(1) It’s not the end (2) Design is Hard (3) Apps are awesome – Miesner

I just finished reading (almost) all the design proposals and I am very impressed with the creativity and intelligence displayed by all our amazing Designing Divas at Ann Richards.  I’ve read about everything from devices to prevent Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) on long air flights to innovative new ergonomically friendly seating for students/office workers to a revolutionary new pillow designed to prevent neck pain.  Though some groups are clearly further along than others, I feel like all teams are on a good path toward eventual product success.

Because I believe that I should do anything I ask the students to do, I thought I would write my second blog post (they each have to write two) for this six weeks on my reflections after reading the design proposals.  I had three main thoughts: (1) It’s not the end (2) Design is hard and (3) Apps are awesome.  Enjoy my ramblings…

(1) It’s not the end

As I was reading the design proposals and accompanying blog posts I was struck by how many students seemed to say, “Hooray, we’re done!”  It is only November.  Designs are far from done.  Design is an iterative process.  I would be extremely surprised if any of the products the teams create in the end much resemble their first design sketches in this proposal.  We must remember that the ARS maker cycle is not linear:

ARS Maker Cycle Logo - Designed by our own amazing E. Foster (junior)
ARS Maker Cycle Logo – Designed by our own amazing E. Foster (junior)

Though this particular representation shows the arrows going neatly from one phase to the next, in real life we constantly cycle back and forth between the stages.  In Biomedical Design class we just “finished” tool up and are ready to start “Make,” but we will most definitely spend some time re-visiting tool up to help improve and after receiving feedback through share.  This is not your final design my friends.

(2) Design is hard

Creating new and innovative products is a difficult process, especially when you only have 17 or 18 years  of experience in life and many of those years included sandboxes or Lego toys.  Design requires great attention to detail and extremely specific descriptions and measurements.  It is difficult to imagine the actual sizes of things.

I’ve noticed this trend – a struggle to conceptualize size – in my 8th grade students (and myself) as well.  We have trouble grasping how long a meter actually is how much volume a square foot contains.  Though gender differences in abilities is quite a controversial topic, I wonder how much this difficulty in visualization is related to the varying spatial abilities seen in males versus females. Whatever the cause, the lack of understanding of “real world” sizes was clear in some design proposals.  I won’t mention specific groups, but I do think many teams will need to go back and seriously re-evaluate their designs. Like this violin

Design is sometimes out of proportion in our minds.
Design is sometimes out of proportion in our minds.

Perhaps this is somewhat my fault.  We didn’t really discuss feasibility (the ability to be easily done) much in class.  I appreciate that our students are very ambitious in their desires to “save the world,” but I hope they do not get too frustrated when they realize that their product most likely cannot actually be built.  I had an interesting experience with a hoverchair last year that eventually had to be scaled down to a wheelchair with innovative padding.

On the other side of feasibility, even if you can build it, will they buy it?  Whenever I read magazines I see those ads in the back for random stuff like a heated toilet seat

Yours for only $79.99!
Yours for only $79.99!

or a lawn “vacuum”:

How can you jump in the leaf pile?
How can you jump in the leaf pile?

But this seems to be a recurring theme for me when I consider the students’ designs, as I wrote about in this post.

There are just so many things to consider in creating designs: feasibility, customer appeal, material structure, etc.  It is hard to wrap one’s mind around.  I think the students will become (painfully) aware of the difficulty of design as we move into our prototyping phase.  This will provide an excellent opportunity to demonstrate our grit and resilience.

(3) Apps are awesome

Reading and providing feedback on 18 20-24 page long papers was quite a monumental task.  Thankfully, I discovered the amazing Google App Kaizena.  This tool integrates seamlessly with GoogleDocs so students can upload their file into Docs and then “request feedback” from a teacher.  I can then view their documents and leave comments (text or voice!) with links to resources and lots of other cool stuff.  This app has been a saving grace through my hours of grading.  I’m definitely going to introduce it to my English teacher friends.

My Kaizena happily shows all design proposals read!
My Kaizena happily shows all design proposals read!

So…those are my thoughts on the design proposals.  I look forward to seeing where the students go from  here.  As for me, I’m going to morning assembly, then to class, then to Fitness Friday/lunch, then more class, then home to bed!  A long week for both teachers and students.

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