Meeting With My Advisors

I met with all three of my thesis advisors this week so I could show them my model and hear their opinions.

My panel of thesis advisors is made up of two industrial designers and a pediatric physical therapist. I think that throughout the process this will benefit me in gaining a well-rounded perspective on my approach, allowing me to better understand the overall form and function required. Combining insights from both ends will make my end product a successful design.

Advisor: Stan Rickel

Stan broke down my play space design into three elements: the mat itself, objects, and more complicated objects. He realized that there is a process of going from two dimensional forms into three dimensional forms.

He told me that it reminded him of an obstacle course or a board game. There are individual moveable parts that can be assembled in different ways so that the child could interact with them. The child becomes part of the game.

The floor becomes anything they want it to be- aside from helping them physically, it is a great environment to allow them to be creative and use their imagination.

It integrates cause-and-effect, sensory integration, creativity, play, parent-child interaction, and physical therapy.

Advisor: PT

I explained my entire design to PT before she told me her thoughts. She mainly focused on stage two when she analyzed the potential of my design. Stage two is where the three dimensional forms are introduced, the “propping” stage.

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She told me that the wedge shapes are shapes that are used by physical therapists during their sessions. The angled shapes are used to help children with different levels of support and positioning. If they need to be propped at a certain angle to play, the parent can lean them on the shape with the correct angle.

For example, certain shapes can help the child ease into a quadruped position (on hands and knees). The form can bear some of the added weight to ease them into doing it on their own eventually. They are especially good for “tummy time”, a critical stage in the beginning of every child’s development.

She also suggested an additional factor in which cut-out shapes are added to each piece. The cut-outs can be used for more focused support on different parts of the body, such as places where they can put their arms inside while their stomach lies on the top surface or a spot where the child can sit down and be surrounded by material around them. If the holes had larger opening on the side, they can be used as a “crawl-through” piece. The interior space could be lined with a more distinct texture so that while the child crawls through it, they could reach up or around them to feel the lining.

PT also had some advice for the auditory element, the cause-and-effect part of the design that would serve as a reward in the end. She liked that I did not revolve this design around technological elements, although they do have their place in designs for children. She informed me that there are many cause-and-effect children’s products currently available that are very technology based. They can be useful at times but overall they create limited room for growth and creativity. Technology should be used within limit, as long as it does not interfere with the child’s ability to move beyond it. Also, when it comes to technology, the gratification is so immediate that there is not that much work done to get to that stage. Children do not have to try as hard and the end results are the same.

When looking at it from a different point of view, however, technology does have its place. When it comes to the technology in general in these types of products, children with extremely limited movement can easily work with technological products with ease and less effort. An example would be a capability switch that can be attached to electronic products so that they can be turned on and off with the slightest touch by children who struggle with motor skills.

Overall, PT said something that stuck with me. She said that “technology has overly infiltrated play.” I have thought the same thing since the beginning of my thesis project and am trying to find a way to design a product that is as helpful as possible to these children without having to rely on the abilities of technology.

Advisor: Alex Lobos

Alex gave me really helpful advice after I explained the concepts behind my design, which gave me some direction in how to move forward with it. I knew that I was trying to tackle too many aspects at once while attempting to keep the design simple; unfortunately, it did not turn out to be as simple as I had anticipated. He started off by telling me that it would help to define more purpose, or direction, to keep me from going off track. I also need to go through my research and figure out exactly which tasks I need to help my user with so that I can tackle more specified problems as opposed to trying to solve too many things at once.

When discussing all three stages of the design, Alex had me think about which one of the three was the most important. Which stage alone has the most potential to help these children? In the end, Stage 2 (the stage when the physical shapes are introduced and can be moved around to be used for many purposes) is seen as the one that can be most impacted by a designer. It is the point in the process where I will be able to have the most power helping them since it is when they are the most dependent on their environment. I can still combine the other two stages’ findings into the second stage, such as bringing in the textured surfaces from Stage 1 and incorporating the cause-and-effect element from Stage 3.

A break-down of his advice:

1. To take a step back and see what I have already designed, which I should then break down into important elements (i.e. surfaces, form, layout, and color).

2. To find the components that will help the most with reaching the final goal. Must break it down to the most potential surfaces (i.e. hard vs soft or textured vs smooth).

3. To define to what degree each part of the design is helpful with for each stage of the child’s physical advancement.

4. To pick a few milestones (i.e. reaching arms outward, lifting head, and crawling) and deconstruct them, then figure out design strategies for each one.

5. To figure out the most minimal amount of parts that can make the most impact. Must remove all potential failures – simplicity is key. 

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