For the past couple of months, we have been working on an interesting project called Blue Sky. This project was based on a concept that originated from the company 3M. We were given time in class every other day to work on engineering a product that would be targeted to one of these five demographics: babies, toddlers, tweens, seniors, or pets. To start off, we thought of an idea and then pitched it to our teachers. Then, after going through a few ideas, I got my idea approved. After that, it was time to start the first step.
We used a technique called the Launch Cycle to guide us along our journey. The Launch Cycle is a system made up of phases to work through inventing in an easy to understand way. Here is a nice graphic showing the cycle, similar to pictures scattered around our classroom.
The first phase of the Launch Cycle is to look, listen and learn. Here is the writing I did for this stage.
Phase 1: Look, Listen, and Learn
- awareness (spark your curiosity)
- What led you to this challenge? What sparked your curiosity? Introduce your project here and give the rationale for undertaking the challenge.
For my blue sky challenge, I decided to focus on solving a problem based on my dog. I chose to create an invention that could dry her paws off quickly. Since it rains quite often here, my dog will go outside and when she comes back, she tracks water all over our house. Our current solution is to dry her paws with a towel, but she hates it and ends up running away. I want to make a simpler, easy to use solution so she can dry her paws herself. This invention would be used almost every day in cooler, wetter months and can make it easier for her to come back inside.
The second stage was to ask tons of questions. Here are some of the questions I had to ask myself and others for my project.
Phase 2: Ask Tons of Questions
- What were the fundamental questions underlining the challenge? What did you need to answer to complete the challenge?
Here are some of the questions I had to ask myself to complete my task.
-What is the problem I’m trying to solve?
-How can I solve my problem of my dog tracking footprints inside without making a mess?
-How will I make sure my dog will walk on my prototype instead of going around?
-What will make sure my dog slowly walks along instead of sprinting in?
-Why do I need this?
-What about my product is different from competitors?
-What can I use?
-How much will my product cost to create?
-When would this be useful?
-What can I do to minimize the mess this product would produce?
The next phase was to thoroughly understand the problem I was trying to solve. I had to do some research and talk to experts in the field I was researching.
Please 3: Understand the Problem
- research (interviews, needs assessments, articles, data, videos)
- What did you need to investigate for your project? How did you complete that investigation? Talk about the mentors you went to and how they helped you understand both the challenge and your potential solution.
To understand my problem more, I researched how materials absorb and how sponges work. Then I talked to a few dog owners about how they had attempted to solve a similar problem and none of the ideas worked very well. All of the people I surveyed said that their dog(s) tracked mud and water into their house and none of them had a working solution. A lot of them said that they thought that my idea would solve their problem. This led me to believe that a mat that could wash and dry paws quickly would be very effective in this situation.
The fourth step was to navigate our ideas to brainstorm, generate, and develop our solution. I designed a lot of ideas and brainstormed how to follow through with them.
Phase 4: Navigate Ideas
- apply (brainstorm, analyze, combine, generate concepts)
- How did you develop your solution? What were the steps after researching the problem that led to your prototype?
After doing some initial research, I started to develop some ideas to solve my issue.The way I came up with them was to brainstorm out any ideas I could come up with onto a large piece of paper, then I eliminated any that didn’t seem reasonable or wouldn’t work well. I was left with a few ideas and at this point, I decided to try and sketch out how I would model my creations. I first figured that the second idea I had, a triangular mat with at textured top, would be utmost effective, so I moved on to creating a prototype.
The fifth phase was to create a prototype. I had to create a physical embodiment of my brainstorming ideas. I chose one of the three and here’s what I wrote about it.
Phase 5: Create a Prototype
- create (digital or tangible or action)
- Describe the creation of the actual project. What did you do to create your solution?
The way I decided to first combat my problem was to create a triangular mat to fit inside the doorway to dry paws. It would have a sponge layer on the bottom, then an absorbent microfibre layer, and then chunks of sponge on top. I went out and bought the supplies necessary to create my prototype. I decided that to start I would make my prototype in small scale, to better highlight the overall design compared to minimal detailing. As I was making my prototype, I decided to add a moistened cleaning cloth to the bottom, which dried to be a sort of shell to the model. I attached the cloth by pinning it to the rest of the model, and then once it hardened I took the pins out. This made the shell removable from the rest of the model which I thought could help for easy cleaning. I had made my first prototype, and it was time for revision.
The second to last step was to highlight any outstanding problems or issues in order to create two more prototypes. Heres an explanation of what I did.
Phase 6: Highlight and Fix
- revision (experiment with iterations)
- What did you do to highlight what was working and fix what was failing in your prototypes? Show the different drafts you went through during the creation.
After testing my prototype with smaller materials that could replicate a paw, I decided that the current idea wasn’t good enough. It would work poorly on a full-scale model, and it seemed unpractical. I moved onto another idea, which seemed like it might work a lot better (fig. 3). This prototype had three sections. One to wash paws, one to dry most water, and one to dry off any remaining water after the other two. The first section had a mat on the bottom to hold water, and as memory foam mat that I filled with water. The next section had another mat on the bottom to make sure water didn’t go through, and a layer of sponge on top. The third and final layer had a duct tape base, a thick sponge layer, and microfibre cloth on the top. I tested this for a long time with my dog, and i found that her paws weren’t drying off quite enough. So, I got a chamois and replaced the microfibre clothes. I also decided to put less water in the dog mat in the first section, which made it easier to dry. I tested this with my dog and it worked exactly how i wanted it to.