not want another expense to budget around, the key to maintain affordability is all in the materials (the big idea in this article)
With these concepts in mind to create a successful device we set off into the surrounding stores. Now, those of you keeping up with out blogs are most likely wondering what Neon Shields is even making? Look over there! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! Well to be honest the only thing we know is its not those things (at least that’s what we think, you never know), our group still quite doesn’t know what our device is. At the moment when we refer to “device” or “product” the mental image in my head is a black shadow (kind of like the kind in those games of guess what this is through its shadow, but more like a blur in this case). This device could turn out to be anything, but one thing for sure is that it has to meet our three criteria:
1.Ability to see others and be seen
2.Alert others nearby that you are in trouble and need help
3.Stun an attacker, preferably through a bright light or loud sound, for enough time to escape, without actually being a lethal weapon.
As we hit the stores for our extreme window shopping we made sure to keep both sets of criteria in mind. The first store our group visited was Hancock Fabrics. Here in this store we did not particularly find anything too interesting or with much potential. Some things we did note of were decorative couch nails, which are flat on one end and extremely sharp on the other, sewing machine lights, which are bright due to the meticulous work sewers do, and at crochet hooks, which reminded us of the idea of the RapeX Condom. We took consideration of the sewing machine lights, because they could be helpful to provide visibility for the user or to stun an attacker. The crochet hook and couch nails are a bit more of a stretch, but good to take into consideration since they did remind us of another item we found during our patent research. That item were gloves that have a layer of spikes, similar to thumbtacks, blunt on one side and sharp on the other, that only come out when a certain amount of pressure is exerted, that way only the attacker is hurt and not the user.
The second store we visited was Savers. At Savers we found lots of electronics, such as speakers, flashlights, candle heater plate and lamps. We figured that our device did not actually have to be any of these objects modified, but instead we could harvest parts from the speakers or flashlights for the electronics to make our device possible. The speaker and flashlight are self explanatory as to why we would want them for our device, but something like a candle heater plate? Well I don’t know how exactly it could be used, but the idea is to collect as much as possible, when it comes to brainstorming its best to have more than less. An idea though would be that maybe our device can get hot enough that it burns the attacker but not the user?
The next store we visited was Harbor Freights, and this is the store where we had the most success. At Harbor Freights we found a variety of items from within the scope of our device to items…a little out there, to say the least. Some of those “out there items” were pistol grip blow guns, machetes, hunting knives, axes, mallets, hammers, crow bars, and daggers. Though we joked around that “Arming every person and child with a crowbar” would make America safe and solve all our problems, it is this type of goofing around that leads to more realistic ideas. It brings up the idea to create something that can still be portable but is strong enough that if you hit an attacker with it, they would be knocked out or injured enough to stun them. Though we are more than likely not going to but a retractable machete on our device, we can look at the sheath of the machete which is made out of strong fabric that does not rip easily. Items, that were more within the scope of reasonableness, were palm sized LED flashlights, flashlight pens, and off road lights. Two LED flashlights that drew our attention was flashlight with white lights and another one that was triangle shaped and light up in three different settings, one white light setting, a red light setting and a flashing red light setting. This brought up the question of using LED lights with a same brightness power, but with smaller components to keep our device portable? After our run through of Harbor Freight we visited the Dollar Store and Target, but we did not find noteworthy items. One item we did think was interesting at Target was a childrens toy gun that when the trigger was pushed the lights flashed and the gun emitted a high laser space gun sound. This would be a great item to harvest for parts, and to alter to make the sound higher pitch and more annoying than it already was.
This Field Trip in my point of view was not to to look for specific items for a specific device, but to look for ideas to then
This Field Trip in my point of view was not to to look for specific items for a specific device, but to look for ideas to then bring together and create a device with them. When you are only looking for specific items for a device you do not even know what it is, you end up eliminating potential materials and device designs. This trip was a great opportunity for our group, because we collected a lot of items and ideas to brainstorm off of to generate potential designs. The best way to explain this is the idea of saying paint this vs. use these to paint something.
As a team and team member we are excited to see where these collected, modge podge of items will take us and what that blob of device will shape into. You never know it might be a bird or a plane, but hopefully it will be a portable Superman.
-Stay Safe, Neon Shields
Fighting evil by moonlight since 2014.