Over this past week, we have been focused on the brainstorming stage of our design process. We started off with each member and Dr.Wettergreen getting a hundred index cards. We had an hour to write down any keywords of ideas we could think of that were relevant to the design, no matter how outrageous or impossible. Then we shuffled all the cards together and redistributed them. We did two more rounds of brainstorming, this time writing down additional ideas based off of what was already written on the index cards.

Afterward, we taped all of our cards on the glass walls around the OEDK conference room and started stacking repeated or similar ideas on top of each other. Once the 500 index cards were narrowed down, we started sifting through the cards and putting them into concept groups, such as materials, structures, and, of course, a category for impossible ideas (e.g. magic or the Force) and crazy ideas (too difficult for us to design in the span of 9 weeks). Once we had defined groups, we tried to cut down even more on the number of cards. Finally, we arrived at design blocks, which are the necessary components of our final design, and we were able to put our concepts into these blocks.

Now, rather than brainstorming individual elements or attributes,  it’s time to come up with complete designs. Through four hour-long rounds of brainstorming, during which each of us have to come up with 15 designs, our objective is to use each element listed under our design blocks at least once. Playing off of each other for new ideas, we will ultimately have all the designs that can potentially be included in next week’s Pugh analysis. Our goal will be to quantitatively evaluate the qualitative characteristics of about five designs to determine which one will eventually become our prototype.

Learning how to tie shoes

Today, we started out with an exercise to practice our communication skills. We split into partners, and sat with our backs to each other. We took turns being the leader and the follower. The follower held an untied shoe in his/her hands, and the leader would give details directions as to how to tie the shoe. The follower was not allowed to do any action that the leader did not tell him/her to do. From this exercise, we realized how difficult an everyday action can be when you try to put it into just words. A common mistake was the leader assuming the follower would perform certain actions without being told, such as pulling the shoelaces taut. We also noticed how the followers learned from the leaders mistakes, and added in the details when it was their turn to be the leaders. This exercise reminded us of how important little details can be and how we can always learn from each other.

The rest of the day was just spent in doing background research on our project. First, we discussed all the topics we needed to learn about, ranging from current technologies and materials (both in art and storage) to history of art conservation. Then we divided up the work and flipped through both books and websites, occasionally checking up on each other and discussing what we’ve found. Our conclusion: there is currently nothing that does what we want to achieve, but we can look at travel frames/cases and art storage to gain an idea of the sort of design we want to combine both aspects of preventive conservation. All in all, it was a rewarding day.

Preparation and the Engineering Design Process

Today’s team-building exercise involved making a pentagram out of a length of yarn. We had five minutes to plan how to “draw” the figure as a group, and the execution of our strategy had to take place in total silence. At first, the yarn wasn’t tied at the ends, so we just had to go through the motions of drawing the typical five-point star. Afterward, Dr. Wettergreen tied the yarn together so that we had to give the process more thought. Ting figured out how, starting from a triangle, we could cross the yarn of one side upon itself and pull it up to form a pentagram (which ended up being easier than our first task). Success!

A part of becoming familiar with the engineering design process involves understanding our project management. Throughout the project, we have several mentors inside and outside Rice. Within Rice, we have the support from Dr. Oden and Dr. Wettergreen, as well as the MFAH head conservator Wynne Phelan and the MFAH Head Registrar Julie Bakke. Dr. Wettergreen is our primary mentor, and will guide us along the process. In order to ensure a successful project, we have to set appropriate deadlines that give us ample time to finalize and perfect each component. Along with clear goals and deadlines, documentation plays an extremely important role. All the work we do must be documented in some form either in our binder, wiki or both. When working with paper, it’s important to use ink and to date and sign each page to secure the page’s integrity. This will allow us or anyone else to follow or process later, and reproduce it. Following this idea, we should never erase ideas that we decide to get rid of. It’s possible that they could prove useful later, or would merely illustrate how we reached our end result.

We had two lectures on the engineering design process. The first one was on the general design process, which is split into two parts: the design analysis and the solution stage. These two stages can be further broken down into five steps.

1a) defining and understanding the problem

1b) brainstorming solutions to the problem and picking the best ones

2) coming up with a design strategy and building our initial prototype based on 1b

3) testing and refining out prototype

4&5) analyze our work from start to finish, and write a final report

Our second lecture focused on the design analysis stage — specifically parts 1a and 1b. We brainstormed the main issues we will have to take into consideration as we come up with the design, and the driving criteria behind creating a new storage. We also discussed the importance of quantifying everything, so we have a basis for comparison and reproduction.

After lunch, we walked through the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to get an idea of the paintings we will be attempting to store in our new design solution. While the museum was filled with many traveling exhibitions, we were able to focus our attention to the modern and contemporary permanent collection works. We noted how the paintings differed in overall size, frame, and media, and we began to consider how these differences would translate into our travel frame design.

Team Building Exercise: Stepping Stone and Blind Polygon

I. The morning started out with a warm-up exercise called “Stepping Stones.”


Place five sheets of paper, spaced approximately two feet apart, in a straight line. One person stands on one single sheet of paper. Four out of the five sheets are occupied, leaving the sheet in the middle empty. The object is for each person to reach the opposite side using as few moves as possible. Each step consists of one person moving one space or one person skipping over another person to an empty spot. The game is over when each member has successfully reached the opposite side.

Our Strategy:

Here is a sample grid:    a(1)  b(2)  x(3)  c(4)  d(5)

c moves to (3), b skips c and moves to (4), a moves to (2), c jumps a and moves to (1), d jumps b and moves to (3), b moves to (5), a jumps d and moves to (4), d moves to (2). This took a total of eight moves.

Impressions: We did it once and found out our process was incorrect. We reset and made the successful, second attempt. One of our first things was that we had to actually leap frog to complete a “skip”, but actually we were graciously allowed to walk around the person instead. It was a good exercise to begin the morning: quick and engaging.

II. The first “real” exercise began with blindfolds for each of the four people and a ten foot length of string. The task assigned was to create a square with each person as one of the points.

Our Strategy:

We first found where the two ends of the string were and one person joined them to make one big loop. Verbal communication allowed us to determine where we were in relation to one another and to establish an equal distance between each of the four points. The last thing we did was to tighten the slack that was in the rope.

Impressions: We were silent for a long period of time while each of us thought about possible solutions. Finally we quit waiting for someone else to lead and each began speaking out. It would have been more pressing if we had been given a time limit to begin with.

III. The last exercise was similar to the second: we were all still blindfolded and had a single string, except we were to create an equilateral triangle.

Our Strategy:

One person took the entire string (which was tied at both ends), and folded the length to make three equal segments. She then held one point and passed the other two off to two other players. Holding the points on the string, we spread out until the string was tight. We established a triangle, and the fourth person who was not holding the string walked around the triangle to measure the length of each side (one could use the length of an arm or arm-span).

Impressions: Since we had already done activity II, there was no real hesitation this time. The strategy of folding paid off!

Blind Polygon Activity

Blind Polygon Activity

Team Building Exercise: Balloons

June 1, 2009

Today we participated in three team building exercises, all of which involved regular balloons.

For the first exercise, we were each given separate balloons which we filled with air and tied. We competed to keep the balloon in the air the longest using only our breath.

The second exercise was the same only we paired up in groups of two and attempted to keep the balloon in the air together competing against the other groups.

The final exercise was a race, in which we paired up and held the balloon between our neck and the neck of our partner. Making sure not to drop the balloons we ran to cross the finish line to try and finish first.

Things that worked:

1. Exercise 1

  • keep the balloon low
  • blow hard
  • stay under the balloon

2. Exercise 2

  • face the other person
  • have a high initial toss
  • blow hard underneath the balloon
  • try to also blow it forward toward your teammate

3. Exercise 3

  • stand back to back
  • link arms
  • try to move your feet in unison
  • run with one person going forward and the other going backward
  • if you can carry your partner on your back you get extra points!

What didn’t work:

1. Exercise 1

  • not blowing any air
  • not aiming the air you blow

2. Exercise 2

  • same as exercise 1

3. Exercise 3

  • running sideways