Recap of Week 8

On Monday, we began to make final decisions about materials and vendors for these materials. We spent a lot of time researching different suppliers online, and pricing different products. During this process, we realized that there were a lot of details about how our designs worked that we hadn’t yet decided on. This slowed down the process of selecting to what to buy, since we weren’t really sure how to make these decisions. We learned that there is less certainty in engineering design than we had originally thought. We continued this research on Tuesday, and also called different companies to gain more information about their products and services.

The Technology Entrepreneurship Workshop ran from Wednesday to Thursday, and was a 2 day “boot-camp” for people who are interested in starting their own businesses. The workshop not only involved the members of our Innovation Norway course, but also members of the community. The course covered everything from how to give an elevator pitch to how to write and business plan, and how to gain the interest of investors like venture capitalists and angel investors.

On Friday, we took a trip to Lowe’s in order to get a better idea of what different parts looked like in real life, since we had been looking at everything online. It was nice to be able to see what the different pieces of hardware were called and more specifically how they worked. Then, in order to increase our work efficiency, we divided up the tasks. Caleb and Rhodes went to Regal Plastics to check out the different options they had available, and Kristi and Nicole stayed behind and worked on finalizing the shopping list for materials.

Chick-fil-A Opening

For a change of pace from our usual workweek, we attended a Chick-fil-A store grand opening this week in Port Arthur, Texas. The stores open on Thursday mornings at 6 am, and the first 100 people in line at that time receive free Chick-fil-A for a year in the form of 52 coupons for free meals, one for every week of the year. Chick-fil-A openings are becoming extremely popular, and the first 100 spots in line can be filled very close to the start time of 6 am.

To be on the safe side, and to avoid waking up really early in the morning to drive to Port Arthur, we decided to drive up on Tuesday night, and spend two nights under the stars. We arrived at the unopened Chick-fil-A at about 11 pm on Tuesday night, and there were already about 15 people in line ahead of us. We killed some time at Wal-Mart and bought some diversions to keep ourselves entertained as we awaited the opening, including a Trivial Pursuit game and a bouncy ball.

We awoke Wednesday morning to the heat, and the sound of a long line of people behind us trying to be in the first 100. When the Chick-fil-A officials arrived, we gave them our information, received our official wristbands, and agreed not to leave the premises until the actual opening time, or else we would be disqualified. The bathroom inside the store was continually available for our use, but hanging out inside the building is against the rules; everyone had to stay outside unless they are using the bathroom.

Throughout the day, we were fed Chick-fil-A meals, and sweet tea and water was always on hand. Most people had set up tents or sun shades, and some even had extension cords for fans, or a TV. People played cards, four square, and chased the shade around the building as time passed. During the high heat of the afternoon, the Chick-fil-A people set up a kiddie swimming pool, and even turned on the fire hydrant so that people could cool off. Other activities included a hula-hoop contest, and a DJ later in the evening. For dinner, we were all invited into the store and allowed to order anything off the menu, free of charge and subject to availability. During this time, the employees had the opportunity to practice excellent service, and were very attune to our needs as customers.

At nightfall, most of us slept outside instead of in the tent, because it was cooler. Unfortunately, we were also more exposed to the elements, and had to run back inside the tent when it started to rain at 3 am. Soon after that, we were all told to go inside the store due to lightning, and then to go back outside when the lightning stopped, so that they could prepare for the official opening.

News reporters had visited throughout the time, but were especially interested in filming the official opening. The Chick-fil-A cow was also onsite in the morning, to give high fives to the first 100 and add excitement to the sleepy mood. When it was time, we were all given a Chick-fil-A t-shirt, hat, and pen, and walked one by one into the store to receive our 52 coupon prize in a cardboard chicken nugget container with a red bow on it. We then took an early drive back to Houston, to start another day of focused work.

Recap of Week 6

We started this week by taking another look at our key components spreadsheet, and making sure that all our viable ideas from our note cards were represented. We printed out copies of our spreadsheet, and used them to help us in our next step of the brainstorming process.

We then began to do more note card style brainstorming, this time coming up with more complete ideas, and having our specific art pieces in mind. We referenced our spreadsheet to make sure we addressed all the different design blocks. Each of us came up with very different ideas, since our pieces have a wide-range of needs. We each came up with 15 ideas during this step, and presented our ideas to the others when we were finished, as well as to Dr. Matthew Wettergreen and Grace Rodriguez, who gave us valuable feedback to help us with our ideas.

For our next step, we once again came up with 15 ideas, but this time we focused on modularity and general solutions, rather than solutions tailored to our specific pieces. We still focused on utilizing our design blocks, but the ideas that we generated were very different from the previous round. After this round of brainstorming, we went through our spreadsheet to make sure every design idea had been used at least once. We wrote a list of the ideas that hadn’t been used yet, and referenced this list during our next round, in which we once again generated 15 ideas each.

Before attending our Innovation Norway class on Thursday, we needed to have a rough draft of a market analysis section for our business plan assignment. We did some further research about museums in the United States, and made use of the research we had already done for our Design Analysis Phase Report, in which we extensively examined companies that offer similar products. We also did a final push in our brainstorming, each coming up with 3 realistic ideas that focused on modularity and the use of silicone.

Recap of Week 5

This week, we started our first round of brainstorming. On Monday, we did a warm-up exercise by brainstorming a team name. We thought of a lot of different ideas, from inno-crate to texo-skeleton. We had a time limit on our brainstorming, but we hadn’t chosen a final name yet, so we quickly combined all our ideas into ARTadillo-Inno-Crate-a-Pod. At a later time, we researched which of our name ideas were already company names, in order to narrow our options. Our final decision was ArtArmor.

Our next step was to start brainstorming ideas for our actual project. We each got a stack of 100 blank note cards, and had one hour to write an idea on each one. The ideas didn’t have to be complete or realistic, but we did have to fill out all 100 cards. We then color coded our cards to indicate who came up with each idea, and shuffled them together in a complete stack. Then we each took a section of the stack and read through the ideas, and wrote any additional ideas that we generated.

On Tuesday, we took all our 500 note cards and taped them up on the glass walls of the conference room in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK). Initially, we taped all of them up in random order. Then, we re-organized them into four categories: materials, features, concepts, and geometry. We then broke these down further into more detailed categories. This enabled us to find overlaps in our brainstorming, and access our ideas more easily.

Once we had organized all our ideas, we went through the different categories and tried to brainstorm any more ideas that we could, if we thought of something that was missing. We also looked for trends in our categories that would become our “design blocks.” The intial design blocks were outside shape, interface with object, human interaction, and technologies. These were later broken down into more specific categories, and a materials aspect was added, as we compiled all our ideas into a key componets spreadsheet.

Brainstorming 201

After brainstorming 500 ideas on note cards, in order to productively access our ideas, we needed to organize them.  Before we could organize them, however, we needed to be able to see all of them. We chose the biggest conference room in the Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen (OEDK) for our pallet. All the walls are glass windows, so we taped all our note cards onto the wall so that we could see them all at once. Once the walls were completely covered in note cards, we needed to categorize them to reduce confusion. We read through the cards to look for common themes that could become categories. We initially built four categories: materials, features, concepts, and geometry.

These four categories were still fairly daunting, so we did a further breakdown of each category into more specified sections. Within the materials category, we divided the cards into smaller groups of types of materials, such as metals, fluids, and foams. For the features, we determined that some of the cards indicated specific parts, like different styles of handles, while others were possible features, like temperature monitoring. The concepts section was broken down into cards that suggested building off of a specific existing concept, or new ideas that could stand alone. For the geometry category, we first made a section of the different possible outside shapes, like a sphere or pyramid. In the remaining cards, we saw groups of different ways to interface with the art piece, such as through suspension, anchoring, or nesting.

Adding these more specified sub categories made it possible for us to view our ideas in an organized matter. It also enabled us to find cards that repeated similar ideas. When we found those cards, we stacked them on top of each other, so that we weren’t throwing out any cards, but we were paring the field in order to have a more concise group to work from. We also made an important extra category: the ridiculous category. We didn’t dispose of outrageous ideas, but set them aside, so that inspiration could still be drawn from them.

For more pictures of our brainstorming session, please visit our Flickr page.

Recap of Week 2

The Monday of our second week was dedicated to further research about conservation, both online and in print. On Tuesday, we were given a presentation by Dr. Matthew Wettergreen, our project coordinator, about the Engineering Design Process. We also wrote a mission statement for our team.

Julie Bakke, Chief Registrar of MFAH, gave us a tour of both the museum’s off-site storage facilities on Wednesday. During our tour, we witnessed preparators packing art for transportation, loading it onto a truck, and moving it to and from storage facilities. They offered us valuable insight into the process, and gave us information about the materials that they use. User feedback from preparators who handle art on a daily basis was extremely helpful to our understanding of the current state of need at the museum. We also got a behind-the-scenes look at a conservation lab, where restorative conservation was taking place.

On Thursday, we had the opportunity to attend The Life Science Technology Venture Forum, hosted by Rice Alliance. Here we witnessed many elevator pitches and business plan proposals, and heard two keynote speakers. We, along with other students in the Innovation Norway course, scored each elevator pitch and business plan, as did official judges. Both the top three and bottom four ratings of the  elevator pitches were the same for the students and the panel of judges. To hear more about the things we saw at the Forum, visit our Discussion Recap post, or Dr. Wettergreen’s response.

On Friday, we had the chance to write our own elevator pitch for our project. We also started outlining our Design Analysis Phase report, which encompasses all our research thus far, and will be used as a reference during future stages of the design process.