Reflection 2 - Product Design
Introducing Pulse Team, Dream Team
Thanks for stopping by! My name is Patrobas Adewumi and I have the privilege and honour of being the project leader for team Delta in our third year Engineering project – Pulse
This is the second of the reflection series where I will be sharing my experiences; lessons learned and project progress here. Please enjoy!
One of the many challenges in any engineering project involves the product design. The reason is not simply because engineers are not exceptional designers (although this can be true sometimes) but because of certain product specifications that needs to be met due to government or industry regulations, or even in some cases company policy and or budget. Although we are not working on a multi-million dollar project just yet, we had to deal with some product design challenges in our project.
By the end of the first week, my team and I had already concluded the project idea, finished the proposal and laid out our project design. Or so we thought. We were provided with the Jeenode micro-controller for the project but then we realized that we needed a second micro-controller to fit our design specification. Fortunately, Ahmed (group head for the Heartbeat sensor component) had a cousin who donated his Arduino uno to our project Pulse. Although, this was a good thing since we now have what we needed – a micro-controller we had to program the Arduino uno to work with our LCD display even though we had already completed and synced the display with our Jeenode. It took us almost an entire lab section to get the Arduino uno micro-controller working with the display.
After several circuitry designs and debugging, we discovered that the problem was due to the wiring of the circuit and not our code or any other reasons we had thought. It was quite frustrating but a special learning moment for me. I learned that sometimes the problem is not where I may think it is and so I should be open to the idea that there could be multiple reasons for any singular issue, hence, exploring other alternative solutions that I may be unaware of.
Product Design Review
Pulse is composed of different parts that make up the project and this is one of many things that make our project unique. But with multiple parts comes multiple challenges. We wanted a 20x4 LCD display to showcase the different parameters and values that will be measured by our sensors on the bicycle but we were provided with a 16x2 LCD display since that was readily available in the lab.
This change in the LCD display specification resulted in a small but significant modification in our UI design, which presents the measured and recorded information to the user. Due to the unexpected but unavoidable change in the display specs, we spent another 25 to 40 minutes discussing a new design for how the information will be displayed to the cyclist. We were able to decide a format we all wanted in such a short time because of the growth and learning moments we have had together since the beginning of the project.
With the numerous experiences we have had with redesigning or repurposing our parts, we are much more open to change and are aware that the design process is an ongoing process. Although it may seem tedious sometimes, the challenges bring opportunities for learning more about our parts and how we can improve. It almost mimics the processes that may be involved in an industrial level production cycle.
From the videos below, you can see our functional prototypes for some of our parts, independently of course, since we have not put everything together. We will be working on the packaging of the components by the time we complete programming and getting all parts working.
The first from the right shows our working pulse sensor. It measures the hear-rate of the user and sends the data to the computer as seen in the video below. Our ultimate goal is to transmit the data in numeric form showing the beats per minute (bpm) of the cyclist on the LCD screen as demonstrated in the other videos.
The second video from the left shows our choice of design and display for the user. The full left side of the LCD screen is selected for this purpose to imitate other vehicles and technology, which the user may be already familiar with.
Challenges And Successes
Since the last reflection (Reflection I), we have faced numerous challenges and problems such as our parts delivery being delayed or a non-functioning part, dealing with codes that will not compile properly or codes that behave differently than we purposed it for.
Upon all the misfortunes, we have had some wins in the past weeks. We were able to successfully get our Jeenode and Arduino Uno working with the LCD display. Another major win for us was getting our heart rate sensor working! Next up is getting both micro-controllers talking through RF communication so they can share data gotten from the sensors so we can transmit the information as needed to the Pulse user.
Insights and Lessons learned (since Reflection I)
Over the past two weeks, I have learned more about project development lifecycle, especially in the areas of product design, than I thought I would learn in the entire course of this project. Although, I had the theoretical knowledge that there are chances of unplanned circumstances in any project, such has a delayed shipment of parts or that one may not be able to find the exact parts they want to create their ingenious and user-friendly product among many other situations, there is always an alternative solution that may be better and or readily available to implement than the initial plan. The onus is on the team to sit back and brainstorm on how to solve the unexpected problem that may arise to ensure the project can be delivered within budget, professionally and in a timely fashion.
Thinking back on my first reflection helps me realize how much more I have learned about working in a team, especially when problem solving. It is subtly different from when I am trying to solve a problem myself, but definitely more efficient. Problems or challenges are a fact of life, and so it should not be surprising when they occur in engineering projects such as Pulse. One major lesson I have learned since my last reflection is to endeavour to stay calm when things are not going as planned.
As long as you have a team who stands together to face the challenges and disappointments that may occur, there is not limit to what you can achieve.
Thanks for reading my second reflection!
Functional Pulse Sensor
Pulse Speedometer Display
LCD Info Display
Clearly, I Wasn't Ready For This PIC!