During my senior year as a student at UC San Diego (UCSD), I had the wonderfully-challenging opportunity to lead the student organization Design at UCSD.
UC San Diego is one of a handful of colleges offering a specialization in Human-Computer Interaction for undergraduate students. Many of the students studying HCI are aspiring designers and members of a student-run organization called Design at UCSD. I started out as a member, then joined the leadership team as the Programming Chair, and finally became the President of the organization my senior year. With support from Don Norman's UCSD Design Lab (and so many other organizations and people!), we put on events catered to students who were interested in design.
Just to give you an idea of our goals, I want to share our Mission Statement:"To establish an open community of aspiring designers, to inspire creative confidence, and to ease students into the industry."
To accomplish our mission, we put most of our effort into organizing a variety of design events, such as skill-building workshops, talks from industry guests, community-building events, and tours of design-oriented tech companies in Silicon Valley.
During my time as President of Design at UCSD, I learned a lot. I experienced what it’s like to be the one leading the charge and steering the ship. I learned lessons about how to lead a team, and how to cook for 70 hungry college students.
A project manager from Adobe explains how his company uses human-centered design.
Wearables Prototyping with Arduino
Students learn how to use Arduino and prototype a wearable concept in a 2-day design-a-thon.
IDEO Prototyping Workshop
Designers from IDEO lead students through a day-long prototyping workshop.
Our design workshops were led by industry guests or experienced students — that's me up at the front!
Our mentorship program paired young design students with more experienced design students to provide guidance and strengthen our design community.
Preparing for the Industry
Teaching students the skills and knowledge they needed to enter the design field was one of our top priorities.
Welcome to the Club!
We worked hard to organize a design event almost every week. Here, a student signs in during the start of an event.
Posing for the obligatory "goofy" team photo.
INTERNET-CONNECTED BIKE RACK
To explore my interest in hardware and I.oT. (Internet of Things), I built an internet-connected bike rack at my company office that collects data on the number of employees biking to work.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about self-driving cars, and cars are now integrating with other devices (like smartphones) in a telltale sign that ubiquitous computing and IoT are on their way. But what if we applied some of the ideas behind IoT and ubiquitous computing to a much older form of transportation? Bikes are in. They’re hip. Biking is healthy, fun, and it’s better for the environment. Large companies everywhere are offering incentives to employees for biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation to and from work.
My personal interest in biking, IoT, experience design, hardware, and workplace culture converged on a side project that I worked on during my summer internship under the mentorship of a full-time Viget. The idea was to make a smart bike rack that could track data on the number of employees biking to work each day and to use that data to offer employees incentives to engage in this eco-friendly and healthy way of commuting.
Aside from a small Arduino project I’d done, this was an area that I had no experience in. I had taken a couple introductory computer science classes, but turning our office’s vertical bike rack into an internet-connected device and collecting data from it would certainly require some guidance. Viget’s hardware expertise, combined with their IoT equipment and hardware set up, helped me along the way.
Sensors. The first step was to create a sensor that could detect when a bike was placed on the rack. To do this, we created pressure sensors made of two wires and a semi-conductive material in between. Whenever pressure was applied, there was a measurable change in conductivity. We ran through several iterations of sensor prototypes to test how to create a large and reliable change in conductivity, as well as to test the optimal placement for installment on the bike rack.
Firmware. Time to dust off the old coding cap and put those intro computer science classes to use! Next up was writing the code that would take input from the sensors and turn it into the data we wanted to collect. This just meant tracking each time a bike was placed on a rack and publishing that information to the web. We used a Particle Photon to run the code and handle all the networking.
Installation. After we had tested that everything was working, we transitioned from the breadboards we had been using to a protoboard which consolidated all of our necessary connections. We took it, the sensors, a coil of wires, solder, a whole lot of tape, and after some soldering we had retrofitted the bike rack into an internet-connected device!
Collecting Data. In order to put the data into a format that could be stored and manipulated, we used Ifttt so that whenever an event was published on Particle (whenever someone put their bike on the rack), it would add a new row with the data to a spreadsheet in Google Drive.
While we may have never gotten around to offering any kind of employee incentives for biking to work, the process of creating the bike rack taught me a lot about Particle, Ifttt, and hardware in general. It showed me firsthand how easy it is to start your own IoT project, and I encourage you to do your own!
The homemade blue pressure sensor detects whenever a bike is hung on the rack.
The Photon mounted on the wall sends an event to Particle every time someone rides to work. Not visible: A BUNCH of resistors neatly arranged on the back of the protoboard.
CELEBRITY VISIT: GRAPHIC DESIGN + EVENT PLANNING
My university hosted a celebrity from the show "Big Bang Theory". I was a member of the committee that planned the event and I did some graphic design to enhance the event.
"Big Bang Theory" TV star and neuroscientist Mayim Bialik visited UC San Diego last March. I had the wonderful opportunity to act as a visual designer and event coordinator to help bring the experience to life.
As a part of the team tasked with making the experience a reality, I primarily focused on the Meet and Greet event that took place prior to Mayim's talk. During the Meet n' Greet, students and faculty could take a photo with Mayim, get her autograph, and enjoy a catered sampling of recipes from Mayim's very own cookbook. I helped with logistical event planning and enhanced the event's branding by designing materials such as the event tickets and photo stubs.
News Article:‘The Big Bang Theory’s’ Mayim Bialik Shares Experiences as an Academic, Actor and STEM Advocate
I helped by doing the graphic design for event tickets and photo stubs.
I participated in a design-a-thon event using Arduino to prototype wearable experiences. Our team built a work-productivity prototype that won the top prize.
In the scope of less than 6 hours, my team had to learn how to use Arduino and create a wearable prototype. Our mission: design a device that improves a project team's bonding and cohesion. Our solution encouraged team members to celebrate accomplishments through positive reinforcement and social encouragement, while also boosting productivity.
As we brainstormed, we built ideas off of one another, and after some dot voting, we had decided on a unique design concept. Our idea was inspired by teamwork management software like Asana, but it utilized immediate positive feedback and social encouragement to enhance the experience and satisfaction of working as a team.
Rather than the typical wristwatch wearable, we went for something different: the fanny pack. Utilizing this unconventional wearable allowed us to generate innovative ideas that wouldn't be possible with the standard wristwatch wearable. For example, our prototype included an optional "Booty Bump" feature whereby teammates who had both finished their tasks could booty bump their fanny packs together to enter "rainbow mode", providing positive social reinforcement. Our product name? "Fanny Packs for FUNction".
After plenty of trial and error using Arduino, we finished our working prototype with just seconds to spare before our pitch presentation. After tallying up the votes, our project won first place!