Float On (TRINH)

Last week Guppies Group Inc. have been found swimming (Ha! What a knee slapper!) in piles of research for their design proposal. (Don’t know what that is? Read my latest blog post here!) With an extended deadline from our generous teachers, the Guppies Group were able to work on the document a couple of days past the original due date to make sure that their design proposal is the best that it can be. Through my research on the biomedical and physiological aspects of our arm water flotation device, I’ve noticed that designing a product with maximum adjustability for the highest level comfort could be a tricky task. When I looked at the average body measurements of children ages 1-6 I noticed that these measurements vary on a large scale. For example, while the average one year old male child weighs approximately around 25 pounds, a six year old boy can weigh almost 54 pounds. That’s more than double the weight! So incorporating adjustability will be a challenging, but definitely possible, task.

Now while researching information about the biomedical aspects and physiological effects of an arm flotation device might seem like a daunting goal, tackling the drowning process in human body terms helped me figure out which  internal body structures would be the most affected in this arm device. Using this website , I was able to figure out which nerves, muscles, veins and arteries were involved with the upper limb and how an arm flotation device could affect them. By designing a device that wraps around the upper arm, this could cause restrictions on the cardiovascular system. If the muscles are restricted by the material around it (our flotation device), this could restrict blood flow and affect the nerves, thus, creating a feeling of pain for the wearer. The other Guppies and I have reflected on this fact, that’s why adjustability (aside from buoyancy of course) is one of our highest considerations when thinking about how to actually create and build this prototype. Similar to what I stated before, another thing to keep in mind when the Guppies start creating their product is that children grow at a physically fast pace in the earlier years of their childhood. This means that the floaties designed must be able to fit and adjust to children ranging from 25 pounds to approximately 55 pounds. That’s quite a gap isn’t it?

The anterior and posterior view of nerves in the arms.
The anterior and posterior view of nerves in the arms.

This leads me to talk about the wide variety of materials we are considering using for this product. Some materials include: Neoprene ( a durable plastic often used in wet suits), Nylon (a waterproof fabric used to coat neoprene so objects such as wet suits and medical braces can be aesthetically appealing), and vinyl. These materials are waterproof and non-corrosive. Gel insulation has been dismissed as a possible buoyant factor because gel does not float in water. However, the problem with using air as the buoyant factor is that when inserting air into the flotation device, air cannot conform to the body shapes as well and could always deflate if the material covering it is punctured.

This wet suit is an example of how Neoprene fabric is used.
This wet suit is an example of how Neoprene fabric is used.

Writing a design proposal has been extremely helpful. By collaborating together not just verbally but on a written document lets each team member put in their ideas and receive feedback from their peers. I know that I had an idea of creating a slimmer arm band to put on the upper arm, when I added this on the design proposal, my peers replied with comments of the pros and cons of doing so. (All comments were backed up by research!) Writing this document and working on it as a group helped us draft and plan out our ideas for the arm flotation device, doing so helped us pick out a design for the product. Personally, I benefit from collaborating on this design proposal the most because I can see my peers’ train of thoughts and what they envision in the end product. Documenting our ideas and research also helps me practice my professional writing skills, something that is crucial for my academic future in college and career later on.

In conclusion, the Guppies are more than eager to start creating their product. I am personally excited to see how different materials will react in water when used in a flotation device. More to come on how this will turn out!


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