Pressure Project 3: Sky’s the Limit

Our group decided to focus on neurological disorders such as narcolepsy and epilepsy. Specifically, we wanted to tackle the challenges that people with these neurological disabilities face when they go skydiving. We figured that since these disabilities do not affect these people 100% of the time that they should be able to do activities that everyone else can do, such as skydiving.


Our ideation phase went through some iterations before we landed on our final idea. First, we brainstormed different types of disabilities and the various activities that these disabilities would encounter. We looked into wheelchair friendliness on trains and found out that they already had a fairly inclusive system in place. We also looked into deaf people at movie theaters. We found that there had already been designs to allow deaf people to watch movies at theaters, such as glasses that they can wear that have subtitles or even small LED displays that fit in your cupholder that give a real-time subtitle readout. Eventually, after thinking about various challenges that someone with narcolepsy would have, we came across skydiving. We decided to create a prototype for skydiving that would act as a safety net for a wide variety of disabilities.


Narrowing down on a disability to focus on.


Looking at various activities that the person may have challenges with.


Our sketching phase mainly was to flesh out intentions and our design scope.


We initially were thinking about including physical disabilities such as limbless people, but decided to focus on neurological disabilities instead. Our design does work for both, however (and many other disabilities as well).


The parachute will automatically deploy at a critical altitude if the person has not already done so.



Finally, we decided to design our prototype. We wanted to create a design that would allow people with neurological and other disabilities to safely skydive. We came up with a design where the parachute would automatically open at a specific “danger” altitude, or an altitude that the parachute should definitely be opened by. The critical altitude can be adjusted on a “per-drop” basis for dives of varying heights.

In the actual design, there would be an altimeter that would track the altitude and send a signal to automatically open the chute when the altitude hit a specific point. We tried to mimic this design for our prototype. An altimeter would not be a viable option for our prototype since we are working at relatively small altitude changes (maybe 20 feet at most).

We started off using the Little Bits and the Makey Makey to attempt to create a mechanism that would implement the motor and a pressure switch to automatically open a box to release the chute. However, with the combined weight of the peripheral components and the battery, the weight tended to be too much for our parachute representation. Also, we didn’t want to damage them by dropping them. Due to these limitations, we decided to go with a prototype that holds the parachute in a box and releases the parachute from the force of the box falling and subsequently stopping. In other words, we imitate an altimeter by having a box that falls only to a certain point and then stops suddenly, releasing the parachute upon its stop in momentum.

The idea is that the altimeter is connected directly to the clasp on the parachute, hardwired in such a way tat it acts as a failsafe. As meticulously designed as parachutes are, there are still occurrences of chutes not opening. Our system would automatically release the drogue chute upon reaching critical altitude and wind/air speed would take care of the rest.


The ceiling was actually the limit when we were indoors.


Designing our first prototype and testing indoors.


We took testing to outdoors to get a higher release altitude for our parachute. The sky is the limit!


Parachute has been released and is in the process of opening up.


The parachute is fully opened prior to the person hitting the ground, slowing their descent enough to save their life.

Individual Reflections


As we were thinking about what kind of groups to design to help, I found myself thinking a lot about what people with any sort of disabilities and what they need. When we started talking about movie theatres for the blind, I started thinking more about the lecture given by Mr. Kelliher when he was talking about how important the confidence of the people with disabilities is. Thus, I started thinking about activities that might not be necessary for people with disabilities, but might bring them joy and confidence. We started driving towards this direction during the ideation step, and we ended up with an extreme of skydiving. The ideas we started throwing out though were not meant for disabled people, we were coming up with fun and confidence boosting ideas and then seeing who they might benefit. So I believe I helped most during the ideation phase with coming up of an idea, and then we all worked together mocking up small prototypes by collating supplies with mostly Little Bits and the Makey Makey. We quickly tested out a few of our ideas and started improving them, making ever so slightly higher fidelity prototypes until we were satisfied with what we had. Overall though, I greatly appreciate designing for inclusivity as you can truly let your mind wander through a plethora of different ideas, and see how they work out in this kind of design setting.


Per the project: It was a fitting conclusion to our stint with pressure projects because it felt like we used the culmination of what we learned. We had ideation, we had critiquing, we had research, we had prototyping. We basically had a part of every phase except the phases that involve the actual product. Doing it, to me, felt substantial, felt like it had impact. During our ideation phase, it felt like we were talking about real things. During the prototyping phase, it felt like we were doing real things.

Per the group: This was a good group. First thing we did was split up the work. Everyone had the exact same roster in mind when it came to who should present and who should document. At this point, I knew we had synergy. Everyone’s idea were well received, consumed, and reciprocated during the ideation phase. Everyone put in maximal effort and ample enthusiasm during every phase. Most of all, this group was fun to work with.

Per the product: I truly think this is a viable product that we developed. It very well fits the definition of inclusive design because our mechanism isn’t really designed for just one disability, even though we designed with one in mind. It is useful to everybody, people who with no arms or hands, people who are afraid of opening the chute to late, people with neurological disorders, etcetera. Another reason, that I like it is that we designed for skydiving, which is a quintessential bucket list item.  The one thing I wish we did was make more use of our gadgets, but it comes with the nature of our prototype.


My favorite part about this project is how flexible the result can be. It is designed in such a way that it helps people with various disabilities, but it also benefits the average user who might forget to pull the chute in time or who might have a broken chute that fails to deploy. This even has military applications as well, for use by paratroopers or other missions that require aerial personnel insertion. Moreover, since the device we designed is really just an altitude-sensitive clasp, there could be other applications as well, such as failsafe recovery for rockets, satellites, and objects re-entering from space.

I think this project was a success because we were able to take a serious situation and make it safe and accessible to everyone, even though we initially began designing with only one excluded group in mind (epilepsy/narcolepsy). Now, you can have no arms or legs and still have the time of your life going skydiving. Actually, legs might be necessary for landing.

I really wish we were able to make an actual prototype for this project. It would be cool to throw it off the side of a building and watch it work.


For this project, there were a lot more ideas created and scraped than others. In the past, it is generally one of the first few ideas thought of that is chosen for the final project. For instance, during my last project, Probayashi, my team had come up with about 3 or 4 ideas before settling on competitive eaters.

For this project, however, it was totally different. During the ideation phase, the team threw around several different ideas both for possible disabilities to design for and for specific designs to make all-inclusive. This resulted in something that we as a team were more interested in designing for.

The actual prototyping phase went through a similar process of creation/scraping. We had several designs and ideas before we landed on our final prototype. We had thought about using Little Bits to open a hatch when a pressure sensor was triggered. The pressure sensor was meant to symbolize an altimeter tracking the different air pressures and altitudes that it traveled through. We had thought about dropping a parachute army man from a remote-control helicopter that I have to simulate the actual skydiving expedition even. At one point, I think we even had some weird idea involving circuits inside an orange we found lying around. In the end, however, we landed on a simple prototype to symbolize what a full-scale design would be.

Tagged , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: