(these)abilities L.A.B #1.2: Prototyping for the MRT Platform Gap (Series 1 Session 2)

Posted by: theseabilities | in Projects | 1 year, 9 months ago | Comments

L.A.B. #2 was an incredibly exciting episode. Here's what happened in one sentence: 20 very different people, many of them strangers, went on a 3-hour romp through the wonderful world of designing and rapid prototyping, emerging at the end with not 1, not 2, but 8 unique prototypes of solutions for the MRT gap!

For those few hours, the National Design Center's (NDC) Prototyping Lab was a hotbed of ideas, with an impromptu community of people coming together to solve a problem faced by wheelchair users. We had a great mix of wheelchair users (a couple of whom were graphic designers as well), two mums of wheelchair users, makers with many areas of technical expertise (many from the OneMaker Group (OMG)), a professional product engineer, and students from both high school and universities. There were experiences shared, knowledge gained, perspectives changed, connections made. Even though we ran over time and ended quite late, surprisingly 75% of L.A.B. 2's contributors, in our post-event survey, thought that the session was too short, and that they would love to come back again.

I couldn't have thought of a better way to spend my Friday night, and (thankfully) it seems like I wasn't the only one.

"I did not expect the session to be so fun and welcoming. Really amazing community, I am glad I was able to be part of it. The ideas that came up during the meetup was amazing as well -- one person alone could never have thought of them."
- SiJin, UWCSEA high school senior

"It was thrilling to see where and how ideas that improve our lives forms and comes into action. This session definitely made me feel like I was part of a society and was contributing towards my community."
- Haruka, UWCSEA high school junior

Fresh-faced young'uns wanting to make a change: Haruka (left) and SiJin (right), in the middle of prototyping their very interesting solution

Haruka, SiJin, and Rose

To get everyone at ease with each other and to get to know each other a little better, we played two quick, inclusive ice-breakers. We won't tell you the details (it's a surprise for our participants!) but suffice to say, everyone learned a lot of surprising things about each other!

And then, it was on to the prototyping.

Prototyping

For those of y'all who are late to the party, here's the problem of the MRT gap explained in one image:

Problem

And from many ideas from our contributors to L.A.B. #1, which you can read about in our post here, we arrived at...

 

 ...three projects for the people of L.A.B. #2: People, Product, and Places. (This idea of splitting the MRT gap problem into the 3 'P's came from Sully, an OMG maker and contributor from L.A.B. #1.) The participants then each picked a group to join based on their own interests.

People

Our original project assignment to Team People (Vanessa, Hidayah, Larry, James, and Colin) was an infographic teaching wheelchair users tips on safely getting across the gap. However, the team unanimously decided to switch to a video teaching the public how to be more considerate towards wheelchair users. The team, which consisted of 3 wheelchair users, felt that rather than educating wheelchair users, it would be more beneficial to educate the public. L.A.B. contributors are guided, but not dictated, by the parameters set for them, and their decision to use their creative license is respected and encouraged.

(clockwise from bottom): Hidayah, Colin, Larry, Vanessa, having a lively discussion of their video content

They did an amazing job storyboarding a humorous and very creative educational video, done through a series of photos. Here's the video where Hidayah is narrating the storyline, Larry is clicking through the photo series, and Vanessa is the star of the photo series:

Products

Among the three teams, Team Products the most... shall I say... Product-ive team. In total, this team of 6 came up with 5 different product-based prototypes that modified the wheelchair to be able to navigate the MRT gap safely.

Team Products huddled around a wheelchair, brainstorming methods of modification (clockwise from left: Linda, Eric, Ken, Adriene, Gabriele, Felicia)

 

Lepaking at the lab entrance? No, they're hard at work turning their ideas into reality (while having fun)! (clockwise from left: Theodore, Eric, Linda, Felicia)

 

Along with drilling, grinding and sawing tools and metal parts, this team made the most extensive use of polymorph, which is an easy to mould plastic compound that softens when heated up and hardens when cooled (it gets very rigid and strong!). A cheap and really great material.

Polymorph, when heated up in boiling water in the hot water dispenser (left), goes from a hard, opaque white material to a soft, translucent one which you can mould like Play-Doh (right)

  

 To stop the wheel from swiveling...

...Eric created a small two-piece add-on made of polymorph that you could slide onto the top of the wheel's stem casing

Eric contemplating his design

...Theodore simply used a plank of wood fixed to the stem casing

Intense concentration on Theodore's face as he operates the drill

...Linda expressed her idea of a toilet door-style latch that could be slid on and off the yoke

...Linda and Theodore created a polymorph add-on similar to Eric's, that could be customized for wheelchairs of any shape

...Gabriele and Adriene designed a metal contraption consiting of a pin and a small metal plate to be drilled onto the wheelchair

Gabriele grinding away at the metal plate while Adriene videos his buddy

 

 

Here's a video of Eric, Theodore, Linda, and Ken pitching these 5 ideas, in the order above: (Check out 2:17 for Linda's explanation of her "Housewife Methodology" -- simple but effective!) 

Places

Team Places, assemble! (clockwise from bottom left: Shao, Bella, Haruka, SiJin, Rose)

Team Places came up with two prototypes, both 100% mechanical so as to make them much easier to integrate into SMRT's system. The first was by Rose and Shao, who came up with a very elegant solution of a flap-down ramp to bridge the MRT gap. 

Shao and Rose pitching their ramp prototype:

...and a working demonstration of the ramp by an excited Shao from start to end, sound effects included:

 

Haruka sketching out her very original idea of a "wheel guiding thing":

Haruka and SiJin's cardboard prototype:

 

All the contributors to L.A.B. #2 were such brilliant participants and teammates. Throughout the session, there was a great atmosphere of creativity and energy, starting with the buzz of ice breakers and ending in a flurry of cardboard, tape, and polymorph. The next step will be to improve the prototypes further, evaluate their effectiveness and practical usage, and bring the best one(s) to the next stage!

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