CFC Media Lab – Journal #9

Class #9 – CFC Day 3 – 26th of July

The third day was very smooth. I had to spend a lot of time on disassembling the Robot Arm. We had a really good guest speaker, Kylie. It really helped when she explained how she started her prototyping with CFC course and how she took to the next stage through her other classes. I learnt that I might not be able to pull everything off, but it is essential to have a specific time frame and plan on what I want to do.

It had been a very intense two days, so we just wanted to take some time off before moving on to the second iteration. Not all the feedbacks that we received were related to our projects. For example, I received a lot of feedback to use VR for my project, but I’m interested in using tools that maker communities use in their practices, and VR is just not one of them. There was some beneficial feedback, such as how hard the controller was to use. It was tough to draw a straight line by setting the angle of all the three servos. I will for sure take into account all these feedbacks for the next version.

CFC Media Lab – Journal #8

Class #8 – CFC Day 2 – 25th of July

I started the second day super early. I had to fix all the wiring and replace one of the servos. After fixing all the parts, I wanted to test the robot to make sure everything would go well for the user testing, but I faced another problem. The software was designed such that when a controller is turned on the arm would jump to the position set by the controller. When I was testing the robot before the feedback session, I changed the angles by a significant value and turned the controller on, and this forced the robot arm to jump to the new position which broke another servo suddenly. I had an extra servo just for such an occasion, but to replace the servo I had to take all the controller off and redo the wiring. So I decided not to change it.

Base on the level of prototypes I saw on CFC first day and the CFC people I met, I decided to take another approach. Rather than running a user testing session, I decided to explore my concept further and go back to my original plan to use this session and my prototype as a way to solidify my research question.

 

mvimg_20190726_102016 mvimg_20190726_121008

My robotic arm could only move in 2D dimensions. But all other functionalities worked. I tried my best to explain why I am exploring co-creation and why I built the robotic arm. But I felt that my explanation was not satisfying for the CFC people.

Here are the note I wrote down:

  • Use Kinect to track body movements, Why not have it on a free axis where people could move it with hand freely and then lock it?
  • Eye view camera to catch the users view
  • What is more important, the data or the robot arm?
  • Have a way to compare it with different output like the video or instructables. Is it actually better? In what way?

There were two clear types of people that I talked with. The ones with previous experience in 3D printing and making liked the tool and wanted to explore it. They were interested in seeing how this machine can help with documentation but were a concern with how useful it can be. Other people who were experts in VR and AR did not like the Robot Arm and thought that it limited people’s ability to create things.

I explained this in much more detail in the final document. But the main message I took away from the day was that I need to work on how I present my idea and what the role of the Robot Arm is in my research.

 

CFC Media Lab – Journal #7

Class #7 – CFC Day 1 – 24th of July

The first day of CFC was very challenging. To move the robot arm there, I had disassembled most of the electronic and rewire them at CFC. During this process, One of the servos burnt and did not work anymore. All the wires for the controllers were loose, and I had to rewire them. This took a lot of time. I was not able to replace the broken servo; therefore, I couldn’t run the experiment that I originally had in mind. My presentation, I decided to focus on the topic and introduce the robotic arm as a tool specifically designed for me and what I do.

cfc-day-1
I spent some time fixing the robotic arm and wrote down a list of components that I had to bring for the second day to fix the robotics arm. I spent the rest of the day purchasing the spare servo and the other materials and planning on how to fix all the components so that the robotic arm would be functional for the second day. I still wanted to run the experience; I wanted to see how two people would use the tool to create coffee cup sleeve and to do that the robotic arm had to be fully functional.

For the next iteration, I will for sure make the wiring, the assembly and the disassembly of the robotic arm much easier.

CFC Media Lab – Journal #6

Class #6 – Building Part 2 – 18th of July

For this class I started the assembly of the robot arm. There were a few pieces that had the wrong dimensions. As the Laser cutter in school still does not work, I had to fix the pieces manually in the first year workshop at 100 McCaul. I glued all the pieces together and installed the servos in their place.

One thing I realized was that the connection to the base of the robot arm was not very stable. To fix that, I designed an additional part for the section where the robot arm was getting attached to the base. Now with this new part, I could use a large screw to make sure the robot arm would always stay attached to the base.

mvimg_20190808_133649

After assembly of the robot, I started on exploring what activities I could do for the CFC Intensive that would give me interesting results. In the picture below, you can see a list of activates that I came up with and the type of data that I could collect using the robot arm.

activities-listI decided to go with the first one. To do that, I needed to install the 3D Doodler on the robot arm. In order to gain access to the keys on the pen, I had to hack into the pen. I attached two wires to the keys so that I could activate them from anywhere. I then attached the pen to a piece of wood and glued the piece of wood to the end of the robot arm.

mvimg_20190808_133640

The final things left to do was to do the circuit. I used an Arduino mega as it gave me 6 analog read pins. I needed that to use 3 variable resistors for each of the controllers.

To collect the data that I wanted, I programmed the Arduino so that whenever each of the users wanted to start designing, they had to press a button on the controller to activate the controlled. Then all the movement that they made would be captured and saved in the computer. This way, I know at any moment which user was  printing and what they were printing.

CFC Media Lab – Journal #5

Class #5 – Building Part 1 – 16th of July

I ran into a few challenges in creating my prototype. The biggest problem being the Laser Cutter not working in the labs. I wanted to have the chance to run multiple trials on my robotic arm design, but because my only solution was to place an order off-campus for laser cutting and how expensive their fee was (also their long turn around time), I was limited to only laser cutting once.

Now putting that aside, I needed to make sure my design was complete before I sent it to be laser cut. There are a few things that I needed to be done:

  1. I needed the structure to be strong. The arm should be able to handle the weight of the 3D doodler pen and not just that, but also the servo move with a lot of force, and the arm should be able to handle sharp and hard movements.
  2. I needed reliable connections between the robot arm segments. The segments are connected on one side through the servos. But to make it more stable, I decided to make small circular joint on the other side of the segments to reduce the chances of the segments separating from each other. robot-arm-joint
  3. I need the arm to be easily opened to replace components or gain access to the 3D doodler pen to change filament or to service it. I decided to use screws to fix one of the sides; in that way, I can have access to any part of the arm and anytime. This is something I have learnt from my previous projects. You assemble all the pieces and glue them in their place and only then you realize that one of your components is not working and there is no way for you to fix it other than un-glue everything (if that is even possible).
  4. The dimension of the arm was another big challenge. To get an excellent working area under the arm, I decided to adjust the angle of the connection to the table. In this way, I get a smaller footprint for the robot and gain access to a more significant working area. The limitation is that each of the joint can only reach +/-90 degree. I used cardboard to test the angles and find the ideal combination for the robotic arm.

robot-arm-dimension-2 robot-arm-dimension

The next step is to sent the file to be laser cut and assemble the pieces.

CFC Media Lab – Journal #4

Class #4 – Rapid start – 11th of July

A bit of context on what I am interested in and the research question:

The Maker culture, DIY culture and Hacker culture are all centred around creating new devices as well as modification of existing ones. With the rise of open-source hardware and software, and the introduction of tools such as Arduino, 3D printers and Laser cutters, people with no expertise in these fields have become able to engineer their own solutions. The primary motivation for these communities is education and just sharing of ideas.

Co-creation is a fundamental part of the Maker culture. By just glancing at the people who identify themselves as makers and creators on YouTube, you can notice the amount of co-creation and collaboration that occurs between them. An example of this can be seen in the latest video of Simone Giertz, also known as the “Queen of Shitty Robots.” She made a video documenting how she converted her Tesla Model 3 to a Tesla truck, Truckla. She co-created this project with three other well-known YouTubers/makers (Marcos Ramirez, Laura Kampf, Rich Rebuilds and many other collaborators). Even though YouTube doesn’t provide any support for co-creation, the makers still find a way to co-create thought this channel.

simone-giertz-youtube-channel

For my project, I want to build a robotic arm that holds a 3D doodler pen. This way, I will have a 3D printer that communicates with the co-creators directly rather than through a computer. The robotic arm is to have two controllers so that two users could use it as a tool to co-create an object together.

robot-arm-sketch

Just because my goal is to build this tool for maker communities, I want other creators to be able to create their own version of this tool easily. To do that I want to build the robot arm using tools and components that most creators have access to. I decided to use high torque servos and 1/8th-inch plywood for the robotic arm as they are both very accessible and easy to use for most makers. To get things started, I sketch the robotic arm and the dimensions of each segment. The next step is to design STL file now so that I can laser cut it.

robotic-arm-sketch

CFC Media Lab – Journal #3

Class #3 – What am I building? – 9th of July

I am interested in building a platform that assists creators in documenting their creation process. The documentation can be in the form of a separate file/ document or can be embedded in the final product itself.

One recent example of Documentation that I made can be found here:

https://www.instructables.com/id/Amplifier-Box/

instructable-screenshot

I feel that they still are a lot of things that are missing from this documentation. Apart from how disruptive it was to create the documentation while I was building the physical product, it still does not capture most of the decisions that I made while I was creating the product.

I am interested in working with maker communities, especially with creators of interactive physical devices. I still have not been able to narrow down to a specific group of people to focus on, but for now, I think to narrow down the project, I want to work on existing tools that maker usually use. I am personally working a lot with 3D printers, and I think this would be an excellent probe to play with.

I have been playing with a 3Doodler pen and considering its cost; it is a very affordable 3d printer with almost no restrictions on what you can do with it. I have been working on this robotic arm for my Thinking Through Making class, and I think I can combine the 3Doodler pen with the robotic arm to create a 3D printer that allows for co-creation. The Robotic arm was initially designed as it tool that allows for different attachments so that I can explore different arm heads for it. I think the 3D Doodler is an excellent place to start this exploration.

CFC Media Lab – Journal #2

Class #2 – Situating the Prototyping – 4th of July

I am a firm believer in co-creation. Even though it is challenging for me to define what it means, I have always found it very useful in my practice. For my thesis, I am interested in looking at co-creators and their design process, so it only makes sense if I approach the prototyping in the same manner.

Elizabeth Sanders was my first readings on the role of participation in research. In her paper, An Evolving Map of Design Practice and Design Research,

Liz Sanders. 2008. ON MODELING: An evolving map of design practice and design research. Interactions 15, 6 (November 2008), 13-17. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/1409040.1409043

she maps the move from expert mindset to participatory mindset in both design and research. She touches on the “loose ends,” and how we will not be able to reach a full co-creation status until we stop calling in customer co-creation.” For me, the fact that we are still attached to the old frame of work, where the users are the customers and the designers are the experts who are creating for the customers is a red flag.

In her other paper, Co-creation and the New Landscapes of Design,

Elizabeth B.-N. Sanders & Pieter Jan Stappers (2008) Co-creation and the new landscapes of design, CoDesign, 4:1, 5-18, DOI: 10.1080/15710880701875068

Sanders and Stappers define co-creation as “any act of collective creativity.” They present a more specific type of co-creation, co-design. Co-design is a particular instance of co-creation referring to the combination of the designer and the “not trained” people in the design process working together to create something. Co-designing is not a new concept, just one that we are taking a closer look into now. They talk about the history of the practice of co-creation in design, and how in Northern Europe it has been under the name Participatory design whereas in the United States it has been under User-centred design. Even though we have learned the benefits of participatory design, we still don’t see full participatory models in work.

Another interesting point they highlight is the change in the role of the designer, the researcher and the user that has been brought by co-designing.

  1. The users have shifted from passive object studies
    into experts of their experience.
  2. Researchers have moved away from analyzers of the user’s experiences and turned into supporters of the user’s expert experiences.
  3. Designers have stopped doing all the creative thinking in the process and turned into the giver of forms to the ideas of both the users and the researchers.

What is really interesting in this change is how the design tools have become the primary way these three groups communicate with each other and common ground where all their decision makings occur.

Going back to my thesis and project, I want to build is a tool that I can later use as a way to capture all the decisions that are being made in a design process and use the data to explore different ways that I can document that process. So I can say the project is to build an outcome centred prototype to run then workshops which would lead to more context centred prototype where the scenario becomes more important. My goal for the CFC class is to create a middle-fidelity prototype that I can use to frame my research question and situations that I am interested in exploring.

 

CFC Media Lab – Journal #1

Class #1 – Initial Exploration – 2nd of July

The purpose of the CFC Media Lab Prototyping course is to “identify research questions, through rapid ideation, development, and refinement of their project concepts.” So what better way to start this class than to examine our current ideas and our prior making practices.

How do I approach creation activities?
My background is in engineering. I need to define a clear problem statement for myself that can be broken down into smaller issues. I try to come up with ways in which I can measure my success in each of these issues and try to come up with individual solutions for each of them. And finally, I try to combine all of them and modify them so that they could all exist in the same answer.
What I found in my experience is the lack of participation of the community/stakeholder in the design process. They usually are involved in the confirmation of the problem, and they only come back at the end of the project to see if they like the solution or not. At that point, the project is almost done. In some rare cases, the stakeholder gives us a few suggestions or small modification, and then the team goes back and makes those changes, and the project is over.

Part of the reason that I wanted to do this master program was to change my design process. I believe that stakeholders must be more involved in the creation process. In my experience, the designers take the role of all knowers. They act as if they have a full understanding of the field, but in reality, they have only been exposed to a little part of that world. This is very much visible in the final solutions that they come up with and also provides a great reason as to why all the solutions are short term.

We talked about our design approached in class, and what I found interesting was how different each one of our processes was.
Through our conversation, I realized that my approach is very much goal-oriented in comparison to others. I need to have a working prototype and does everything that needs to be done first and then if time permits, I will take into consideration other aspects that might lead to a better-designed product.

At this stage, I needed to converge on an idea, so I decided to use the 5-why technique to narrow down my interest into a specific problem.

  1. Build a tool that assists with documentation. why?
  2. It is very time consuming in most cases to write what you are doing down when you are also building it. why?
  3. It requires a change in mindset and also not all the decisions being made are super clear for the user to write/note them down. why?
  4. Not all the decisions made are active decisions and most of them come from the user’s background and previous experiences, therefore are difficult for the user’s to identify them. why?
  5. It is difficult for the users themselves to identify and documents things that are second nature to them.

This activity really helped me narrow down on why I want to focus on documentation, and also focus on what kind of decision making I would like to capture.