Time for Take-off – Annalise Irby

We have finally finished and submitted our 24 page (!) design proposal. I feel very professional but also slightly terrified, because all of our planning, research, and careful weighing of facts is over. Now our team must move directly into the prototyping phase where, judging by my past experience with engineering projects, all the hidden problems in our final design will be revealed.

I do feel confident about the time and effort we spent researching industry standards, anthropomorphic (human) measurements, and material properties. We each did a thorough job in our various assigned sections. But our product is very unique. Currently there’s nothing like it on the market… which gives me the nagging feeling that we may have missed something in terms of standards or customer needs. Our team had to make many judgement decisions — for instance, which rules about load-bearing standards apply to our particular case?

Hopefully my worries will prove to be unfounded. One outcome might be that we create our final product, I attempt to use it on a real airplane… and the attendant gives me a funny look. Another, much worse outcome: we make millions selling our final design to frequent fliers, it snaps under a larger person’s weight, and we crumple under the weight of half a dozen lawsuits.

An easier decision was whether or not to register our product as a medical device. After I spent a lot of time trawling through fascinating websites like this one:

The official website of the FDA publishes the guidelines for medical devices.
The official website of the FDA publishes the guidelines for medical devices. In one, very long sentence.

… our team discussed my findings and decided that we would rather not register our product as a medical device because we want to market it as an exercise and health device — a preventative measure instead of a treatment, in the same class as elliptical machines and electric foot massagers. We don’t want the stigma of using a “medical device” to stop a completely healthy twenty-something from buying and using our product.

Another hurdle was deciding on a material for our springs, a topic which I was required to expound on in our Technical Background. Because we are teenagers and not warehouse suppliers, information about the bulk costs for different materials, etc was not easily available to me. I found it difficult to make a final decision about such materials without all the information. However, I looked through complex and confusing search engines like the one below, and found generic materials which are common in children’s toys and other household products, meaning they will hopefully be cost-effective, easily moldable, and widely available.

MatWeb is a very thorough and intimidating materials search engine which is also quite difficult to navigate. You can search by property or material name, and be just as confused either way!
MatWeb is a very thorough and intimidating materials search engine which is also quite difficult to navigate. You can search by property or material name, and be just as confused either way!

My other portions of the Design Proposal included Design Objectives (summarizing customer research, prior art, and standards into cohesive goals) and the Conclusion (“please, please give us money”). Both of these went more smoothly because I was simply explaining decisions we had made previously.

By the time I write my next blog post, JetSet will be building our not-a-medical-device, probably out of PVC pipe and children’s toys. I look forward to sharing our struggles and successes with you!

See you in the skies.

Annalise Irby

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