Category Archives: Ben Jaques

D-Dome (Group 8) Design Documentation


The Pitch

We initially described our D-Dome system as a “deployable self-defense mechanism for a near-future, highly dangerous environment.” For our original exposition, we crafted an anarchical world, which had formed after a severe political revolution. Inhabitants of this world were nothing short of savage towards one another due to the limiting supply of natural resources and the people’s inability to gather everything they need to survive. The criminalized nature of this world led us to D-Dome. In short, we wanted to develop a system that would provide people with instantaneous safety and security.

Essentially, we envisioned D-Dome as a self-deploying shield that would activate as soon as the wearer’s heart rate raised passed a specific threshold, denoting that the wearer was under high pressure or stress. Once the system is in motion, the user is enveloped by a 360 degree protective barrier. Once the user’s stress level has returned to a relaxed state, the shield will close back into itself, allowing the user to continue on their way.

Re-Draft of System:

After our radical initial pitch, we realized that there were too many hypothetical scenarios that we would not be able to adequately address given the time and scope of this class. Many members of the class brought up concerns about the feasibility of the immediate deployment of the device, the strength of the material, and how people would feel “protected” by the device in long-term situations.
We still wanted to keep our government-devoid world with a collapsed economy, but we withdrew our emphasis on an always dangerous, hostile environment (though raids are still a possibility). Our new idea still involved a wearable, but this time it was a suit, named D-DOME, that could automatically inflate into a tent which would serve as a temporary shelter. This would be vital in our world as resources are rapidly depleting and frequent migration would be necessary for an individual to location himself near pools of resources. Additionally, the tent would feature extra fabric to link other D-DOMEs, enabling other nomads to establish communities. This is an act of resistance/revolution to the current system of self-reliance and hostility towards one another.





We created a survey that provided feedback on how people perceive camping and socializing with strangers while camping. We asked for their general information of who they are, as well as their camping knowledge. This information allowed us to scope who would use this product today. We mainly found that people are willing socializing while camping but have a hard time trusting someone within your camp site. The other primary research we performed was interviewing a mechanical engineer and a material engineer, which helped build our idea. They pointed us towards what material we would use along with how it would transform from wearable suit to the shelter.


Once we developed our idea of what our system will solve, within the world we created, we then conducted research on various topics. These topics included materials, technologies, as well as research that helped bring depth to our world. For the product D-Dome, we needed to know what materials it would be made of, and how it would be held together. We found similar ‘survival suits/kits’ that are currently on the market which lead us to form a suit that transforms into a shelter. The next big issue we needed to address was a power source to deploy the dome as well as the security system. We found clothing that has solar panels stitched into it, which feeds a battery that holds the power. Our world, was more focused on a future where society is collapsing, which to gather research for we focused on how the homeless community lives. We found the poor mistreatment and lack of care for this population helped guide our world as well as our product. By including the connector between D-Dome’s we hoped to build a sense of community that changes people’s view of others, therefore changing they way they are treated.

Critiques & Refinement of System:

We already responded to the feedback we received in our guest critiques here:

Essentially, the refinement of our system involved redefining our world’s time period to justify the demand for such a product in desperate times. Here’s a description of our updated world:

Our company created a suit that conveniently and effortlessly transforms into a temporary shelter, with the ability to link tents together to metaphorically and physically establish communities. It was originally marketed towards groups of enthusiast campers and homeless communities who would appreciate the convenience of quickly establishing a shelter as needed. For campers, the primary motivator of the linking feature was to ward off bear attacks. Statistically, bears are less likely to attack groups in the wilderness than individuals traveling on their own. For the homeless communities, if several homeless individuals were linked up, the authorities of an area would be less likely to disband these large groups and address this problem in a more benevolent way.

However, research has shown that the world is on the verge of economic collapse. Our company decides that this is a good opportunity to market our product for a “post-apocalyptic” world where resources are scarce and survival is dependent on migrating frequently. Communities that band together for mutual survival will last much longer than individuals attempting to subsist on their own (like the bear analogy). Therefore, our current product was the perfect fit for a future world where resources are rapidly depleting, forcing the population to migrate often to locate themselves near pools of resources. Additionally, the linking feature would lend itself well to individuals establishing communities for mutual survival.  

Prototype Design and Implementation:


Since the time remaining after we confirmed our idea was somewhat limited, we knew that creating one full-scale prototype that could actually demonstrate the suit-to-tent transformation just wasn’t realistic. Instead, we settled on making two separate doll-scale prototypes to showcase the aesthetic and functionality of both the suit and tent forms.

The suit prototype was simply a representation of what the physical suit would look like when worn. To implement this, we first cut out a larger piece of canvas cloth that was comparable to the amount of cloth used for the walls on the tent prototype. Then we fitted the cloth to our doll by folding back and pinning excessive cloth using the safety pins. Next, we measured and cut out the pieces of cloth that we would use for the sleeves and hood on the suit prototype. We attached them to the suit using a hot glue gun. Finally, to represent the straps that would allow a D-Dome user to transform the suit into the backpack form, we glued two adjustable velcro straps to the back of the suit prototype.



Additionally, we wanted to represent our Intrusion Detection System within our abstract prototype. When the D-Domes are linked, a circuit is formed between the shelters, not dissimilar to the “Wagon Wheel” established during the American frontier.. Once the D-Dome circuit has been created, any pressure applied from the outside of the community onto the tented wall (i.e. an outsider attempts to rip open the D-Dome’s walls) an alarm sounds, and lights flash so that people living together within the D-Dome community will be alerted to the intrusion. In order to demonstrate this idea within our prototype, we decided to utilize the LittleBits kit. We wired LEDs, a pressure sensor, and a harsh buzzer throughout the hidden wall of the tent. The pressure sensor is located directly behind the wall that “links” the two D-Domes together. When someone presses against this wall, LEDs inside the D-Domes light up, and the buzzer continually sounds in order to demonstrate the overall alarm system.




In lieu of a Kickstarter-esque trailer for our product, we decided to craft a small story concerning the characters used in our various prototypes: Ken and Barbie. Essentially, we wanted to convey the idea that in our imagined reality, people do not last long by themselves. However, the technology behind D-Dome enables people to commune around one another, promoting an overall sense of camaraderie. The initial storyboard called for a small story that takes place over two days. On day one, Ken is wandering alone through a hostile environment. The D-Dome strips away any concerns of shelter he might have on the first night, though he is still left alone to fend for himself. During the course of the following day, Ken meets Barbie and the two “link” up their D-Domes with the knowledge that they will be safer together.



For our evaluation we talked to other engineering majors that applied to our prototype and deliverable. We had them fill out a survey that was comprised of a series of questions that pertained to design. For example ideal materials for the D-Dome, how should the shelter deploy automatically, and what should be the primary power source. This is to check other possibilities that we might not have thought of as well as reinforce the design process our group had already gone through. The second part of the evaluation was for the participants to watch the short film created about D-Dome, then followed by a few questions that made sure the message and problem would be solved by our prototype. The response backed up our ideas and thoughts that went into the making of D-Dome, for instance being able to carry your shelter wherever you go and being able to create a sense of community.

Group 8 (D-Dome) Timeline of Events


April 19th

  • Evaluation plan created
  • Rough sketches of prototype design
  • World refinement

April 20th

  • Obtain parts and make preliminary progress toward prototype(s)
    • Sam will get cloth/synthetic material for tent/suit shell
  • Document design process
  • Make a presentation for design process and evaluation plan

April 21st* – Online documentation of design process. Development and presentation of evaluation plan.

  • Mark obtains 3D printed prototype (if ready)

April 26th – Conduct evaluation study and produce concept video

  • Conduct Evaluation Study
  • Most of prototype progress is complete

April 28th* – 90% DUE

  • Prototypes done
  • Technical details addressed (alternative energy, alternative forms of suit)
  • Storyboard of Video (bare minimum), actual video done (stretch goal)
  • Presentation outline

April 29th

  • Final touches for video and prototype
  • Rehearse presentation

May 2nd* – ICAT DAY

May 3rd* – Exhibit and Final Presentation

Group 8 – Critique Responses


Review by Zach Duer:
Review on Quality of Proposed System:  He mentioned that there were some parts of our system that needed more thought; this included weight distribution, hot climates, and whether this really helps with the sense of community.

Response: The main take away was to have the D-Dome be able to transform into a backpack for another way to carry it on person. This will be applicable when it is a warm day so that the user will not be wearing a hot suit throughout the day. Zach also touched on weight distribution, for the suit form as well as the backpack, which can be modified by making the components more modular. If the floor mat and other non essential parts needed to inflate the dome then have them stored in a backpack like pouch that can be accessed after the initial inflation takes place.

Review by Kurt Luther:

Notable feedback: When we asked about how viable distributing our system would be in a collapsed economy, he suggested rolling back our world to the transition period where the economy is on the verge of imminent collapse so that people could actually justify the value in it.

He also supported our idea of the psychology of groups deterring hostile individuals or entities. He mentioned that individuals camping are statistically more susceptible to bear attacks than groups.

Response: This was crucial feedback because we had a difficult time justifying how people would trade their goods or services in a world where this product would be seen as a luxury. It also justifies how we could manufacture this product in a world before resources (i.e. depleting Tyvek, solar panels, air pumps) start rapidly depleting.

The statistic about bear attacks grounds the psychological deterrent in a more practical context. We were looking for more ways to extend our product to modern society and its problems.

Review by Kari Zacharias:

Process and Methods: “… could use much more research on community-building.”
Quality of proposed system: “I’m not sure what the [unknown] of this system are ‘resisting,’ aside from death.”

Response: Our explanation of the “resistance” portion of this prompt derives from our product’s ability to bring people together. In our imagined reality, where nomadic scavenging is considered the norm, we wanted to challenge the general notion of hostility, which usually occurs in fictional worlds like the one we have built i.e. “survive at all costs.”

The above comments from Ms. Zacharias indicate that we need to expand upon this “resistance” in order to properly address the prompt. Why would a series of communal tents suddenly encourage strangers to trust one another in a supposedly dangerous environment? Ms. Zacharias’s concerns allow us to see that we need to address the sense of community between tents and acquire more research concerning what it takes to make a community inviting to strangers. Conversely, we might be able to refactor our world in order to make the “resistance” more acceptable. Perhaps there could be a driving force within our world that would more naturally bring strangers together. These are important things to address that we

Review by Margaret Ellis:

Quality of proposed system, How will the system handle the amount of power will need to run the security system when the tents are place into wheel wagon mode as well the power to self inflate the tent.

Response:  Our explanation of to the power problem that may happen is that come up with back up power supply. That if the user is in the area where it very cloudy and that the solar panel will be able gain a enough power to run everything. We came up with an idea that it comes with a back up power supply. That if the solar panel does gain enough energy to run everything but with the backup power supply the user can pump up the tent and storage the energy for the alarm system.

The information above gave us a good system depending the location of where the user is using it. That this will add a good back up supply of the power.

Updated Work on D-Dome:

  • Backpack Feature
  • More modular for ease of repairs
  • Small changes to imagined reality (world on verge of collapse)
  • Back up sense of community with Bear Attack Statistics

Group 8 – Final Project Pitch

1. The goal. Identify the core nugget that explains what your pitch is trying to achieve.

Our mission is to be able to provide a sense of safety for everyone no matter what conditions they live in. While there are many similar deployable safety mechanism ours targets a larger audience that may not be able to afford more expensive models. Our self deploying shield is cost effective but still effective to ward off threats of all kinds. With this product people would not be limited to just staying indoors for safety, but now can venture to get resources needed to survive or even have a sense of freedom again.

2. The idea. This is a version of your 5-second pitch.

Deployable self-defense mechanism for a near-future, highly dangerous environment.

3. The problem. This is a modified version of a pitch set-up: as it provides a framework for the idea. Perhaps you can have a tight bulleted list of data points that identify the problem or short, realistic scenarios that expresses why these problems are important.

In an alternate reality, tensions within a country have caused a radical political revolution that dismantles the current government, essentially resulting in an anarchy where every man is for himself. This world has a rapidly depleting amount of resources, so the residents of this country have become increasingly savage towards one another in order to sustain themselves. Obviously, since the country now has no central authoritative body, no person is protected by any sort of laws against this criminal activity. Our solution is a deployable self-defense mechanism that would protect and potentially neutralize any incoming threats of violence or mugging.

4. The audience. Who will this idea appeal to? What is the profile of the potential customer/user/agent? What is the profile of the non-customer? (Who would never ever be interested/horrified/angered by this idea?)

Customers: General populace, civilians

Non-customers: Pacifists, figures of authority

5. The approach. How does the idea work? Explain, at a high level, the outline for how the idea will be implemented – background research and methods.

The idea will work when there is a threat approaches the user in a deadly action. The shield will be carry by user in a back pack. Where the user will press a button on the front strap of the backpack.  Once the button is press the shield will deployed from the background and the protect the user. The shield will deployed either automatically or self deployed. The shield will come back into the backpack once the user recall it by pressing the button. This idea came about to the fact of the trophy system that the military use to protect their armor vehicle from incoming missiles.  

6. Challenges & Unknowns. What are the big open issues that need to be resolved, or are questions a reasonable person would ask? If you were being pitched to, what questions would you have? Identify them and demonstrate you’ve thought about those issues – ideally with a credible (if fuzzy) plan, or plan for a plan, for resolving.

From the resistance point of view there would be many questions raised about safety/practicality:

  • Is this safe for use?
  • How heavy/compact is the product?

The challenges we faced that we had to ask ourselves. We want it to be as easy on the customer to obtain and to feel comfortable relying on the product.

  • How would you get the product to the audience?
  • Would it be claustrophobic in the bubble?
  • How do we account for various body shapes and sizes?
  • What are the different versions of this product?

Pressure Project 3: MyDoor


Short description of the selected exclusion area and explanation for your group interest.

We wanted to capture as many exclusion areas as possible under the realm of physical disability while still creating something that might actually be appealing to a general audience. Our main target audience was those who lack dexterity and struggle with performing fine motor tasks because we realized anyone could potentially experience a degradation of this skill in the form of many different ailments (elderliness, Parkinson’s, cerebral palsy, strokes, etc.). Similarly, we also wanted to focus on those who are physically unable to perform certain motor skills entirely such as paraplegics and the blind.
Documentation of the ideation, sketching, and prototyping of your proposed system.


After sifting through many ideas that revolve around helping visually impaired people in the tasks that they perform in public, we shifted our focus to creating something that might make a user’s personal home more accessible. At first, we wanted to make refrigerator doors, which are hefty and sometimes difficult to maneuver for those with weaker strength, more easily opened by adding a button to the door that swings it open automatically.

Then, we expanded the idea to household doors in general since opening them can be difficult depending on the circumstances of the person using them (their muscle strength, physical frame, occupation of hands, etc.). We all agreed that it’s challenging to unlock a door and open it when your hands are full, like when you’re carrying groceries, and this difficulty could also be applicable to more personal situations like shaky hands fumbling with keys.

Our solution was to augment the process by equipping the door with near field communication technology that would recognize a user with a unique device (such as a key fob or wristband) and, if authenticated, automatically unlock and open the door. We’ve seen this in public buildings with wheelchair accessible doors, but our solution provides for access to a  user’s a private home.


Before actively building our prototype, we began researching multiple home door systems. We specifically focused on elements of current doors that primarily excluded those with disabilities in dexterity, locomotion, or sight. In the following sketch, the left column depicts users next to regular doors, while the right column depicts users in front of our idealized MyDoor system.  


Now that we had a vision for our final product, we began sketching the basic throughline of our desired system. The picture below demonstrates the simple steps in our process:




With various tools from class at our disposal, we set out to build a simple, automated door system that is representative of our desired product. Our team initially gravitated towards the Arduino kit, which we hoped to use as the controller for the door. The plan was to send pulses to a servo that would in turn open and close a door. After discussing how the user would actually operate the servo with their key bracelet, reservations began to emerge within the team. The supposed “quick and dirty” prototype appeared to be growing in scale, so we turned to the LittleBits kit in order to scale our design back.


The LittleBits kit held everything necessary to replicate our early sketches. Our 10-piece kit contained one light sensor, which was quickly used as the NFC respondent. Of course, the light sensor does not contain any NFC capabilities, but we found it to be a solid representative of our idea. Once the light is blocked out from the sensor (or in MyDoor terms, once the user has held their NFC-ready bracelet up to the door), the rest of the LittleBits circuit will receive power. We wired the sensor to an LED (this light lets the user know that their NFC connection was successful) and a pretty powerless motor. This given motor is more finicky than a servo, but its shortcomings were quickly superseded by its simplicity. Now that we created a general outline of our prototype, we had to figure out a way to house it.


Our “house” was created using simple crafting supplies such as cardboard, tape, and paperclips. As you can see above, we created a makeshift door frame out of a leftover shoebox. In order to create the door, we ran a straightened paper clip through one edge of blue cardboard. This paperclip acted as an axle for the door, allowing the door to remain flush with its cardboard frame.

We proceeded to route our LittleBits circuit throughout the frame. The battery and wiring are held within the shoebox out of sight. The light sensor and its respective LED indicator hang on the right side of the frame, and the motor sits underneath the cardboard door, holding said door in place. Once the user presses their bracelet up to the light sensor, the motor will turn, allowing the user access to their home.


Given that the prototype is a straightforward “quick and dirty” attempt at our proposed solution, there are features left out now that would certainly be included in an expanded system. The most glaring example is our door is unable to close without manually altering the direction of the LittleBits motor. Ideally, the door will shut closed after a certain period of time since opening. Our hope is that this time limit would be editable by the user via an application, and that application would house other information like user profiles and allowed-NFC bracelets.


Individual Reflections



It only seems natural that the conclusion to this class’s Pressure Project Trilogy feels earned. Like any third installment in a franchise, this assignment was immediate and familiar; we knew exactly what to expect regarding planning, preparation, and the pressure of a 48-hour time limit. However, I believe I can speak for the rest of my group when I say that I did not expect this assignment’s ideation process to take as long as it did.

Our first night felt like a never-ending brainstorming session, which left me somewhat frustrated because we were unable to come up with a foolproof idea. A proper night of sleep must have helped, because we immediately hit the ground running on the following day. Once we centered on an idea concerning automated doors, I immediately began constructing the box that would hold the LittleBits circuitry.

Outside of co-writing this blog post with another group member, the majority of my contribution to this assignment involved building the actual prototype. Abstract thinking goes hand-in-hand with Computer Science, so physically constructing something feels extremely refreshing for me. Overall, I am pleased with the final prototype. It remains rough around the edges, but it is a fully-functional representation of our end goal, and that is enough to make me proud of not only my own work, but my team’s work as well.


This project was one of the harder projects with regards to brainstorming. Our group spent a lot of time bouncing around ideas, and occasionally focusing too much on a disability and forgetting the big picture. Additionally, it happened more than once that we would have a breakthrough idea, that was already in the works or on the market. Without letting this deter us though, we were able to build upon many of the previous ideas that we had come up with and combine most of the areas we were previously trying to singularly design for, all into one system. The further we discussed this idea, the more we knew it was the right one for us.

So, the short design period definitely put a strain on this process, but once it was decided
the ideation and design stage was the most rewarding of all the pressure projects yet. The ideation stage was the longest stage (not counting the actual prototype creation), and each of our contributions evolved our design in some meaningful way. For example, we originally were going to create the components for the door, but upon suggestion of having the door open itself, we realized it would be more portable and sensible to create an entire door for the system. It was eye opening to actually have this part of the process happening with such detail. Because of this, I was frequently inspired to add more sketches along the way, which seemed appropriate since the more we designed, the wider our design area became (i.e. from dexterity to dexterity, seeing, and locomotion).

I really enjoyed the prototyping stage, and getting to see the finished product, and how it could actually be scalable to a real world model.

Overall, I was involved in each stage of the project to various extents: contributing to the brainstorming and ideation stages, supplying materials and “systems” to crack for the prototype, as well as picture taking, the blog outline, and creating the storyboard and design sketches. Additionally, I will help to present.


This was probably my favorite pressure project that we have done. I really enjoyed working with a more technological component, and I liked the idea of revolutionizing something that could not only change the way someone living with a disability may live, but could change the way that someone without a disability could live.

I will admit that when I first started thinking about ideas for this project that I was designing mostly with the idea that I we were trying to improve the lives of those with disabilities. This was true obviously, but the bigger picture was that we were trying to design something that could make the lives of everyone easier, with a focus on those with disabilities in a way that would not feel excluding to them compared to those living without disability.

My initial idea that I had brought forth to the group was to create a pair of glasses, that could be worn by someone who has lost their sight. By using a proximity sensor and a small chime, buzzer or noise emitting device we could (in non-dangerous situation [I.e somewhere not near traffic]) eliminate the need for a walking cane, or seeing eye dogs as the glasses would allow them to detect objects and avoid collisions. In later prototypes we could even toy with the idea of mapping physical “views” with a certain range, melody and pitch of tunes that would allow the user to become familiar with the physical layout of the surroundings using an audio based layout.

We all agreed that this too heavily focused on the disability and although it would be useful and very cool, it was very much designed specifically for one purpose. It was back to the drawing board.

From there I began to think about daily interactions around the house and how to make them easier, not only for someone suffering from disability but for even myself. In class on Tuesday we were told that we needed to really observe, live and understand the lives of the people we are designing for (especially in the case of disability) in order to really get a well thought out functioning model. Having very little time I found it hard to try to imagine living with a disability but I was able to think back to times that I struggled with everyday tasks and tried to make the ideas carry over. For instance, when I had a broken arm when I was younger I found that I had trouble opening the refrigerator with my non-dominant hand. From there I began to wonder about those who have lost limbs, or even those who are confined to wheelchairs and lack the necessary leverage to open heavy fridge doors. I thought of a fridge that would have a door that operates with a gentle push button door release which would then allow the door to slowly swing open of its own accord allowing the user minimal interaction. Unfortunately Japan has apparently already beat us to it and has a product like this.

Finally I was lucky enough to have the idea that we decided to work with for the pressure project. Again, having no disability I needed to put myself into a predicament that could be analogous to having a disability. I like to eat healthy and that requires frequent trips to the super market (follow me here, I promise this story is going somewhere). Because I have to shop a lot and buy large quantities of food at one time, and because I am just so lazy, these trips ultimately end with me attempting to carry 47 bags in one trip up to my room on the third floor of my house. When I am greeted by a locked door, it can be frustrating, tiring, and downright impossible to fish a key out of my pocket, struggle to get it to the lock and then open the door without dropping, breaking or maiming the food I just purchased. It was from this experience that I began to think about those (similar to the fridge) who would struggle with door leverage. But even more so than that, those who would have difficulty manipulating small objects with their hands, those who would have trouble applying torque to a key and those who may not even be able to see the door. I am very excited about this idea because it not only applies to those who are struggling from serious disabilities, but can help to make the average joes life easier as well as even help a drunk person get into their house easier. Heres the idea:

Keys are a pain. They’re easy to lose, they can be frustrating to orient into the lock, you might grab the wrong key. Who knows. If we were to create a wrist band that contains all of the encoded information required to activate a fob mechanism lock on a door we have just solved that problem. The user wears this key on their wrist, (a location they will have a hard time losing a key from) when they want to get into their house they swipe their wrist on the door and the door swings inward allowing them entry. No more pesky keys to deal with, no more semi broken handles stopping your entrance and no more dropped groceries. Those confined to wheel chairs could easily reach the door to swipe in, those who are visually impaired need only find the door itself and not a tiny keyhole, those with Parkinson’s no longer have to struggle with keys. The possibilities are endless.

I was able to help design our prototype and although it is on a small scale I am very happy with the results. Clearly this was a project that I was able to get excited about and it actually felt like we were designing for the people instead of designing to get a good grade in a class. I’m sure there may already be a system like this out there, but this is a system that I would be interested in doing more work on because it can help such a wide range of people.

In terms of group contribution I feel I helped most with idea generation, but I also played a good part in the creation of our mock door situation using the ‘little bits’. It was a really exciting prospect to create something that could be so widely applicable.


Although this pressure project was particularly stressful in the brainstorming and ideation phases, once we had the idea for the automatic door and how applicable it could be to a variety of exclusion areas, our group was very confident during the rest of the design process. Initially, I came up with some potential ideas for aiding visually impaired people, but after we settled on our final idea, I tried to see if we could expand our idea to more than one exclusion area. I figured out some of the more technical details of how the process and mechanisms inside the door would work. I also realized how we could utilize the components in the Little Bits kit for our prototype to loosely replicate what the experience would be like in the real system (e.g. using the light sensor in the kit as the NFC authentication receiver). In terms of the report, I was responsible for writing the introductory section where we expressed our interest in a variety of different exclusion areas and the description of our ideation process.

Overall I really enjoyed designing our idea and fleshing out the prototype once we had momentum after the initial steps of the design process. With the last pressure project, I had a little bit of trouble envisioning what my unknown community was like behaviorally, but the prompt for this project was even harder to comprehend because there are daily tasks that I take for granted that are completely different for someone with a specific disability. It inspired me to research what blind people might struggle with on a day-to-day basis, but I was surprised to find out how much we underestimated what they can do. When designing our idea, it was challenging to figure out how to make it compatible with a pool of different exclusion areas, but it also allowed me to empathize with the groups in a way that just wasn’t possible in the second pressure project. Finally, the prototype was so rewarding to make! After discussing how we could implement the NFC recognition and door swinging system with the Little Bits kit and cardboard, I was pleasantly surprised to see the final result as accurate as we had initially described it.

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Pressure Project 2: The Probe Kit



Short description of the selected community and explanation for your group interest

The community we selected is people who have over $1,000,000 in personal debt. We chose this group because we are interested in the personalities and decision-making processes of people who have taken financial risks that simply haven’t paid off. We hope to provoke inspirational responses in order to understand their present mindsets. The amount of money that they owe is greater than the total money some people will ever see in their lifetimes. We find this fascinating, and we hope to find out more about people who are in this position.

Documentation of each element of your probe kit, including written descriptions, photographs, illustrations etc.

Our probe kit includes four separate activities, which we will encapsulate inside a no-frills cardboard box. The probes vary in format and abstraction levels, but all are designed to help us learn about our chosen community.

1 – The Emoji Maze
Emojis are icons that express various emotions and thoughts. We developed an “emoji maze,” which consists of a single paper sheet that is filled with common emoji icons. The paper indicates a “start” at one single emoji and an “end” to another emoji, which is located on the opposite end of the “maze.” The user must draw a route from the start to the end, circling each emoji along their selected path. This means that the user must select their desired expression as they move. Because the emojis represent a litany of objects and faces, the user’s choice of path might possibly reflect their current state of mind, their general feelings, or even their individual taste. A user has anywhere from 3-8 path choices from the various positions on the grid. This means we can see what the users’ options were from every position on which they landed. Furthermore, we can begin to analyze why they may have chosen that specific emoji over their other options.



2 – Contact List Modification
First, we will have the user remove three contacts from their phone. In addition, we will ask the user to explain their choice with a simple a sentence. Ideally, the “why” is going to be the thought-provoking part of this activity because the subject will have to formally communicate their own thoughts and feelings. This may help the subject evaluate certain relationships in their life and articulate what they find undesirable in a relationship. Conversely, we intend to ask the user to come up with three people that they wish they could add to their contacts list. Again, the user will provide a reason for these choices. This should help them find positive qualities that they hope to form in future relationships.



3 – Daily Photographs
Each participant will be given a disposable camera with instructions to take three selfies a day. We hope to gain insight into these people based on how they choose to take these photos. For instance, if the user does not take any photos at all, what does that tell us about them? Some people may not even feel like it is a productive use of time, and they will not even attempt the exercise. For the users that actually do follow through with the instructions, we intend on analyzing various qualities of the photographs: the facial expressions of the users, how many people are included in the picture (is every photo taken solo?), where the photo was taken, the time of day in which it was taken, etc. By giving the user a disposable camera, we are limiting the timeline of this probe. We estimate that if a user is to take three photos a day, the average disposable camera would last them around eight days (assuming our disposable cameras all hold 24 photos). We believe there is quite a bit of information to be gathered from an individual’s photographs. Not only that, but we think that this exercise is modernized and engaging enough to keep the intended users


4 – Drawing a Triangle
This is an extremely simple task, but the key is misdirection. In the kit, we will include a pencil, a pen, a black marker, a pink highlighter, and possibly more. We’re curious to see which utensil the user selects for their drawing. A pencil could potentially reflect hesitation to draw something permanent. The pen is very formal, whereas a pink highlighter could be considered more fun and less serious. Additionally, the color choice could possibly express the user’s mood. Although it is hard to determine what we will gain from this in advance, there will be several properties to analyze once we have a decent sample. Most notably, it is even possible that we will notice a pattern among users.



Overall Probe Kit Elements:

  • Emoji Maze Sheet
  • Contact List Modification From
  • Disposable Camera
  • Triangle Drawing Template
  • Assortment of various writing utensils (pens/pencils/markers)
  • Prepaid Shipping Envelope (used to return necessary items)

Timeline for completion:

The disposable camera activity is by far the longest because it involves day-to-day upkeep until the camera has run out of film. We estimate that our timeline for completion, therefore, will range anywhere from 8-10 days.

Method of distribution and return:

Because our activity probe takes at least a week to fully complete, we decided it best to conduct the activities remotely. The probe kits will be distributed through the mail based upon a predetermined list of individuals who happen to fit our criteria for investigation (and under the pretense that these individuals have volunteered to try out our activities). In turn, we ask that the participants mail the completed results back to us via an included envelope that will be free of post charges and can be dropped in any US mail carrying bin so that there is virtually no pressure or additional strain on the participant.

Individual Reflections:

Ethan Mattice: Post

Colton Walker: Post

Ben Jaques: Initially, I was gearing all of our proposed activities toward the subset of humanity lost in debt. However, I soon learned that this is not exactly the purpose of an activity probe. We can learn more about a specific community by drawing parallels between members of that community, but we must first pinpoint those parallels. And those parallels could be anything! They don’t have to be related to investments or regret or financial strain or anything even close to our idea of what these people might be thinking or feeling. After all, we chose a group we know nothing about. By that logic, we are unable to properly assess the group without simply getting to know them first. And I think our wacky activities allow us to do that in our own way.

The activities definitely pander towards millennials (emojis/selfies/smartphone contacts all in one box), but I believe that is what makes them relatively engaging exercises. We want exercises that do not remind users why they were selected, so I believe we have some strength in our activities with regards to that. However, I think that we have gone too broad with our activities because these exercises could realistically be applied to any community. It is challenging to find that equilibrium point in which activities do not relate to a specific community but still allow you to learn more about a specific community.

Overall, I like the idea of activity probes because they present a creative and refreshing way to learn more about people. However, the results from activity probes appear to be harder to analyze. Human responses to these exercises are less concrete than test results, for instance. But people are complex, so I believe we are deserving of more complex studies like this.

Mark Olsen: Post