Tuesday, September 30, 2014

On What I learned this Summer at IDEO

Somebody tell me who did this?
This past summer, I had the most fortunate opportunity to intern at IDEO. And while I received great industrial insight into design and innovation, rapid prototyping, human-centered design, [insert buzzword], etc., there are a few things that particularly resonated with me and go beyond conventional industry wisdom. They are of the age-old truths sort. Truths, themes, realizations, if you will, that will arguably follow me onward.

By IDEO-er Elaine Fong.
1. There's so much time and so much you can do! #story!
We read stories; we watch stories; we tell stories; we experience stories; we create stories; we live stories. We use stories to interact and connect; our lives become stories: it's the way of the homo-sapien species. However, it is important to note that it is the chapters, the characters, the plot, the setting that make a story what it is. At IDEO, I was surrounded by people that were older than I was and definitely a lot more accomplished then I was. And it was thoroughly refreshing. It made me realize how much could be achieved in a span of time. I got to hear about the many chapters of their lives and how multifaceted it could be and still be coherently linear. It gave me great optimism. So often I think I'm put on earth to do one thing; and the fact of the matter is that I can do additional things to that one thing. It's very liberating.

By IDEO-er Lawrence Abrahamson. 
2. "'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar."
The people at IDEO are passionate. They are passionate about their work and they are passionate about other aspects of their life, non work things that can be extremely fringe or mainstream. And that's who they are; no one bats an eye. In fact, they are intrigued and curious, inspired even. These people are genuinely passionated and curious about the world and everything in it: people, life, the good, the bad, the unknown. They have the courage to think the great ideas, as well as the not so great ideas. It's a very attractive and contagious trait: being yourself.

By IDEO-er Josh Sin.
3. Share your work; collaborate. Don't reinvent the wheel.
People at IDEO are constantly learning from each other. I definitely learned a lot from them. There was always a workshop or break out to share and learn. In school, you will no doubt work on assignments that have been done year after year after year. But that's the difference between school and the real world. In school, you are practicing, honing your skills, becoming better. But in the real world, you are out to contribute. And you're allowed to build from other people's work. And they are allowed to build off your work. Otherwise, innovation would take forever.

By IDEO-er Zeke Markshausen.
4. The T shaped person.
A lot of people at IDEO are T-shaped people. This was something I wasn't too familiar with before IDEO. But unconsciously, this was what I've been striving to become my entire life. You can revisit some of my past posts and you will see that I struggled with being a dabbler, a not entirely field devoted individual. I was constantly afraid that I wasn't focused enough, that I had too many interest. And at IDEO, I realized this was a strength, not a flaw. I realized that the kind of work I wanted to do was the kind that required T-shaped contributors. (If you wikipedia T-shaped person, the short article mentions the CEO of IDEO, Tim Brown. I didn't know; I've been brainwashed . . . D:)
By IDEO-ers Tasos Karahalios and Leigh Cohen.
5. Actions speak louder than words, sometimes.
A huge part of IDEO is rapid prototyping. And a huge part of that is making abstract ideas physical. Many times, we have ideas. But we don't actual know how those ideas will translate unless we work them out. Trust in the process and make, make, make.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Careful Shots Make for Less Digital Clutter


There's only so much clutter in a person's physical place before it becomes too much, before it becomes unproductive, before it becomes impossible to hide. Digital clutter though is a lot easier to hide and there seems to be an exponentially growing amount of cheap space for it, Moore's Law.  In that manner, it's super easy and even encouraged to ignore digital clutter.


Take photographs for example. I usually take two shots of a particular composition that are pretty much identical. And then another set of photographs of the same subject but at a slightly different angle. And I do this with the good intention of going back at a later time and deleting the lesser photo. But there is no lesser photo when the photos are nearly identical! Photo 1 does lighting better, photo 2 does composition better, and photo 3 image quality better but none of them do all three best.


What I end up with is a massive stockpile of photos that are a burden to go through. A stockpile of photos that grows and becomes unsearchable if not categorized. The cycle continues as I ignore the photos. And when I do get to the photos, it's a weary and tedious process. which is not what I want. I want to be able to quickly look through my photos and see the different views. I don't want to ignore them and think of them as a hassle.


So I have a new goal. My new goal is to take a little bit more time during the initial shooting of a photo so that the work afterwards is easier, to take one or two shots of a composition and then to purge immediately afterwards what I don't deem worthy. This way I don't have photos sitting in memory cards, taking up space, waiting to be reviewed.


I think our societies lack of care in digital clutter is a little unnerving. It goes back to the quality over quantity balancing act. It is becoming increasing harder to consume a high level of media in the digital world. Search engines are trying their best to filter the bad content and are a sort of work around for digital clutter; it makes it easier to sort through backlogs of files. But there's just too much. And as the content grows, we lose contact with each other. As we crunch through information on our feeds and consume more and more than ever about each other passively, we make less of an effort to talk and connect with other people. We're losing that authentic human touch.


Sunday, June 08, 2014

Quick Updates. Also, I have a B.S. now

The only way to fix not blogging is to blog. Sometimes, I just create drafts thinking I will get to them, but that is never the case. And sometimes, I feel like I need to blog about all the important events in my life and in chronological order. Obviously, I don't have to do that. So I'm just going to conglomerate a bunch of thoughts together again.

First and foremost, I have a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the College of Engineering at Boston University. That's pretty exciting, right? This is one of my greatest achievements. I can't say it was extremely difficult, however I can say it did require a good amount of effort. And I seemed to have done it right, I think. Hindsight is 20/20. But I'm not at that point yet. But the reasons I think I did it right are because I have a wonderful internship at IDEO Chicago and I will be starting graduate school in the Fall with Smart Lighting Center at BU. Sounds pretty darn good to me.

Here it is in all its glory.
Yup, you read that right, I am in Chicago for an internship at IDEO. IDEO is one of those companies I admired as a youth so I cannot fully express how excited I am to be working for them. One of those "how the hell did I manage this" thing. People say not to question your good fortune, but I cannot not question it. My life seems to be going the right way. I haven't hit any major roadblocks. All I can say now is that I'm going to take full advantage of the opportunity. Do a lot of good work. And learn, learn, learn. Hopefully, I don't get too tired and I can return to school in the fall fresh of new ideas.

This is coaster I designed for myself. Also, my first time using a laser cutter.
And a thought about "unplugging."
unplug |ˌənˈpləg|verb (unplugsunpluggingunpluggedwith obj. ]disconnect (an electrical device) by removing its plug from a socket: she unplugged the fridge.• sever the connection between a peripheral device and a computer: the only thing you can do is to unplug the RJ45 | Why do I have to unplug the mouse to get the printer to work?remove an obstacle or blockage from: a procedure to unplug blocked arteries.no obj. ] informal relax by disengaging from normal activities:they've gone up to the cabin to unplug. This is the general definition found in the Apple dictionary. The OED only has the first definition for the verb unplug. But what interests me is the third definition. The informal "new" definition. No one said they were going to unplug themselves before the modern age. You unplug devices, wires, plugs. So what gives? It's so strange that this is a thing now. I am glued to my electronics. And I have to remember to unplug. So odd. It's as if gravity no longer pulled objects together and everyone is flying and we have to consciously remember to gravitate toward earth. Weird.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hacking our Teabot at Make_BU Hackathon

Last Friday into Saturday, I participated in a 24-hr hackathon, hosted by Make_BU. This was BU's first hackathon, more on that later, and my second hackathon -- I participated in the MakeMIT hardware hackathon last month.

My teammate, Anjana, and I are seniors, and we have busy schedules. Doing this hackathon was a way for us to have fun, to take a break from senior design, and to throw design tolerances and the "significance" of a project out the window! We decided to build a tea robot based on the traditional Tea Serving Doll, Karakuri Ningyo, but with a modern twist: instead of the all mechanical design, we were going to go with a electronic-mechanical design. This was an idea Anjana and I had for a couple years now, we just never got around to it. But I thought, hey, it's a hackathon, there's a 24 hour limit, we can use this idea: things get done when there's a deadline.

So what exactly does the teabot do? Okay, here's the situation, you are entertaining a guest for tea and you and your guest are seated across from each other. The teabot is designed to wait for tea in a cup to be placed on a tray on the bot. Once, the cup is placed on the tray, the bot will move forward and present your guest with tea. Your guest will enjoy and drink the tea. And once your guest is done, he/she will place the cup back on the tray and the bot will bring the cup back to you. Here's a video demonstrating the simple functionality:


So like I said, this was BU's first hackathon, and while there were cool things provided, 3D printers (which are kind of slow. I don't really think they are ideal for hackathons. Prototyping? They're great! But a time-limited hackathon? Not so much) and food and stuff, there wasn't a lot of materials/supplies to hack with. This is not BU's fault or anything, hardware hackathons in general are a challenge because of this: you need more than a computer.

But this is where we embodied the maker's/hacker's spirit and decided to scale down our project -- we had plans for more fancy mechanisms and functionality -- and use a bunch of recyclables to create our project. Let me run you through some of the more hack-y things we did.

1) Our cardboard prototype board:


We were hoping that they were going to have prototype boards at the hackathon for us to put our circuit on. But nevertheless, there wasn't any. And given our circuit's simplicity, we did not want to spend money on buying an over-priced one at Radio Shack. So we built one with a recycled popcorn box. On it is the circuitry for the H-Bridge, a circuit that allows our bot to move forwards and backwards, as well as places to attach the outputs from the Arduino, homemade pressure switch, and motor.

2) Our gearbox made mostly from a jewelry box:



Here is our motor mounted onto a piece of cardboard with brass fasteners. It was actually very sturdy! It was a good piece of cardboard from a sticky pad that we found.



Here is the gearbox in it's entirety. The black box is jewelry box. The green spacers are Starbucks straws. The axel, we bought at Blick's, an art supply store. The motor and gears I had. And the wheels and washers were from the Tinkering Lab.

3) Our water bottle pressure switch:


So the tray to the bot is again a jewelry box. Our switch is constructed out of a section of a Poland Spring water bottle. Plastic has a naturally elasticity, that bounces back when pressed. We used string tied to the four corners of the box to keep the tray from flinging off. The switch used two copper plates as metal contacts. The bottle idea was actually pitched by my roommate, Angela. We initially were going to rely on either copper's elasticity or straws or springs from pens. You can see another wheel mounted on the gear box, this was used to make sure the tray/switch rested leveled.

4) Goodwill decorations:


We decorated with cloth from Goodwill. Haha, we are going for fun, remember?! We had a grand time savaging parts. And that's what a hackathon should be: a grand time.

I'm pleased to say that our hack won for Best Hardware! =]

I am under the impression that we won because our project embodied the spirit of a hackathon; we were being recognized for being resourceful, for being creative, for having fun, for making something cool -- the guys next to us built an impressive 3D scanner using a Kinect and fancy hardware, which was awesome. This is a very important message. You don't need expensive equipment and hardware to build cool things. We didn't use the 3D printers at all actually. This is a message that I especially want to broadcast to young students who are intimated by making and building. Just have fun with it. Sure, I have experience building things with recyclables and you may not have a motor and Arduino, but experience comes with practice and those items cost less than a video game! So if you want to make something, don't be intimidated: just do it. Hackathons are great places to start. However, if you are discouraged by the 24-hour "GO-GO-GO" attitude, don't be, it's part of the fun! (But if you need sleep, that's fine too. We went to sleep. Haha, as seniors, you take sleep whenever you can.) Another thing great about hackathons are that they encourage learning and doing and meeting other people. It's great if you have skills. But if you don't, that's just as great! There are usually categories devoted to people with no skills. At Make_BU, we had a category called Best nOOb which is dedicated to those who've had limited making skills.

I'm glad and thankful to the folks at BUILDS, Global App Initiative, CE++, DMCBU, Open Web BU, and Terrapin Computing for organizing BU's first hackathon. It's great thing they did and this is a great community to nourish at an university. Plus, an especial thank you to the BU ECE Department for sponsoring!! =]

Thursday, March 20, 2014

What The Hell Part II

Just some jams for the week. Things to keep me going.

Justin Timberlake's Not A Bad Thing. I think this throwback 90s vibe is working for JT. Mirrors had it and I liked that song too.

Karmin's Pulses. It's just been stuck in my head. The music video is cool; it's got some science. They have a new album. Though, I'm currently favoring their EP more than this album. But it seems poised to be the kind of album that "grows on you."

From Hayao Miyazaki's The Wind Rises: Hi-Koki-Gumo by Yumi Gumo. Like the movie, beautiful and sober.

I'm still listening to the Frozen score/soundtrack. I'm pretty fond of Vuelie and it's reprise The Great Thaw as well as Heimr Àrnadalr. Whiteout is also good when in the zone.

And I guess a cover: Clara C's cover of Lorde's Royals. It's casually good.