In the past few weeks, ReJoint Inc. has been focusing on customer interviews and materials, and their role in designing a prototype. Before finding potential customers, we considered our target audience for our product. A female soccer player from the ages 15 – 22. The purpose of the device is mainly to prevent ACL on young female soccer players which are 8 times more likely to suffer from that injury. Since treatment is very expensive/time consuming and prevention is possible we want to provide some affordable preventative device. During the customer interviews, we collected information that influenced the prototype. Some of the questions that we asked were:
- Explain actions that the pain restrict you from doing (kicking, squatting, running, etc.)
- Do you currently use a product that protects your knee during soccer/ physical activity?
- What are some advantages/ disadvantages of this product?
- What would you change about this product if you could?
These questions really provided clarification that we needed in order to design the most effective and appealing knee brace. We interviewed a range of people from a soccer trainer/chiropractor to team players at our own school’s soccer team, with the different inputs we went into more in depth research (statistics, anatomical information, etc.).
After our customer interviews we started building our model using the criteria we had made. To make the first prototype we used socks, Popsicle sticks, rubber bands, duct tape, elastic, cotton balls and safety pins. For our first model we used a sock as a compression sleeve with the toe section cut off. In addition to that, we created a triangular support behind the knee with cotton ball padding and duct tape. To secure the triangular support we used elastic
wrapped around the upper and lower parts of the patella. This design proved very ineffective.
The first problem we faced was with the sock/compression sleeve. Although the sock fit well around the thigh and upper calf, it was not very long and would easily scrunch up in the elbow of the knee. The triangular support also proved to be extremely uncomfortable even with the padding. Group member Ally Wait stated that this prototype was “constantly poking me in the knee when I walked.” Further complaints were about the elastic bands above and below the patella. Because the sock was so short the elastic would ride up and rub against the skin causing irritation. Moreover, there was no support on the side of the knee which needs to most protection when preventing an ACL injury.
After this first prototype we went back to the drawing board, grabbed additional materials and kept trying to build something new and effective. Our second prototype was much more successful and gave us a much better base to build off of for our later prototypes. For this design we used a longer sock, safety pins to secure the elastic (along with a belt like security buckle), and hinges on the side to keep the knee in a secure position and prevent inward bending from the side.
This process, I feel, reflected really well on our group dynamics. Instead of giving up on our initially design and sketches, we kept going and trying new things. I think this mentality will encourage more creativity which will hopefully develop into other aspects of our project.
We are eager and excited to see where this product takes us. An important aspect of this project is keeping in mind our original mission statement and group ideals. Remembering that, we hope we will be able to create a better product.