Natalie Blodgett

UX Meetup and the Deeper Dive Reveal


UX Des Moines Meetup
Matt Arnold, UX Director and Ron Polka, UX Design Lead from ConnectFive///// presented at a local UX design meetup on the critical nature of user research for UX design for business. The presentation broadly addressed the process of design and how it relates to business goals. There were lots of venn diagrams.

And quotes.

Design is the rendering of intent” — Jared M. Spool

It’s better to appear stubborn up front than stupid at the end.” — Good advice from somebody somewhere

They briefly discussed how to defend a design budget. The three main considerations were that design provides preemptive solutions, increases customer retention, and increases customer referrals.

They talked about process, and referenced the Double Diamond model…

…Mentioning that it served as inspiration for their own design process…

They stressed Moment of Truths (MOTs), and identified them in the market place. These are critical areas of user experience to either address or eliminate.

Types of MOTs:

1) Stimulus (customer discovers a need)
2) Agreement (ZMOT — Zero Moment of Truth: customer begins searching to satisfy their need by talking to friends and looking at reviews)
3) Shelf (customer finds your product and executes purchase)
4) Experience (customer has his/her first experience with the product)

They mentioned a cool place to look up:

Tellart — Museum of the future, where crowds of average people are observed to see how they respond to new technologies.

And recommended several books that I will probably never find the time to read:

Outside In
Mapping Experiences
101 Desigin Methods
Interviewing Users

Concluding discussion: Analytical quantitative research + “Squishy,” subjective qualitative research are both important to investigate early on in the design process.

On our way to and from the UX meetup, we chatted about the Des Moines ArtFest and Des Moines Farmers’ Market. Now that I’ve heard about chili pepper mangoes on a stick and Butter Me Up!’s honey-roasted peanut butter I really have to go.

Ok, this was probably the best part of my day. I found out that I get to be in the 3D printing, 3-day intensive “Deeper Dive” class! (The other options were VR immersive development and Unity shaders and GPU — also fun, just not as fun). It’s an all-girls team with Kate, Brittney and Sofia, and taught by Alex — a confirmed Office Space and Princess Bride fan. Our whole REU group was on the edge of their seats as the teams were written on the whiteboard.

My progress today has been to finish an article on augmented reality (AR) in education. I also went through the case study again with the existing S-Pass module and made notes on design issues. I feel ready to start sketching now — after I take our own medicine in the form of a couple dangerously long surveys.


Intuitive — I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means


“Once we move beyond the primal food supply to more contrived appliances, the decision about what is intuitive and what is not becomes a lot more difficult. If intuitive means natural, in the sense that comprehension requires no thinking, where is the division between those things that are natural and those that are familiar?

This isn’t just nitpicking — a rich and evocative word like intuitive is wasted as long as it sits in a fog of uncertain associations.”  — Bruce G. Allen and Elizabeth Buie

(See a discussion of more usability terms here.)

Mary Still, a Psychology Gradate of ISU and current professor at Old Dominion University gave an HCI related psychology colloquium today on intuitive design. Nebulous definitions of “intuitive” abound, but Still looks at how to better explicate the concept in an applied setting. This is critical for designers, who are tasked with creating so called “intuitive” interactions.

To understand intuitive design, Still has examined the effectiveness of objective and subjective approaches to measuring it. From a cognitive psychologist’s perspective, she understands intuition to be an “automatic process driven by familiarity.” Common approaches to measuring intuitive design are extremely subjective and ask users to reflect on their experience. However, if Still is correct, a user should not be able to verbalize their intuitive decisions because intuitive decisions are subconscious. Thus, her studies build an argument for incorporating more objective measures via user performance data (i.e. speed of completing a task and rate of errors while doing so).

Both of the studies that Dr. Still shared today were pertinent to our CooL:SLiCE project. The first evaluated consistencies/inconsistencies in objective and subjective measures of three levels of intuitive design: 1) affordance, 2) convention, and 3) bias. An affordance would be most intuitive, a convention less intuitive but widely agreed on, and a bias much less so to the point of being 50/50.

The results of the study indicate that affordances can be measured either objectively or subjectively and produce similar results. Conventions and biases, however, will produce uncertain or opposite results from each approach. The order of procedures can also heavily skew results. Thus, the approach is hugely important, and the current convention of using only subjective measures is not sufficient.

The second study compared objective and subjective measures of the intuitiveness of three different types of log in procedures. This time, the subjective measures were four commonly used surveys in design research: QUESI, NASA TLX, User Technology Familiarity Questionnaire, and SUS. Each survey purports to measure intuitive design, but differently.

Comparing the results of each of these surveys and her objective measures, Still proposes that familiarity, past experience, and workload are the best factors to use in determining levels of intuition. Future work in this area would be to design a survey to optimize these three factors. This could lead to much more efficient studies and more intuitive designs. Whatever that means…

My team has now done everything we can in the way of revising our IRB submission. Thank goodness that is out of my life. Below is our working plan, for the rest of our project:

1. Personally take our usability survey for the Excel-based S-Pass
2. Identify UI problems
3. Conceptual design (probably research at the same time?)
4. Prototype (AR and AR versions)
5. Preliminary usability test for prototypes
6. Edit prototypes and finalize tools
7. Usability test
8. Bulk user test (assuming IRB approval…?)
9. Analyze and compare results
10. Documentation (poster, paper, presentation)

IRB Edits and Biological Markers of Stress

We received a preliminary assessment of our human subjects IRB application with several requests for changes. In the process of editing, we have learned that we will need a third supervising faculty member, that the term “raffle” has legal implications and should be replaced with “drawing,” and that a digital signature is different from an electronic signature. Who knew.

Back to the question at hand. Why environmental education for undergraduate engineers? I’ve skimmed through several articles this morning for information that will support building S-Pass. It is a popular subject, but it’s still tricky to find actual sources to reference. The pile of papers on my desk can attest to that.

Thanks to Birdie Shirtcliff, today I learned just how broad the subject of Human Computer Interaction is. An Associate Professor at the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Birdie presented on biological markers of stress. Basically, she set out to prove that emotional events physically change people’s DNA. She has done numerous studies with children raised in abusive environments to predict things like health, life expectancy, brain characteristics (i.e. a damaged/underdeveloped cerebellum), and strength of the immune system. Currently, she measures cortisone levels in her study subjects’ spit before and after putting them through a stress test (anything from public speaking to sky diving). For her next experiment, she wants to use virtual environments (which is where HCI comes in) because they can be both engaging and very stressful.

And because this blog looks excessively bear-bones, here’s a picture of a butterfly from campus.ames_iowa_isu_butterfly_campus

Building the Argument for an Online Sustainable Manufacturing Design Education Platform

My team has started writing the problem statement for our research on the user interface of the S-Pass tool of CooL:SLiCE (Constructionism in Learning: Sustainable Life Cycle Engineering). Doing so requires framing an argument to support the entire CooL:SLiCE project as well as our specific task (designing a user interface and incorporating augmented reality for the S-Pass tool).

Writing the problem statement involves siting resources to demonstrate why sustainable design is significant in the first place, why we are attempting to educate college students in particular, why using an online platform is the best way to proceed, and then finally making a case for how addressing the user interface of the S-Pass tool and incorporating augmented reality (AR) might enhance said learning.

It seems strange that we are building an argument to justify the creation of something that we were assigned to and that started three years ago. And yet, here we are. After some feedback from our mentor today, I found two articles describing the atmosphere of sustainable design in education that should prove useful.

On the bright side, we mostly know what our goals are and how to achieve them through a study. We decided on most of the details while filling out our IRB last week. We have about a million survey questions written and an outline of the basic procedures, including how we anticipate recruiting and paying participants.

Our primary tasks are as follows:

Task 1) Create two additional versions of the S-Pass tool—one with augmented reality and one without, addressing the user interface needs of each. All together the versions will be:

1) Excel-based.
2) Web-based
3) Web-based with AR

Task 2) Investigate usability and changes learning performance between the existing version and each of the two new versions of the S-Pass tool

Our research will reveal how a learning tool can be effectively integrated with a cyberspace learning platform to better and more actively engage college students in learning sustainable design. Findings from this research will also provide a basis for engineering educators to enhance the effectiveness and usability of their learning tools.

Aside from our research project, we also have other homework. For Journal Club, we read articles each week to analyze and discuss as a group. Part of me wishes we could analyze and report on papers that are pertinent to our research since there’s so little time right now to actually research on our own. However, either way I’m learning what makes good article. From last week’s discussion: Beware the file drawer effect and p-hacking (a.k.a. data dredging), and be aware of Cronbach’s alpha.

Our 2-day Unity class commenced today. I present the result of two hours-worth of an online tutorial below (note: all art assets were provided):


On a completely different note, we had a BBQ and I learned what a melodica is (also known as a pianica, blow-organ, key harmonica, or melodyhorn). See weekend photos below!

How to Shop Like a College Student in Ames, Iowa

If you happen to find yourself in Ames one day for an extended stay (like I did), here are a few survival tips! This week I explored the farmer’s market for food and fun. It helps to have a great group of friends and no other appointments for the day!

The Ames weekly farmers market starts at 8am-early afternoon and runs along Main Street downtown. Don’t worry if you sleep through your alarm and skip breakfast (like me!), there are plenty of food trucks for either breakfast or lunch. You might try stopping for Huey’s Mini Doughnuts, or maybe settle for just a coffee at Burgie’s. The maple latte has undergone quality control by yours truly and comes recommended!

Their van goes all out…


Once you’ve found sustenance (or caffeine/sugar—to each his own), make sure to grab some fresh vegetables from one of the stands. You’ll find only what’s in season. Mid June offers radishes, carrots, cucumbers, snow peas, kale, rhubarb, beets, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, onions and cabbage. If fresh provolone cheese is your thing, check for the dairy guy, too. Samples are available.


There are plenty of handmade soap and lotion options as well. Below is featured a particularly cute tin of mini soap bars. If you dig, you can find Lego men!

The wood work is beautiful. If this is your idea of what a rolling pin should look like, check out Gingerich Amish Baskets!

Some things aren’t obviously for sale, but could be tempting if you need, say, an iron… Do what you have to do in desperation. Who am I to judge.

Feel free to take a break in the wine barrel rocking chair and listen to the trumpets! 

Make some friends…

Look at pretty rocks… (The petrified burnt tree trunk quarters would make unique book ends, would they not?)

Check your height… 

Admire the goofy pottery…

And take advantage of vintage photo ops!


If you’re musical, you’ll want to stop at Rieman Music while you’re downtown. Be cautious, though. You might cave and splurge on some sheet music—or maybe even a sweet new guitar! Everyone has their weaknesses.

(Be a paparazzo to your talented friends every chance you get. It’s just a good habit.)


Always keep an eye out for sculptures when you’re out and about in Ames. This fella’ has a bike chain for lips and looks like he’d like to dance!

Most people like to live off of more than just the locally available veggies and dairy products. Fortunately for us, we have Walmart! Sometimes getting there lands you on a bus going in the opposite direction, but if you’re lucky nice people will help you get back on track! 

Make sure to only buy what you can carry, or your arms will fall off walking back to the bus. Also, double-bag mischievous items like strawberries and yogurt. They like to escape an the most inconvenient of times ( i.e. in the middle of a crosswalk).


And that sums it up. If you do it right, you should be set in terms of both food and sight-seeing for a solid week. Cheers!

3D Modeling

Yay for rock climbing after work! On Thursday we went as a group straight from the lab and had a grand time. Below is a shot of Emanuel (…harder than it looks!)

This might sound crazy, but I’m enjoying SolidWorks much more than free form modeling in Maya. I think it has a lot to do with how each class is being taught (plus, there’s so much satisfaction in knowing that something works). The screens are difficult to read and for Maya there were no live demos. At night I was going back to basic tutorials so that I wouldn’t be as frustrated the next day. With SolidWorks, Alex (the in-house 3D modeling and printing guru) is focusing a lot on theory and problem solving that is not specific to the program (which I appreciate!). But he’s also making sure to point out little details and common mistakes so that we can avoid unnecessary frustration (things that might be looked over in many tutorials). Here’s some of what I’ve done in SolidWorks so far:

Day One: Basic Controls + Revolving and Sweeping Tutorials

Day Two: Assembly of parts provided by AlexSolidWorks_REU_Summer_2017

Now for the weekend. I’m definitely ready for a break.


From Whipped Cream to Lightning Bugs

I think this happened because Sushi couldn’t find his fidget spinner… While waiting for a response about our IRB draft, he had been scouring the apartment for it. Soon after he gave up, we had all drifted to the lawn at his coaxing, and were practicing placing a dollop of whipped cream on our wrists and catapulting it into the air to catch in our mouths on our faces and clothing.

Mist was hovering above all the open grass areas:

Greenbelt sun rays:


I also got to see the last few breaths of a rainbow on my ride. I didn’t take pictures, so just use your imagination! (And don’t forget the corn fields in that mental image.)

This luncheon lecture another very interesting, conversation-style lecture, this time with Dr. Jon Kelly. We talked about the cognitive psychology of navigation—specifically as it relates to virtual reality—but also what factors influence it in the real world. For instance, a study was done that asked participants to walk straight out into the woods for a several hours. Those who could view the sun walked in a relatively straight line. Those who could not, basically walked in circles.

Although distance perception is improving in virtual environments, no one actually knows why. Dr. Kelly’s experiments are starting to shed some light on the subject. For instance, he suspects that participants use different methods to determine the size of an object based on how they are asked to express the size. These methods tend to have different, but consistent levels of accuracy.

My research team finally finished the IRB form that we needed to turn in for our research this summer. Now we’re just crossing our fingers in hope that it gets approved in time!

It was the perfect night to go to be early… Ya. I just got back (11pm) from a long lightning photography excursion with Sushi and Chris. It was awesome. We climbed for a better vantage point, hiked around in the dark, took photos very precariously, stood on an ant hill (yes, they bite), avoided a train, waved to strange people… and saw lightning bugs! (One of the things on my to do list for Iowa. Also, I didn’t know there was another name for them. In the west I always heard them called fireflies.)

Chris let me use his camera to snap this photo:Lightning_Ames_Iowa_State_University_Summer_Storm


Lightning Shows and Biking Made Simple with Hierarchical Cluster Analysis


First off, I just thought I would contribute this highly relevant information to the great pancake debate.







Furthermore, since we just went over hierarchical cluster analysis in class, this is now how my brain functions. It may take a while to wear off.

  1. Tuesday night: Go to bed
    1. Finish IRB draft with team
    2. Go to bed at midnight
    3. Set alarm for 6am
  2. Get up
    1. Wake up at 4am to a thunderstorm! My room lit up with the lightning and the window was rattling. I posted a video on Facebook and a friend told me how a window shattered in front of her in Iowa during a hail storm when she was 5 years old. Yikes.
    2. Wake up to alarm
      1. Turn off alarm
      2. Wake up 5 minutes later
      3. Eat strawberries and cream
      4. Decide there’s enough time for a ride
  3. Go for a bike ride
    1. Ride 9 miles (clear and breezy!)
      1. Accidentally find Walmart
        1. Buy a bike pump that actually works!
        2. Buy coffee, YIPPEEEE!
  4. Go to work
    1. Watch another lightning show while riding to work.
    2. Enter Howe Hall just as the downpour picks up! So dark outside.
  5. Eat breakfast
    1. Happiness is having a cinnamon bagel with cream cheese left over from Caribou the previous day.
      1. Read my mom’s blog: The Happy Libertarian (some of you have wondered why I am the way I am… This might have something to do with it.)

And even more to look forward to, gym night with Emma! Hooray! …Unless I get stuck in a meeting finishing this IRB.

And last but not least, more fun photos from a shoot with Paul!


Caribou for IRB

On Sunday I began filling out the IRB form that we need to submit by the 15th. This morning I returned to the battle with coffee! Kate and I bumped into Paul the tech guy at Caribou Coffee and we all three took advantage of their (rather misleading) 2 for $5 promo.

After hashing through the form again with Jameel and Sushi and drafting the necessary informed consent doc, we had a luncheon lecture with Dr. Adarsh krishnamurthy. As fascinating as his lecture was, I admit I understood very little of what he said. He spoke about simplifying the design-to-prototype process for computer-aided design (CAD) and gave an overview of some of his projects. The inner-workings of 3D modeling systems were completely new to me. We covered the CPU to GPU transition, NURBS, surface-surface intersection, and much MUCH more. It was helpful to have at least a little bit of experience in 3D modeling software before going into his lecture.

He spent the most time talking about his patient-specific heart modeling project, which was very engaging—especially with the 3D model animations. He and several co-workers have created a heart modeling system to discover why pacers are able to help certain dyssynchronous heart failure patients but not others. Through individually-built heart models, they discovered a strong correlation between the balance of stress on the heart while it was pumping and whether the patient responded or did not respond to a pacer. He hopes to further simplify the design and prototyping process with similar projects and is beginning to incorporate VR.

That’s all for now folks!


Iowa: Shortcomings & Surprises

Sunday was wonderful. I slept in, worked on our REU t-shirt design, and then biked to Chocolaterie Stam. The chocolate shop has a beautiful Wurlitzer grand which I played for just over an hour before settling down to read this week’s Journal Club homework, joined by Kate. Thoroughly therapeutic.

Now it’s Monday, and I’m back in rhythm. And trying not to single-handedly eat the entire pan of brownies that Emma made Saturday… Off and on, I’ve been taking note of what I like/like less about Iowa (aside from REU). This probably isn’t fair since I haven’t explored beyond Ames, but here’s my assessment so far:

Serious Shortcomings:
No mountains — and without them you can’t even see that far. Too many little groups of trees between fields get in the way.
Sunset/sunrise — From what I’ve seen, these just don’t begin to compare with Idaho.
Wind — It’s only been getting windier since I arrived. Not a fan.
Humidity — I got up at 5:30 to run this morning and the weather (heat and humidity combined) was already stifling. At least if I was training at high altitudes the pain would pay off later. This won’t.
Lawns — There are some nice lawns, particularly on campus, but the nearby park has awful grass. Hard dirt, sticks and weeds. The same goes for the lawn at the apartments.

(Early morning sightings: corn, albino bunny, purple chicken)




Pleasant Surprises:
City water — I’ve been spoiled with well water my entire life. The water in Ames—while not as good as straight well water—is significantly better than the city water in Idaho.
Fresh produce — I was mentally prepared to forgo fresh garden produce and eggs this summer after leaving home (we have a large garden and lots of chickens). But the produce in the grocery stores is better than I expected. My expectations for the farmers market have increased.
No goat heads — If you’ve never experienced goat heads, I don’t expect you to understand.
50m outdoor pool — The only other time I’ve had access to one of these was in Taiwan. It’s amazing.
Chocolaterie Stam — This, I could live without… but it could also become a serious habit. The grand piano is key.
Bubble tea — Another habit contender, TJ Cups is a really fun stop. I have to try more flavors.. Although I’ve since heard that a lot of places put questionable chemicals in their drinks…?

Goals for the week:

  • Practice the flute twice
  • Boulder twice
  • Anybody want to try out the High Trestle Trail on Sunday? =D We can make it an evening thing so that on our way back we see it lit up! We’d need car transportation.


Otherwise, I’m looking forward to Mary Still’s HCI related psychology colloquium June 20th regarding intuitiveness of design and Alberto Cairo’s lecture on data visualization June 28th.

Also, I’m not invited, but I’m looking forward to blueberry pancakes and apple crumble something or other by Emma and Alfredo this weekend!

Group Photos, Design by Committee, & Dangerous Heights

Here are two favorites from our photo shoot on Wed:



After work hours on Thurs, we had a one-hour conference to decide on the basic t-shirt design and colors that our program will have made for us. I didn’t realize! It was fun. Especially once we got to deciding on colors…

Here’s a glimpse of our process:

I joined in a couple rounds of Codenames in my apartment on…  Friday? The days are blurring together again. Anyhow, I was able to reaffirm that not everyone’s brains are wired the same way (I’m looking at you, Brittany and Devi!).

As far as I’m concerned, anytime within a week—nay month, of a person’s birthday, they have free range to party. Happy birthday, Alfredo. Hope it was a good one!

Our last C++ course covered classes, objects, and inheritance. I’m so glad it’s over, but I still have this urge to go back and do some more exercises. In Journal Club with Anna we discussed an article published in CHI (Computer Human Interaction) about a fog machine. The article itself was full of jargon and hard to read, which led us to discuss the target audience and purpose of the article. We also rabbit-trailed a bit into this Teslasuit, and other more immersive technologies that are being developed for VR.

This was awesome. We started off with a few outdoor, active puzzles that involved brainstorming and teamwork. This included, but was not limited to, a trust fall, this 35ft swing (see pic), and a 50ft rope/log tower for climbing. More pictures to come!


Roomies (left to right): Kate, me, Emma


More photos from the ropes challenge course:




Surrealist Plumbing

this is not a cat smoking a pipe


  1. Team meeting to better define our project problem statement/goals.
  2. Request access to the the Tobii eye tracking lab for project purposes.
  3. Read!

Sherry Berghefer, of the HCI department here at Iowa State gave a fascinating lecture on her research in hyperreality and our ability/inability to distinguish between completely computer-generated images, photographs with negligible to no manipulation, and heavily manipulated images. Her research focuses on visuals, communication, and psychology.

Hyperreality — “A condition in which what is real and what is fiction are blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins”

To some degree, even what we see with our own eyes is not “real,” but invented by our brains. She briefly covered how our eyes take in light waves, discard information, break up the rest and send it to our brains for reassembly.

Hyperreality relies on simulacra“representations that become more real than the actual objects they represent.”  Simulacra and realism have been around for ages (consider Renaissance paintings, early Silver Halide photo manipulation, etc.), and the conversation hearkens back to a few of my first art classes in college. Honestly, though, even photographs, paintings, etc. are not “real” situations. The object/image in it’s natural form seems like the easiest place to draw the line. I’ve never been satisfied with the current terms and definitions.

But which pipe is real?

Here’s an example of a 100% computer-generated ad, produced by The Mushroom Company:
Silestone — ‘Above Everything Else’ from Alex Roman on Vimeo.

42 & Redshirts

Great, now I want pancakes. 42 out of 48 workdays to go. 59 more days total to finish the project that we know so little about.

I skipped my morning ride due to energy levels of precisely 0.000. Fortunately, Emma decided to workout in the evening and I joined her for the reward of bubble tea afterward. This was my first experience, and I was not disappointed.

According to the interwebs, bubble tea (originally boba tea:  波霸奶茶; pinyin: bōbà nǎichá — with tapioca balls it is 珍珠奶茶; zhēnzhū nǎichá), also known by a myriad of other names, was invented in Taiwan in the 1980s. The original drink was made by pouring sweetened pudding with tapioca balls into cold tea. I had an iced version (it also comes hot) with grass roots jelly? Or just grass jelly. I can’t remember. My personal expert ordered for me. And it was delicious. In general, bubble tea flavors might be added in the form of fruit flavored powder, fruit juice, pulp, or fruit flavored syrup.


Work/class today was more C++ (if statements, switch statements, loops, controls, and fstream i/o). It shouldn’t have, but it made my head hurt. Eh, I’ll blame it on allergies.

After lunch, we set out on a mission to make memorable group photographs. We all survived, but some of the balloons didn’t. Paul the tech guy worked the camera, so we should have photos soon!

A surprise mail delivery contained a collapsible music stand! <3 No more standing in front of the fridge and using magnets. I hope no one minds the evening melodies!






Workday Rythm


I can now go to and from work in about 7 minutes. Bike transportation FTW! The bike also allows for small grocery trips to Fareway, just 2 miles north of my apartment. Their fresh fruit selection will be a good alternative if the weekend farmer’s market doesn’t work out. (Attn: Cy fans: There is a large Cy in front of Fareway just waiting for a photo…)

I tried out the Furman Aquatic Center 50 meter outdoor pool this morning. It’s easy to sign up for their weekly Early Bird swim slot from 6-8am and the center is less than a mile away. It was crowded, but everyone was friendly and ready to share lanes.

UAVs that I pass daily outside the work lab. They occasionally disappear for use in the field. The poster describes a project done for Boeing that uses drones to inspect the exteriors of aircraft. Their use eliminates the need for people to be hoisted or climb above the many aircraft in need of inspection. It is both safer and much more efficient. As of yet, there is no way to inspect the interiors of the aircraft with drones, but it could be done in the future with much smaller drones.


No idea which drones are used for what…

The first thing on the official schedule today was a lecture and lunch with Dr. Oliver, director of the Virtual Reality Applications Center and the CyberInnovation Institute, as well as co-founder and director of Iowa State University’s inter-disciplinary graduate program in Human Computer Interaction. He told us about his academic experience and the current graduate school climate.

For work today, I spent a few minutes following case study instructions for the current online prototype portal, taking notes, and searching for relevant research articles. The tool we will be focusing our efforts on (only a piece of the entire CooL:SLiCE portal) is called SPASS, and uses matrices to determine satisfactory products and suppliers. Matrices are awesome, btw. Even if I barely got my head around how they’re used in SPASS—thanks to Masashi’s ninja whiteboard skills!

We have a few project goals now. To start off, we’ll need to come up with ways to test and measure the current SPASS tool. Hopefully we can utilize eye tracking software and the current high population of STEM REU students on campus. Handy, that.

We also had a productive coffee meeting with our project supervisor, Dr. Kijung Park this afternoon. Communication feels good and things are moving along.

Also, score. Kayaking is on the schedule!

Gold Nuggets


How do you get a perfect interior right angle on a CNC? You probably don’t. The CNC bit is round, and smaller bits are liable to break. (Apparently the most precise method is chemical, but that is very expensive). Eliot used some real world examples to impress upon us the importance of understanding real-world, physical engineering. (So odd that you have to distinguish between virtual and physical now…)

There will be three “deeper dive” workshops soon, where we split into groups to study different subjects for a week and half. I’m hoping I get into 3D printing. Not only would it be fun, but it is applicable to creating virtual environments and models.

C++ is interesting so far. Not too different from ActionScript, and I had already gotten a small taste of Visual Studio last semester while experimenting with Unity. I had to ask for help turning down the brightness of my monitor, though lol. The simplest things…


What does one do on a weekend in Ames?

Ames had a downtown art walk on Friday. This was similar, though smaller, than monthly First Thursday events that are held in my hometown, Boise. Most of us spent the majority of our time in a music shop, then found some good pizza and topped off the trip at Chocolaterie Stam. This was a Victorian style shop with a lounge area, chocolates (some corn-shaped…), gelato, and a grand piano that I was invited to go back and play <3

Devi and Emanuel waiting for Pizza ^^ at the Great Plains Sauce & Dough Company.

Corn sighting^^ (a well-documented phenomena by certain other members of the group)

Saturday was laser tag (yes, my team won, though not because of me…) and bowling and Perfect Games. Not my ideal Friday afternoon, but we did get to hang out as a group and get to know each other better! Shooting each other is a decent way to break the ice.


Our last hours of weekend were spent fixing up bikes watching someone fix bikes for us at a local non-profit for us to use over the summer (thanks, Reliable Street!) and then going to a University-wide REU picnic across the street. While there, we joined some other teams and had a few successful games of sand volleyball. Hot, sweaty and some of us covered in sand when we got back, someone had the bright idea of fill water balloons… I kept my distance and brandished a DSLR.


Gadgets and Gear

Today we were guided through Iowa State library’s online databases for research purposes. My group created a Slack account and Google Drive folder for sharing documents. Time to dive into the reading! After that we took the Meyers Briggs personality tests. I’m Ceasar.

Then came the fun part of trying out some cool tech. I tried four headsets: Vive, Hololens, and Google Daydream. Game or application demos were set up for each, and I’m getting a bit more familiar with the controls. My favorite was the HTC Vive longbow tower defense game.

The HoloLens Boeing demo was unlike anything I’d tried before (see headset below). There are huge benefits to be able to see where you are in the real world, but I found it much less comfortable because of the weight of the headset and the awkwardness of hand controls.

We also got a tour of the C6, Iowa State University’s cyclone-shaped, fully-immersive virtual reality cave. It doubles as a sculpture since a certain percent of the budget has to go toward art. In the morning the sun strikes the iridescent panels around the exterior.

Last night I dropped in and explored the first floor of the design building while waiting for a bus to Walmart. They had a life-size flying contraption dangling from the ceiling and covered in cobwebs.

Super excited to get some bikes soon so that I don’t have to ride the buses and can finally go for a decent ride! It’s been arranged for us to go help fix up some bikes at a local shop so we can use them for free for the rest of the summer. Thanks for setting it up Anna!


Introduction to Iowa

Unpacking, orientation, paperwork, introductions, coffee! My first three days as an REU intern have been chalk full of activity. Highlights were seeing the campus (beautiful!), disc tossing with the group afterward, and later manhandling rogue robots and teleporting on Masashi’s Oculus Rift.


I also enjoyed attending Eliot’s first lecture yesterday. I was familiar with some of the topics from my previous design classes and projects, and I look forward to implementing them in CooL:SLiCE—the sustainable engineering/manufacturing educational platform that I will be working on.


(above: tidbits of campus)

As a group we have spoken a lot about the process we will be following this summer, namely research, prototyping, and then writing a paper, making a poster and presenting. Today we met our mentors for our specific projects and had individual kick-off meetings. It’s nice to have a better idea of what we need to accomplish.

CooL:SLiCE is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and has apparently been in progress for three years. As such, we will probably have less research to do than the other teams. The platform is already up and running with a case study or two and our primary goal will be to make the interface fun and effective.

I’ll be posting more regular photos to Instagram! @gypzyroze