It’s been a long and short 10 weeks at the same time. 10 weeks is really a long time to be spending the summer, and it’s surprising to think that’s it’s almost over.
What did I learn from this program?
I learned that it’s okay to feel like an impostor (thanks, Birdie). In fact, I learned that a lot of other people feel that, even though I thought that they were the people who had everything together. I really wanted to come to this REU in particular because I figured that whatever engineering knowledge I needed to know for the project, I would learn along the way. I belonged here as much as everyone else because I was just learning. That was a brave step, but I’m glad I took it.
That brings me to my next point. I keep learning this over and over, but I learned again that I’m a work in progress. Often, before I have anything to show the group, I want it to be polished and refined. I don’t want to tell them that I haven’t fully thought through a concept. I learned that an important part of research ideation is finding out those “unrefined ideas” and exploring them with others, instead of choosing between to perfectly packaged ideas. I learned that it’s okay to be a work in progress.
I also learned that grad school is a real thing. Before coming here, I often thought of it as some abstract idea, when people in my school referred to going to “grad school”. I didn’t really know what it meant until I learned about it from the grad students at VRAC, by the grad school panel or just chatting with them in the lab. Also, participating in the REU projects was great experience for preparing us for grad school. I finally understand that research takes a long time. We spent 10 weeks here and it doesn’t feel as if we scratched the surface on perspective taking in spatial cognition. There’s much to learn and explore, and that’s why I’m happy about continuing our project.
Networking and having mentors is important. I am grateful for all the support I received from the staff of the REU. They’re really nice people who have lived through grad school and want to see you succeed, so it only makes sense to get support from them. I also met a PhD who’s in ID, and I networked with her and learned so much about what I can do in ID research. It helps to reach out the people and meet as many people who can help you in your professional development.
Grad school, networking, and research is important. But remember to force yourself out of the apartment once in a while. Go out with your mentors and friends and have a nice time hiking or exploring the mall in Ames. I don’t think my summer would have been as rewarding if I didn’t invest my time in friends as well.
That’s probably a small section of what I learned in this program, but it’s knowledge I want to impart with you all, whether you’re a current intern or a future one. I had a great time, and if you make the most out this program, I’m sure you will enjoy it too.
It’s finally August! This summer, and this program, went by so fast. We did our closing remarks at a video that Paul interviewed us for. I remember watching those videos before I applied this past winter, and now being able to record our own is surreal. The major event of yesterday was when presented our work at the symposium. That event seemed so distant in the future when we heard of it at the beginning of the program, but it happened!
I was really proud of our group’s presentation. We surely demonstrated a lot of synergy, and together we all worked to deliver fantastic presentations. The best part was watching other people get excited about our work. I started with the intro and description of the locomotion interfaces, Nina continued with the predictions and methods, and Vrinda finished it off with our results. We even had the video on loop to show our visitors exactly what we tested. I think we did a great job, and we got great feedback and questions from our mentors. Towards the end of the program, I walked around to see what everyone else was working on. It was interesting to see all the research that was being done without us ever meeting these people. I’m interested in presenting in my school’s undergraduate research day later in the school year, so the symposium was great practice for that. I’ve attended several research poster sessions over my undergraduate years, and I’ve always been eager to do research. I’m so thankful for this opportunity at SPIRE-EIT to conduct meaningful research with great support and resources.
The days seem to get busier and busier…
This morning, Vrinda and I worked on getting video capture of our experiment interfaces. I was terrible at moving around in the discordant interfaces. Eventually, we had to get Roselynn to complete a trial (thank you, Roselynn!). Also, thank you to Vrinda, who converted the video files and organized them on Cybox. I had no problem using the clips in Adobe Premiere and editing the video. I used my video editing skills a lot in high school, but I have only used video editing software intermittently since then. Luckily this video is pretty basic, and I’m not having much problems with it.
While we were doing video capture, Stephen stopped by and announced that we would be doing HCI today. That was great news, because we had missed a class while he was gone. The topic of discussion was decision making. I found a lot of the things he shared with us to be true. For example, often we think “fast” when making easy, immediate decisions. For instance, when I go to the computer lab, I go to the same computer every time without thinking. If I thought “slow” and considered that I should go to another computer, I could use another machine. I tend to favor the first option. Going to the same computer is the easy option, I don’t have to choose. We prefer not to make decisions when we don’t have to. My brother pointed out this phenomenon to me a year ago, and it has been on my mind frequently since then. I have read some parts of Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow, and I think I’ll return to it to explore this idea more.
Our group also made edits to the paper. We had used placeholder text for some of our sections, so we had to fill in those gaps before we submit the paper today. I’m proud of the work we did on the paper, in addition to our other REU deliverables.
This morning, my team went to Jon’s lab to film some broll for Paul. We did some basic shots, us working at the computer, and running the executable. I was in the headset. Jon stopped by and said we’d made excellent progress if we were already videotaping our reflection. We have a full team meeting later today. I’m excited to discuss our results with everyone in person.
Birdie Shirtcliff was the presenter at today’s last luncheon lecture. She gave us a “last lecture” after the concept of giving one’s last lecture, coming from an idea at Carnegie Mellon. She gave some great life advice. My takeaway that we place limitations on ourselves, but they create diversions from the norm, which can be for the best. I think I’d like to give a “last lecture”. I’ve been eager for the opportunity to share life advice with people. I’m young, but I also think that I have a lot to offer.
She also taught us a lot about behavioral biosciences. Birdie gave us a lot of tips on living longer and forming healthy relationships, and I will definitely take note of those things for my future benefit.
We had our last group dinner on Saturday! Thank you to Abby for planning this great event. Texas Roadhouse was fun, there was great food, and it was great reflecting on some of the great memories in the program. We have one more week ahead of us, and then on Saturday, we part ways for now.
Today, our grad mentor gave us some edits for the paper and poster. For the paper, there was some work do to on our discussion. We had listed out the future directions of the project, but Lucia suggested that we had to explain further why those directions would make sense. Our paper also needs a discussion of the limitations of our experiment. I’ve started to make some changes, but I will check with her later to make sure the paper is on the right track. There has also been some updates to the poster with which we have been going back and forth with her. I really like how much the poster has improved since the first draft. I can’t wait to present it on Thursday — and next spring at my university’s undergraduate research day. In the meantime, we have to keep working hard to meet these final deadlines this week.
My group went over our poster today. It was a really smart idea to print it out on regular copy paper and mosaic it together to see what the final poster would look like, without actually using a plotter. It’s going to look great when it is finally printed out. I’m excited to showcase it at the symposium. Once we were done, we sent it to our grad mentor for edits.
Stephen mentioned that we needed to spend more time on analyzing our work. Following his advice, I went to Abby for help with writing the discussion. She was very helpful. I learned how to articulate the results and mention the hypothesis without being repetitive. We recently got comments back for the poster and paper from our grad mentor. We expect to finish those edits by Monday.
I can’t believe we’re approaching our last weekend before we leave. I have to start getting ready for school, which is nerve-racking but also exciting at the same time.
I’m going to hop on the “this is about to end train” that’s been running past Freddy since halfway through the program. Usually, I keep working towards a deadline (like the end of a semester), don’t think much of it as it creeps forward, but once it flies by, I’m surprisingly lost: “what just happened?”. That’s what happened last semester, and what I suspect, will happen again this summer.
Before I came here, I faced a huge block of time at Iowa State, when I would be spending a majority of the summer. I came in with little to no expectations, so I can’t exactly say that ISU met my expectations or not. It’s been an enjoyable time, however, and I’ve liked my time here in ways I wouldn’t have anticipated. I’m trying to figure out how I can use what I’ve learned from here, but I think it’s best that I leave and find out later.
Today we had a luncheon lecture by Dr. Peng Wei. He talked about optimizing flight patterns. It made me really appreciate all the air traffic control and optimization work that is done behind the scenes every day. He also explained to us what drone racing was. The video Peng showed us made it look really cool! I don’t know how the pilots can manipulate those drones at such high speeds. Dr. Peng Wei seems to be really involved both in research and with his club, and he gave us some great life advice during lunch. It was overall a really interesting talk, and I think he’s a great role model for someone who’s interested in becoming a professor.
Hey! I was really good about blogging every day for most of the program, but recently I’ve been slacking off. I’m still trying to accomplish my goal of blogging every weekday, so here I go:
Monday, July 22
Monday was the trip to Minnesota! I’m normally happy with 3 hour car rides; it makes me feel road-trippy but isn’t too extreme. This trip was no exception, which was good. I just wish I hadn’t sat in the middle seat on the entire way there…that was a bit uncomfortable.
The University of Minnesota was gorgeous! I think it also helped that there was perfect weather. I wish we had more time to walk around the really nice campus and explore.
It was great to see the other VR demos and the redirected walking lab. I’d heard of redirected walking before from Dr. Jon Kelly and Stephen. I thought that the museum-scan demo was super cool, and I wonder if there’s any applications in product design that could use that. What if we could explore how a product looks in all these different conditions? What about testing for product displays in windows?
There was some great presentations on what our groups and their groups were doing. I was really proud of our group’s presentation and how we handled the questions. I saw that some of the MN labs used Jon Kelly’s research; we’re so fortunate to have him here at Iowa State.
The Mall of America was really fun. I didn’t get too lost (surprisingly), but I had my roommates there to help me out. I also appreciate them for giving me time to shop for my family and not leave me behind. One of the highlights was a store called Wonders Ice Cream. I got a frozen dessert that looked too good to eat:
I also went to the Nickelodeon store and got Appa, an air bison from the show Avatar the Last Airbender:
Overall, the trip was really fun, and I’m really thankful I had this experience during the REU.
Tuesday, July 23
I came to work not feeling well, so I went to Freddy soon after. Not much happened…
Wednesday, July 24
I came back to work today feeling 100%. I met with Lucia to review that I had missed about the data, that the team had went over the day before. We finally got our results back, and they were not what we expected. There’s more to discuss when we present our poster on Tuesday! I also talked to Lucia at length on how to change my resume. I need to make sure that I’m framing the research I am doing here correctly. I think that’s an important takeaway that I should figure out before I leave.
Teleport team is finally done with our experiment! We’ve tested 10 people. We had some trouble rescheduling people and some problems with data, but I’m happy that we finally met our goal. We are going to start analyzing data next week. Thank you to everyone who participated in our experiment!
We also finished up our presentation for Minnesota today as well. I’m excited to go north. Hopefully it will be colder.
Yesterday and today we’ve been testing participants. As of right now, we’ve tested three people, and we have eight people scheduled total. Our goal is ten. I’m not sure if we will make it, but at the moment we’re just trying to test as many people as possible. The experiments are running smoothly, and we’ve gotten used to running the entire thing through.
We had luncheon lecture yesterday at 11. Anna Slavina led the book discussion for Stand Out of Our Light. I had a ton of questions and comments about the book, but those didn’t seem very relevant to what everyone else was talking about. I was more interested in the question that started the book, which was asking about a phenomenon that was affecting the political system. Williams mentions politics a lot, but I don’t think its the main focus of the book, but rather a common side note, that “oh this applies to politics too.” Other people were interested in how the information age shapes our reality. Do we only believe things because we know a lot of other people think the same way? It’s an interesting question. I think we could’ve discussed the book a lot more, but that hour-long discussion was just scratching the surface, to quote Lara.
Yesterday at 4pm, we had Craft of Research. I found the session to be very productive. We peer reviewed each other’s papers. Our team got some comments back on our paper. I think I’ll ask Abby and Andrew for a closer look at our paper and poster.
It was really rainy today, so it was just a cold day in the lab. I’m back at VRAC now to post here and fill out the course evaluation forms. I’m also trying to convince some people to participate in our experiment… Please sign up if you haven’t already!
Today was almost entirely dedicated to working on our project. I started this morning by reading over our paper and making some citations, which is unfortunately the least exciting part of our paper. I also read over the abstract that Vrinda wrote, and we submitted it later today after Lucia had the chance to look over it. We went to the Navigation lab today, and we couldn’t get Unity to work there, but once Lucia showed us how to activate the headset, the setup worked! It seemed really obvious what we were missing, but that’s fine. We can use our Unity anywhere now. Nina and I worked with Lucia to go over the experiment protocol. We practiced performing the experiment with each other, from the consent form to trial, and to the experiment task and debriefing. My speech felt pretty bumpy at first, but I think I’ll do better tomorrow when Nina and I teach Vrinda how to conduct the experiment as well. I like to plan things out, so I set up an online poll so that the REU interns can sign up for our experiment. If you are reading this and haven’t signed up yet, please do so!
Tuesday, July 9
After I blogged on Tuesday, we were scheduled to have the MCA presentations, but that did not happen unfortunately.
Wednesday, July 10
I was out sick yesterday. Not much happens at Freddy when everyone’s gone…but at least our laundry machines came back!
Thursday, July 11
This morning, I went over the paper again and looked at Lucia’s edits. It finally got compiled into one document, and seeing that happen was very fulfilling. It made all of our progress feel very real. I’m going to keep working on the paper and have it as ready as possible for next week’s draft that’s due.
Today’s luncheon lecture was with our project’s mentor, Dr. Jon Kelly. I really appreciated his talk on space perception in virtual environments. I already had learned before that people underestimate distances in VR vs. real life, but now I know its implications on space perception in addition to navigation. An interesting test he described was “blind walking,” where the subject walks the distance they perceive to be the object. Everyone asked great questions, and I could tell that they were really trying to imagine the experiments in their minds.
We had our MCA presentation, which was postponed from Tuesday. Veejay chose that the 3D printing group go first — and I was the first person to go in our group, so I went very first. But we were all going to go eventually within those two hours, as Eliot said. I think I presented my product well. I think it really helped to have Abby there as a person who could share her experience with her broken finger. It made my product, Fispli, prove that it was made with her input in mind. All of the presentations were really fun, and I had a great time finally hearing about what everyone was working on in depth. Our group, 3D Printing, also won the MCA contest, which was an added bonus. 🙂
Friday, July 12
We had a lot of much needed time to work on our projects today. I was assigned to improve our existing draft of the poster. It was fun to create! I kept adding small elements here and there. I changed the poster a lot, now looking back at the previous draft. Now, I also have a better idea of what’s going to be written on the poster. Lucia came by after lunch and gave me notes on how I can improve it, but she said I had made something that I can easily work off of. I’m finishing those edits now.
We’re going to start testing next week! On Monday we’re going to run through the procedure and test ourselves to practice. Once everyone’s comfortable with the equipment, we’re going to start testing! I’m a bit intimidated because I know that we’ll test at least 10 participants, which will take ~10 hours. We have all week to get it done, but it still seems like a lot of work. But I remind myself that we’ve accomplished a lot this week, and Lucia told us the rest of the experiment should run smoothly and easily. She’s probably right.
After lunch yesterday, I finished up my MCA presentation. I’m fairly happy with how it turned out, and I look forward to presenting it on Thursday. I was really trying to stress the design process and how I was designing a splint specifically to accommodate for Abby’s needs. I hope that comes off as clear when I present.
This morning, we had a meeting with our entire project team. As we went over the multiple components of the experiment, we all started to realize how it was coming together. Seeing the avatar in the virtual environment was definitely a huge accomplishment, because that was the main hurdle we had to get over in order to get the experiment started. We are going to start collecting data next week.
We had Craft of Research during our luncheon lecture today. We went over how to make research posters, which is something I’ve wanted to learn for awhile. The best advice I’ve ever gotten as a poster is to think about your elevator pitch. What visuals/bullet points would best describe your idea? Then that’s what you should put on the poster. Stephen also gave great advice to our project team today, which was give a few sentences (30 seconds) to the audience member about what your project is about, and gauge their interest. If they don’t seem interested, move on. If not, tell them more about your project!
It turns out that we’re not presenting our MCA’s today. That’s a disappointment to me because I was ready to present, but I think it’s better that the other faculty members and grad students are here for our presentations.
Wednesday seemed so long ago, but here’s my recap:
I really appreciate Stephen’s HCI classes. I think that these classes give possibly the most helpful lessons that I know I’ll take back to my school. On Wednesday we talked about the Gendermag video, which I posted about earlier. I learned that when it comes to Human Error, intention is key. “Did I know how to do what I needed to do?” I definitely can relate to this question when I am given instructions. Whenever I don’t fully comprehend the instructions, I’m prone to making mistakes — and most of the time, I don’t know that I’ve made them. When we make programs for others to use, we have to think of any possibility that could go wrong, and often, it’s in ways we never expected. Or, we don’t have a list of specific missions for the task at hand. I think this was evidently true in the ‘cancel’ button example that Stephen gave. Its results were interesting. I found that software developers don’t think like UX developers do. I always thought that I was inherently unskilled compared to a software developer. But it turns out knowing things about HCI can also be equally as helpful.
We also talked about public speaking. Emmanuelle and I gave a very enthusiastic 3-minute presentation to Stephen about why he should eat at a Mexican restaurant. I thought that we could run out of things to say, but I ended up going over-time. I did a lot better than I thought I would have, given Emmanuelle and I only had 6 minutes to prepare. I think the most important takeaway from ‘how to give a talk’ was that we have to boil down our presentations into simple messages for our audience members to take away and remember.
This morning, I returned to VRAC after the four-day weekend. I found out this morning that the interns were listening to Jamiahus’ defense. I think he did a great job, and it was evident that he put lots of thought and care into how he ordered his experiment. The committee members asked some in-depth questions on his research, which shows the level of detail that the project went under. Overall, I was pretty intimidated. I’m sure I want to present a masters thesis or doctorate dissertation someday. Mostly that’s because I want to write a huge paper on design theory and practice.
We had an ethics class after the defense. We answered some of the questions we hadn’t thought of/pursued before. We answered what ethics was, which is principles that guide our behaviors and actions. I wonder, if we asked ourselves, “what are my ethics?” I would guess that most people would be slow to answer. We rush to say what we think is right, or what we think is wrong, but I feel that we don’t know each other well enough to think “these are my principles” and follow them in accordance with our actions. One could say that it’s open to interpretation, and that we can always change what we think, but I think we can always pursue the path of knowing ourselves better.
Let’s start with what happened after I blogged after lunch yesterday.
I worked on the paper some more. I’m having some problems with figuring out what to write based on what we already have. I also have to get started on the procedural instructions. Lucia and Alec came by at 2pm, so we updated them on what we were working on. We’re almost done with the VE, and the avatar is a work in progress. We don’t have content view-able in the HMD yet, but we’re working on it. Afterwards, I continued to work on the Literature Review, but I’m overwhelmed with how much I have to read and write for that. It could definitely use more work.
During craft of research, my team worked on the Discussion section of the paper. We couldn’t answer all of the questions because we don’t have any results yet. We did brainstorm some ideas on what the implications of our experiment is, and we’ve already discussed what we can do to continue improving our experiment.
This morning, I finished the last changes on my MCA presentation that Alex suggested that I make. I’m relieved to be finished already. That never happens when I design things! (It’s probably because my hardcore design professors aren’t here. They make us redo everything.)
I checked the calendar for this morning, and I saw that we had an Ethics class. I was agitated after the class. People gave answers, but I feel that we were digging a couple of inches on the surface. I was hoping we’d get philosophical and dig 10+ feet deeper. We didn’t seem to define ethics in a few words, which bugged me. Saying that the definition is “Open to interpretation” just wasn’t a way to get any questions answered. That being said, I’ve not read Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics yet, so I just identify ethics as what one believes as right or wrong. Then morals was brought into the picture. From what I could tell from the discussion, morals and ethics may have been translated into making sure everyone is a good person and does the right thing.
I don’t think the law should require an individual to be a good person by enforcing ethics or morals. I like to think of the example of a driver passing by someone with car troubles on the side of the road. It takes a good person to stop and help, but should it be required by law? The truth is that some people wouldn’t stop, but they shouldn’t be breaking the law if they choose not to. It could be predicted that less of us would adhere to the law if those “good person” laws existed. How do we revere the law if everyone who didn’t stop broke it?
Governments instituted on the basis of making people good have a history of failure, starting with religious regimes. The United States was founded to protect the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The government protects those rights, but under that legal scope it limits its control over the rest of our lives. Morals and ethics are beyond government. Since they seem to open to human choice, why should they be law?
Gendermag is short for ‘Gender Inclusiveness Magnifier,’ which was presented at the 2016 ACM SIGCHI conference by Margaret Burnett. Gendermag was a method of using personas to help tech companies evaluate how different populations use their software. One of the personas, Abby was risk-adverse, so these developers had to think of Abby and ask themselves ‘would Abby use this interface?’ I thought this idea was absolutely innovative, and I can definitely say that it’s an approach I would have never thought of. My immediate response would have been to go to the actual users and evaluate by what they said, but the development process is streamlined by applying those stock personas. From the overview of the results, it seems extremely useful. Interestingly enough, some companies reacted to using Gendermag differently, and I liked how this study tested the practical implications of distributing their system to companies. I also appreciated that the researchers came to the conclusion that usability relied more on the facets than on gender. Gendermag seems to connect people from all over, and not just by differentiating them by gender.
I haven’t blogged since last Thursday, and honestly, I’m disappointed in myself for not doing so. I can’t give you a specific reason why, because I’ve been busy with so many things that I have been hardly been keeping track of the time day-to-day. That’s my reason, but I won’t use that as an excuse for not blogging. I’ll catch up now, and I’ll pick up where I left off.
Thursday afternoon (6/27)
On Thursday afternoon, our grad mentor came down for the weekly meeting with the three of our team members. She got updates on the VE and avatar, and she encouraged us to get our projects drafted into Unity as soon as possible. Lucia also gave me very helpful edits about what I should change on the Methods section. In the past, I’ve had issues with documenting every step of the research process, and I think that’ll really come to the test as I work on the Methods section. I’m also looking forward to receiving comments from the rest of my team members. I think it’ll help if they review it, so that we are all on the same page about our procedure before starting trials.
Friday morning, we met again for our MCA. By Friday, I had a pretty good concept for my splint idea, and I had been printing out my 3D models and testing them on Abby’s hand to find the perfect fit. I found that I had a way more difficult time editing my complex models in Solidworks than it took me to create them in the first place. Kate was a great help, however, and she gave me great instructions on how to make the changes that I needed.
We had another Intro to HCI course on Friday afternoon. For this class, we researched workshops that we’d like to go to at ACM CHI and gave our mini pitches on why our fellow interns should go to them. I got an idea of what CHI offered, and honestly, now I want to go even more. I had been planning on going immediately after jury week ended next spring, and I confirmed the dates when my college’s calendar came out. I haven’t made any flight arrangements yet, but the timing works out well, and I’d be flying back to Hawaii since the conference is in Oahu. I’ve also been humoring the idea of creating a project for the student research competition, although I don’t have any ideas for it yet. It would work out better if I worked with students in my department back at my school, but the interns here have a lot of experience in HCI that I think could be put to use here. I’m wonder if it could work remotely…
The interns had a lot of different ideas on how the t-shirts should look. I was partially overwhelmed because I’m used to visualizing the design, but describing it verbally doesn’t really capture how it would really look. We settled on an idea that I like, however, and I’ve been helping Nina create the muli-component design in Illustrator.
After, I went back to DABL to 3D print again. I learned that I can keep the same file type and scale it differently on the the three axes using the Makerbot software. I semi-guessed what would fit Abby, and I printed it. I tried it on myself, and it looked perfect, as long as the sizing was right. Otherwise, I’m was almost done with my project! I’m thinking that I did it so quickly because I knew were were expected to present on Friday originally, so I made sure I had something that I could finish quickly. That’s an important thing to learn about design. I always have to be careful to make sure I can finish my projects with the skills and resources that I have. I’ve seen too many projects that have to scaled back last minute because of those constraints. I’d rather have a great design and have it executed well. I usually accomplish my task, and despite my expectations to finish early, I always finish right on time with what I wanted.
On Monday morning, I make some avatars to import into Unity and add shaders. I used a program called Adobe Fuse, which I was luckily able to have using my Adobe CC software. It’s essentially like designing an avatar in Sims, except you can export it into Mixamo to animate it. I added the final versions to Cybox, and we’re still working on making them work properly in Unity. Alec also helped us with the Unity files that we’re building off of for our new avatar experiment.
I stopped by Abby’s desk during her office hours to test my most recent splint. It fit! She gave it positive reviews as well. I took a lot of pictures that I plan to use in the MCA presentation. I also got a head start on the slides for the MCA, and Alex provided some great comments on how I can improve the presentation. Overall, I’m excited to present because I would love to talk about designing things by asking those affected about their experience, and also by asking what they’d like for the new product.
I did some more work on the paper in the afternoon, but honestly, I’m at a loss on where to begin for the literature review. I think I’ll read what was written in the original paper, and see if I can use that as a framework and style to write our new literature review. I also have to put my paper-reading skills to the test. I’m optimistic, but I also know realistically that it’ll be a struggle.
Tuesday morning (7/2)
This morning, I started writing out the intro paragraph. I’ve been going off of the existing paper, but I’m making changes to fit our experiment. Our grad mentor provided comments on using specific language last time, so I’ve been careful in how I use my words. At the same time, I’ve been detailing the small bits of our experiment. I thought that I’d just be documenting what I’ve determined in the paper, but I’m finding that we have to figure out exactly how our experiment is working as well.
For our luncheon lecture today, some grad students gathered with us in the conference room for a Q&A. I’ve already heard about some of what was described about grad school, but I learned some new things as well. For instance, I didn’t know how graduate school funding worked or how to figure out what grad school advisor to work with. They gave us really good advice. I took notes, and I’ll archive them for when I apply to grad school in a few years.
Since I wrote last, I went to another 3D printing class/MCA work. I don’t think I quite understood the steps to 3D print, but I’m hoping Alex can help me when it comes to printing my parts for the project. I learn better by going through the process myself rather than watching Jennifer do it under Alex’s direction.
I’m still at a sort of a standstill for what I have to make for my MCA. The hand connector part is done, but I’m still working on designing the splint and how it attaches to the hand connector. I’m using Solidworks. My lack of skill in Solidworks is holding me back from designing something detailed, which is difficult when I’m under pressure to 3D print as soon as I can. I want to have something good that I can print, but I’m having a hard time visualizing the model on the computer and not in my hands. I’m tempted to grab some scrap materials and test how those fit around her finger first, before diving into Solidworks to figure out some hypothetical splint that might fit Abby’s finger. That approach is more like what I’ve learned
This morning, I switched gears again to work on the teleport project. Lucia comes on Thursdays, so our group works in the morning to have something prepared for her to review in the afternoon. I chose an ‘idle’ avatar from the Adobe Mixamo, a website which I think the VR stress group used too. With Vrinda’s brilliant use of shaders, we made the avatar appear in Unity with a holographic shader applied. It’s cool to see that we are starting to use what we learned in our classes for our project.
I also worked on the Methods section of the paper. I’m starting to realize that I could describe the avatar interface well in our meetings, but writing it out in an academic research paper is actually quite difficult. I think that demonstrates the industrial design side of me, where I can use visual communication well, but I’m finding that I am rusty on writing academic papers. I do want to contribute to this paper though, so I want to learn as much as I can.
I didn’t blog yesterday! So I’ll try my best to catch up to what’s happened since Monday afternoon.
We did more lecture for our deeper dive on Monday afternoon. I’d expect most of the content to be over my head, but as I watch videos and look at diagrams, I can understand how the printers work pretty well. Alex did a great job with his slides (also thanks to Kate). I was pretty set on doing the splint idea for Abby.
On Tuesday, I read some articles in preparation for our weekly Teleport meeting. I’m very interested in finding articles about perception-taking, but the field seems to be all over the place in the realm of psychology. I have to fine tune my skills about finding exactly what I need from the research articles I browse over. I also printed out some illustrations of avatars that I liked, and I made a quick mock up using Maya on what the avatar might look like with its arrows. Alec also helped us set up our Unity accounts so that we can access the study’s unity files, so finally what we’ve been learning from the crash courses is going to be useful in our project.
Stephen led the luncheon lecture on Tuesday, which was a surprise for me, because I hadn’t checked the schedule for that day. When he presented the projects he and others had been working on in VRAC, all the pieces started coming together as I started to understand what type of projects VRAC takes on. That also tells me a lot about VRAC in general. Stephen also talked about his life story, and how specific people in his network gave him advice along the way that changed his trajectory. I think he’s absolutely right, as I’ve found that life doesn’t go linearly like it might be expected to, and we have to be able to take opportunities and make changes along the way. He also gave some great tips on applying to grad school and recommendation letters. Overall, the lecture was informative and a much needed professional guidance session.
We had the Teleport meeting on Thursday afternoon. We talked about the avatar, environment, and the interface. We made decisions on each, which is good because now we can start moving forward by building components in Unity and testing them out. I think that the faculty were impressed with our ideas because we as interns thought of a lot of unique ideas that they wouldn’t have considered coming from their backgrounds.
This [Wednesday] morning, I switched gears to work on my deeper dive. Alex talked about some fancy expensive 3D printing devices and how they worked in different industries. Reading the presentation from the surface, one would think, “wow, companies can make these really realistic prototypes? Cool!” But as an industrial designer, I’m what Alex called a “skeptic”. I ask questions like, how long does it take for that prototype to be made? Is getting a fancy version even helpful, if the design keeps changing and there’s a strict time deadline on when the final has to be submitted? Honestly, I’m relieved that I feel like I can use something I learned in my field. During the beginning of this internship, I felt like I had strayed into the CompSci sphere and couldn’t use my industrial design skills to navigate. I’m learning now that I’m truly in an interdisciplinary place, and there’s much I can use from what I’ve learned in school.
I think I covered Friday, June 21 in my last blog post, so I’m going to start covering the weekend.
Surprisingly, I woke up early on Saturday morning, hours before the farmer’s market outing was supposed to start. I got some reading in before it was time to leave with Abby and everyone via the van. The moment my roommates and I left the doors of Freddy, it was pouring so we decided to go back upstairs and equip ourselves with umbrellas and jackets. We got to the van and reevaluated our plan with everyone. Instead of going straight to the farmer’s market, we stopped for brunch at Arcadia Cafe in Campustown. The food there was so good. Syema said she was surprised to find the PG Tips black tea there. I decided to try it, and I loved it. I haven’t had tea that good since I was in the UK (which was exactly the point, I suppose). We also went to the farmer’s market and checked out some other stores in downtown Ames. While Abby and I were waiting for everyone to purchase their local produce, I asked her about the history of Ames. She didn’t know, so I ended up wikipedia’ing it, and a one-paragraph history said it was a stop on the transcontinental railroad. I think Saturday’s outing was very fun, and I learned a lot about Ames along the way.
Sunday was Emmanuelle’s birthday. We did a lot of fun activities to celebrate, starting with bowling at an entertainment center called Perfect Games. We all started out not so great, but some top stars were Jennifer, Emmanuelle, and Lucas. We later got pizza at Jeff’s. I think we ordered two pizza specials that came with cheese sticks, which were so good. I hadn’t gotten the chance to try Jeff’s before. I’m glad I got the opportunity to go, and I think I would be going back again. This is us afterwards:
We got back to campus, and we sang happy birthday with a very good cake that Syema made. Then we started a very long game of Uno. We started playing with the rule that people had to keep picking up cards until they could put one down. That didn’t work so well because half of us ended up with “books” of Uno cards. There was a card in the deck that allowed us to swap hands with any player, which made things more interesting. After some people left, the leftover group played a few games of Nintendo Smash.
When I got back, I realized that all of my sheets were in the wash, so I wouldn’t have anything to sleep on until they dried. I finished a couple of designs for the REU t-shirt contest in that time.
I got to VRAC a little early and started drawing out some ideas for my MCA (major course assessment), which is for our chosen deeper dive. Alex listed some paths that we could choose in terms of direction for 3D printing, and I chose “heal it.”
Abby broke her right hand pinkie before we arrived in Iowa, and it’s almost healed. Although I can’t exactly “heal it” by making her another splint, I was still interested in her experience with the splint that she had to wear. I drew out some ideas that came solely from my imagination, and I presented them to her. We had a constructive discussion about what she liked/didn’t like about the splint she had, and she helped me brainstorm on ways that I would improve the design. This, with the technical knowledge about 3D printing that I’m getting from this deeper dive, is helping me to grasp what I finally have to do for the major course assessment.
My team met with Lucia yesterday for our first weekly check-in. We clarified some of the basis of our experiment, and we asked helpful questions, like “how would our environment look?” We assigned roles, but this morning, Steven also suggested that each of us take a role in sequential phases of our project. I agree with Vrinda with her saying that Steven’s approach would be very helpful for writing our paper. I’m brainstorming the ways that we can use that method of teamwork in the other components of our project as well.
We started our deeper dive this morning. Alex seemed very happy to be teaching us about 3D printing, but he likes to say that he’s not an expert (and for us not to trust people who say they are). 3D printing is a whole new area for me, and I’m learning a lot about how it works. I was very straightforward about 3D printing as addressing my industrial design skills, when Alex asked us what we wanted to get out of our deeper dive. I’m sure that I’ll gain some technical knowledge, but I’m sure I’ll also learn a lot of how engineers like to design. That’ll be helpful when I work with engineers some day.
The second deeper dive session happened this afternoon. I understood most of the concepts, but a couple of them were over my head. In general, I understand how a 3D printer works now. I’m excited about all of the other paths that each of the people on 3D printing are choosing. We really get to choose what would best demonstrate our new skills in our specialty, and I think that is really cool. I’m interested in making a medical 3D print, with perhaps help from the 3D scanning group.
The biggest surprise that I got from 3D printing was the idea of 3D printing as “rapid prototyping.” That’s a wild concept for me. In Industrial Design, we make cardboard models, or foam models for rapid prototyping. The second we go into Solidworks, it’s no longer rapid (because it takes forever), according to the design timeline. I’m anxious to start sketching ideas for a medical product this weekend. I also want to get started on those t-shirt designs! I want to make a lot for the interns to choose from. 🙂
After blogging yesterday, we started our last Unity class. I definitely wouldn’t consider myself an expert at Unity at this point. I can read code and understand how it translates into unity, but I don’t feel confident at all with writing code myself. I am not sure how much I can contribute to our experiment in Unity, but I am willing to learn when we get there.
We chose our deeper dive after the Unity session. I really wanted to get 3D printing, and that’s because I feel that it would be a great skill that I would have to eventually have to learn for ID. I even wrote so in my preference paper. I’m glad that most everyone got their top pick for deeper dive, including myself. I can’t wait to see all of the games, prototypes, and graphics that come out of the deeper dives.
This morning, I did some work for my project. I wrote the Procedure subsection for the Methodology part of our paper. I used the previous paper as a reference guide, and that really helped me with what I needed to include for that section. I also worked on some sketches on how the avatar interface would look for our experiment. I began drawing iterations with one design in mind, and I had to really push the limits of my imagination to figure out what else the interface could possibly look like. This was great practice for my ID classes, I later realized, because I learned the ideation process through ID.
Our luncheon lecture today was with Diana Sloan. She was really kind, informative, and encouraging of our graduate aspirations. I listened to her unique immigrant perspective, and I appreciated how she could come to Ames, a place so different from her home in Mexico, and appreciate the lifestyle changes here. She gave some really good advice about asking the admissions officer of your grad school to refer you to various resources around campus. This program is doing a great job about connecting us with people who familiarize us with the process of graduate school.
After writing yesterday, we had a project meeting. Everyone involved on the project was there. The REU interns prepared some research articles to summarize and discuss that were about the World in Miniature (WiM) idea. The group discussed it, and Jon told us that we had to determine the main questions that the study would intend to answer, if we were to go with that idea. After more discussion, we went with the navigation based on an avatar idea. I feel relieved to have finally decided on a direction for our project. I think that our group encountered some difficulty with choosing an idea because we didn’t have any experience working together, and we gravitated towards different ideas and, in the end, we had to choose one or another. I wonder if this is how research topics are usually determined, or if this situation was unique to our project. I think this would be an interesting question to ask the faculty or grad students.
Lucia, our grad mentor for our project, scheduled a one-on-one with me after the project meeting. We went to the atrium to talk. She asked me how I thought the project was going, and how I can be best supported according to my academic/career interests. I asked to clarify more about what would have to be done for the research, and I listened to her as she suggested ways that I can frame this research experience as being helpful to me in the future. I feel so fortunate as to receive this kind of support and guidance from her.
Later on, Abby led a Craft of Research session. We got together in our project teams and worked on our Materials and Methods sections. I found this activity helpful because now I have some content questions for Lucia and Jon, which should help us better write our Materials and Methods later on.
We had another Unity class this morning. I followed my advice from yesterday and tried to better understand how the code connected to Unity. I asked many questions and got help when I was stuck, which happened often. However, I’m hoping to learn enough Unity to contribute to the Teleport project. Soon, we can start getting an idea of what we have to learn in Unity to finish the experiment tasks.
After writing yesterday, we had the Unity course. When we got to the coding, I honestly got really lost. I think coding C# is really holding me back from doing well in Unity. I had some ideas on how to change up the code and get it to work, but all of my attempts were unsuccessful. It seemed, from the looks of the other bloggers, that they liked Unity, and I saw that many of them were able to code their cube right. I feel behind now, but I can try to make time to practice, and I can make sure to ask a lot of questions at the next class.
After Unity, I did the readings for the Craft of Research class that’s happening today. I read the first article as we were supposed to, but I found the second very interesting, although it was actually a guide on how to read research papers. The second paper was on conformity and distinction within gender. I read the notes to the side, and it described each part of the research paper, paying close attention about how each of the components are written. After reading many research articles this summer, I’ve been getting an idea of each of the parts and the style in which they are written. This second paper helped clarify the parts in a set structure, and I will likely use it for reference when I help write my project’s paper.
Yesterday, I went back to Freddy and read some of the Mansfield (see, writing out my goals yesterday has helped me be accountable to myself!). I’ve been using the post-it notes that we got on our first visit to VRAC. I’ve been writing big theme questions about the book on the cover, and I’ve been referring back to these questions as I read. It occurred to me that I could actually ask the author these questions if I were to email him. Mansfield’s old, but he’s technically still a professor at Harvard, and his email is listed on the website. And if he doesn’t get back to me, I can always just ask Dr. Bailey at UH.
That brings me to my next point: email is a very helpful tool in this time. It’s not hard to find the emails of academics, and if you have something substantial to ask them about grad school, why not send them a message? My mom gave me this idea when my boyfriend didn’t get into his dream PhD program, and he was planning to reapply this fall. She encouraged him to ask the faculty he would want to work with (not necessarily the people who will be deciding on him for his committee), about what he can do to improve. I asked him yesterday if he had gotten any responses back, and he said that most of them had replied. I think that’s awesome. It makes me want to email all the professors I want to work with someday! I think they would give some practical advice about my near future that I would have never thought of, if I hadn’t asked.
This morning, I walked for a change. It was rainy and wet outside, and yesterday when I had biked back in the rain, I was very wet by the time I got to Freddy.
After I got to VRAC, I searched for and read articles on the World in Miniature (WiM). Honestly, coming in to the last project meeting having read only 2 articles on WiM, I wasn’t very convinced that the idea would help us determine anything specific about spatial navigation in VR. After reading more articles this morning, I’m finding more evidence that the WiM really helps people perform better at the spatial navigation tasks, and now I’m more open to exploring the idea at the project meeting today.
I searched Jing Dong on the Iowa State website before the lecture for an idea of what her talk would be about. I was admittedly disappointed when I found out she was in civil, because I left that field for my lack of interest in it. Despite my previous thoughts, she talked about something that is of high interest to many of us growing up in a transforming transportation industry — shared electric autonomous vehicles. There’s so many things to consider when transportation sales become transportation services. I gravitate first towards the social and ethical concerns, such as: who is responsible for a crash? How would insurance work? Jing said that there’s much that needs to be done before we can achieve fully autonomous vehicles — which a large step from its stage 4, the current stage. I think my generation is an interesting position to see this transformation in transportation.
After I worked on my blog on Friday, we had another Maya course. I was unhappy with my virtual farm, and I think that’s because I thought that everyone else had put a lot more detail and better shaders into their farms. I consider myself to be artistically inclined, so I had exceedingly high expectations to produce better work than I did. I spent some time this morning changing up the shaders and some of the shapes on the house. It started to look a lot better, and finally it became something that I wouldn’t be extremely disappointed in if I was walking through it in VR. Unity seems to work very much like Maya with the lighting, shapes, and camera angles. I’m still a bit confused with the program, so I’m hoping that, with some practice, I can use my Unity skills to build something for my project.
Now I’m going to backtrack to the weekend —
We didn’t have any structured events for this weekend. I thought this was good, because then I would be free to use my time however I wanted. I’m learning now that I don’t use my time as wisely now as I did during the semester. I had to leave Freddy for the library or coffee shops to get any work done. I suppose that’s typical, however, because I usually can’t ever get work done at my dorm. Over the weekend, I worked on some personal/school projects, which I’ve been putting on the back burner for some time during this internship. I will articulate some of those goals here, and maybe you all can help keep me accountable.
- I really need to finish a risk management class for my student org, Painting Club, to be registered. I need to complete it as soon as possible. I’ve been putting it off because it’s a boring, university-mandated requirement. I’m not even an officer for the club anymore, but I was assigned to do the class for whatever reason or another. I’m not trying to write off the club by any means. I founded this club and I intend to make it sustainable, with the help of its future officers. I haven’t done this training yet because I would rather spend an hour of my time doing something else (a sad excuse, I know).
- I’m not very happy with my website, karinabhattacharya.com. It’s my professional portfolio. I’m partially unhappy with it because (a) I don’t have super complex projects or things to show and (b) I’m not sure if I like how its structured. A part of me wants to redo the website completely, but I know that will take a lot of time, and I’d just be bulldozing all the progress I’ve made. Right now, I’ll try to fix what I’ve got. I have also got to open the Adobe Suite often and make some graphics and image adjustments.
- I have got to read! Last semester, my professor told the class:
I’m assigning Ajax because I never do anything unless I have to do it, and I’ve wanted to read and teach this book for some time.Dr. Terry Hallmark, 2019
- I thought long and hard about the “never doing anything unless I have to do it,” and honestly I find it true to myself. But there’s a catch. I impose requirements on myself, so that I actually have to do things (other than work/school). I started Painting Club because I really wanted to teach art to college students, but it wasn’t a voluntary thing in my mind. I made myself do it. I never tell myself that I can or cannot go to office hours. I decide that I will, then I read the book, prepare questions, make an appointment, and go. Last summer, I read Taming the Prince by Harvey C. Mansfield Jr., and I couldn’t stop thinking about some of the arguments for the ambivalence of the executive. This summer, I’ve decided to reread it, and then I’m going to talk to one of my favorite professors, Dr. Jeremy D. Bailey, who’s also an expert on executive power. I’ve decided that I am going to do it, and I’ve been getting a lot out of it. I’ve made some progress, but I have to keep working.
- I also told myself that I should do undergraduate research, so I’ve got to begin reading for that. When I brought it up that possibility of research to Dr. Bailey, he told me that I have to be practical, and not just study political theory. That wouldn’t help me get into grad school. He asked, “What if I could write on a design movement that was motivated by political theory?” My mind went immediately to Soviet Russia, and I went to the UH Honors College’s resident expert on Russia, Dr. David Rainbow. He helped me explore research options, and I went to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s library to discuss possible topics with its director. I decided to go back to the Russia idea, but I’m a bit nervous about it. I haven’t studied Russia since AP Euro in high school, so I feel that I have a lot to learn to catch me up to speed before I get back to school.
- I need to keep practicing ID sketching, so that I can improve my skills before school starts.
Those are some school/personal goals of mine. On a side side note, look what I found in the trash can outside VRAC!
It’s blue insulation foam! I’m supposing that engineers throw that stuff in the trash, but industrial designers are the people who fish it out of the trash and make cool models out of it. You can even add on joint compound later and make it look like practically anything.
Anyways, I thought that was funny, and it made me miss studio, just a bit. Thanks for getting all the way through this post. If you do, please keep me accountable for all of these different goals!
Hi, I thought I would give an update because I wrote a really long post about grad school yesterday, and I did not mention what actually happened this week.
On Wednesday, we started Maya. Coming into this program, I did not know anything about Maya (I hadn’t even heard of it before). People were talking about it as an animation software, which prompted me to wonder why we were using it, but then I found out it was helpful in Unity. I thought Maya was an interesting program, but I think I like Solidworks better. Maya seems to abstract and it’s hard for me to place what I want on the ground plane. I’m just making random freeform shapes and trying to make them not float everywhere. I like Solidworks better because I like building models that are physically realistic. I’ll admit that Solidworks is harder, but I like its content better than Maya.
On Thursday morning, we had some time to work on our projects. I tried to find some articles on an idea I had for our teleport experiment, but I only found one that vaguely resembled what I wanted to study.
Rick Stone presented at our Luncheon lecture yesterday. I didn’t know much about welding, but I thought it was interesting how he set up his experiment for a 50/50 VR/Real World welding training. I admired that he was extremely thorough and did everything in his power to make sure that the two groups never interacted. He studied a lot of different variables, and from what I can perceive, he didn’t exaggerate his results at all.
I also learned about how he thinks engineers should work in creative team building. In the first project he assigns, he expects his students to fail, and it’s almost as if he expects it (although he does not tell them so). Their ideas get crushed by industry experts, but along the next projects, they learn how to overcome their failures and work together. I’m interested in becoming a design educator, so I am interested at his novel approach.
We had a project meeting yesterday, and we went over the problem statements and thought through our ideas more. Over the weekend, we’re going to read more articles about mapping interfaces and convene next week Tuesday.
This morning, we worked on Maya some more. I feel that the more I learn the features of the program, I feel more in control of my designs (and the program). Here’s a part of what my scene looks like now:
I was really confused with a Maya interface feature that we used to adjust edges on objects. I was unfamiliar with holding a mouse button, and I thought that graphics programs usually have keyboard shortcuts that give different menu options. I also did not see any of these options on the control panels, and I think it would be really hard for users to find these features if they did not know that they had to right click. Also, for this menu to appear, I didn’t have to hold down the right mouse click for very long, so I imagine that users would accidentally find this menu and be confused. I think this interface could have been improved by giving keyboard shortcuts and a drop down menu option for a clearer way on how to make these adjustments.
[Unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the kitchen cabinets at Freddy because my phone died, but for reference, see Jennifer’s post]
I didn’t like the kitchen cabinets at Freddy because they did not indicate which direction a user would have to pull to open them. There were also no handles on the cabinets, which made them difficult to open from a side angle. If I redesigned those cabinets, I would have added handles so that users may easily pull the cabinets open and also identify which side to pull them from.
I was considering grad school even before I started taking classes in my major, industrial design (ID). I guess I felt inclined to, because everyone around me was going to apply for graduate or professional school. I only had two friends who got a job straight out of college. That should be normal, but perhaps in a educational setting where an undergraduate degree is now the new high school diploma, it doesn’t mean so much anymore — or it’s just an expectation that people with certain jobs should graduate college.
I had a graduate school list ready to go before I started my major. I had to scour the internet for programs, because there wasn’t many that I was very interested in. I thought of these programs:
- MIT’s Integrated Design Management degree, for which you can apply to this interdisciplinary program from business, design, or engineering backgrounds.
- Stanford’s Impact Engineering degree, which is technically in the engineering department but has more of an innovation/product design focus. There’s also teaching assistantships available in the d.school, and I would love to teach design to undergrads.
I am also considering Harvard’s Doctor of Design and Carnegie Mellon University’s Master of Integrated Innovation of Products and Services. I think Harvard might have more of an architecture focus, and I might not be interested in that. Luckily, these programs only last three years each (which is the shorter program, because I’m majoring in ID during undergrad).
One of my professors told me that traditional industrial design masters (like the one at the University of Houston) are for engineering/other undergrad majors who didn’t major in ID. Some of the classes I take in undergrad are combined with masters students, so I doubt I’ll be getting an extremely different education. To be an ID professor, someone would need a masters, doctorate, or PhD. Most of my professors had masters degrees because they went the traditional masters route and didn’t major in ID as an undergrad, so they now have a masters in ID. A professor said, “it just worked out, and he got lucky that way.” For grad school, I chose those non-traditional ID programs because I want to learn something that I didn’t learn in undergrad.
The main reason I want to go to graduate school is because I want to teach. ID also includes research that I’m interested in, but it’s very different from the research that I’m learning here at VRAC (as far as I know). I have had experience teaching students the SAT by a service-learning program that I am a part of, and I also teach art classes to the Painting Club at UH that I started. Right now, I imagine teaching ID as my dream job. I would love to teach first-semester undergraduate freshmen in ID. Going through my education, I’ve put a lot of thought about how to teach design, and I’ve been talking to my professors about it, which is even making them rethink beginner ID education.
However, I don’t think I’ll start my career in design education, because ID is a very professional field. A non-ID professor gave me some practical advice: “You are majoring in something for which you can actually get a job, so seriously consider that first,” and after some hesitation, I agreed with him. Even to get into these competitive grad programs, I need to have some experiences working in companies, or starting my own company. I don’t see that as an unfortunate step, as something I need to do to achieve my eventual goal. I’m really excited about working at a company too. I think it would be amazing to work for a major company or consultancy and see the products I design go on the shelves. I imagine myself drawing, prototyping, and refining products, and I get really excited.
I’ve met people that are eager to graduate early, and I think that’s totally understandable, given their reasons. I used to be one of those people too, until I found something I really liked, and I added on another year because I had to. And when that didn’t work out for health reasons, I could’ve changed my major to something shorter, but I eventually I decided that ID was worth it. I also decided that I was going to do my best to take care of my health so that I could be healthy and happy with what I wanted to do. I’m so excited for my future in ID, not just long-term, but even for next semester. For instance, we’ll probably have to make a chair, and it will be a lot of work, but I will be glad to put in the effort. My professor told me once during office hours, “I’m guessing you have a lot of passion for what you do, and that’s why you’re here. I’ve only talked to two students like this, over what? 7 years?”
I’m really happy to be doing my major, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a pro. When I was about to start the studio sequence, I had high expectations for doing well in my major. I thought that my skills fit perfectly with what I had to do in industrial design, so I’d be naturally talented and successful. My skills did fit will, but I was a lot worse than I imagined. I had to try a lot of modeling techniques that I had no experience in, and I was really bad. I had to redo a lot of projects from scratch because I messed them up. Even drawing has always been something I thought I was really good at, but going through a drawing class last semester, I felt like I was starting from scratch. I did make a lot of improvement though, and I need to keep practicing this summer.
Also, I’m probably a lot better designer, not judging by the grades I receive (I’m in the B, B- range). A lot of upperclassmen told me about serious grade deflation in the program. Professors don’t really care, because they assume that everyone is going to get a job after they graduate, and employers only look at portfolios. This puts me in a difficult position for grad school. On top of the health issues bringing down my grades, I have to work extra *extra* hard, just to get my GPA above a 3.5 by the time I graduate. Right now, it’s been pretty static at a 3.3, and that’s been something that I’ve worked extremely hard on.
I was once in an ID class, and a new professor asked if anyone was interested in going to grad school, and not a single other person out of 30 raised their hand. I feel alone in this goal of grad school at UH. In this program, I feel comfortable — and even encouraged — to talk to people about my plans for graduate school. I’m happy to be in this environment where I’m learning so much about myself and how I can do research. I will very likely use what Iearned this summer to help me achieve my grad school plans some day.
Yesterday after lunch at 2, our project group met to discuss some final ideas for our research. We narrowed them down to a few, and discussed each. We’re trying to find an idea that’s realistic for us to build in Unity, as well as something that can be tested in the duration of the REU. I liked discussing the ideas, but I am eager to decide on one already, so that we can start making progress on our project. I hope that we can make final decisions by tomorrow.
We kept Stephen too long at our meeting, so the HCI class was slightly delayed. In the class, we listened to a presentation on the history of computing. I was most interested in the latter examples of human interaction, and I kept thinking about it. How do humans exist with technology? There’s so many possibilities for digitizing our modern products, or even creating products that no one has ever thought of before. Technology brings us so many things —convenience one of them,— but it also creates new human behavior and needs that designers have never had to consider before. I’m curious to see how I can eventually contribute to the body of knowledge on HCI. I’m excited to be an industrial designer, and I am confident that’s how I can best contribute to the field.
Next was Craft of Research. As I’ve been reading through many articles, I’ve been slowly deciphering what all of the results and tables mean. This Craft of Research session confirmed some of my prior assumptions, and it helped clear up some other concepts that I hadn’t quite learned yet.
Andrew’s yoga class was great. I like doing yoga on my free time, but I generally use an app, because I couldn’t make the morning classes last semester. I felt pretty comfortable throughout the session, and I was in a much better mood after it ended. After the class, I biked back to my dorm and took it easy for the rest of the day. I was really tired.
Since I went to sleep early last night, I woke up early this morning. I followed my normal routine, but I thought about ways that I could change up my days. I’ve been going to the gym a few days a week, which is a nice change. I’d like to walk around campus, explore the library, and perhaps get in contact with one of the industrial design professors. Jon suggested that we reach out to ISU faculty if we were interested in learning more about the programs at this university. I’ll keep that in mind.
This morning, we had another Solidworks class. I came in early and created a rough model of one of my products from last semester. That was good practice, because during the class, we continued to work on the parts. I think I’m getting better, and I am so happy when even a small piece turns out the way I want it to look. The piece assembly was really awesome, and I’m hoping to practice it again so that I can be better prepared for my industrial design classes.
Yesterday, we did another Solidworks practice. I could read the technical drawings of the parts really well, and I felt capable of making them all (although I didn’t know all of the features I would need on Solidworks). Solidworks is a breath of fresh air for me, compared to coding. In the class, we were modeling really boring parts, but it was good practice to get the basics down. I’d rather design cool products in Solidworks, but I’m glad to have this opportunity over the summer. This way, I’ll be well prepared for Solidworks next spring in my industrial design classes.
I’m feeling much better today than yesterday. I knew I was off to a good start when I woke up at 5:55am, and felt ready to start my day. I spent the morning with some tea and the assigned readings. I continued reading when I got to work around 8:30am. I wrote down notes for each Teleport reading. I thought through my idea for the teleport experiments, and I prepared some drawings to illustrate my ideas. I feel nervous about presenting it at the meeting later today. I like my idea, but I do not feel qualified enough to introduce an idea, when I am only a beginner with this experiment. I hope that I will have something to offer, even if they choose not to go with my idea.
Dr. Benard Canniffe presented at the Luncheon Lecture today. He was a graphic design professor in HCI, but he did not talk much on the technical aspects of his field. He talked at length on design education, and how the design process is simplified in colleges and universities. In practice, there’s many contributors and stakeholders in a creative project — he created a huge web to illustrate them all. His “Design-Service” class focused on teaching his students how to be intermediaries between scientific researchers and the community. He shared several projects that his students initiated. After the presentation, he answered questions on the immense difficulty of being allowed to help a community, and he described that through sustained efforts, 70% of his students’ projects were still being run.
I was interested in this talk because I am very involved the University of Houston Bonner Leaders, an Honors community service program at my university. I work to combat income equality in education by providing no-cost test preparation and college guidance to under-represented high school students who wish to go to college. I know that behind the formal presentations, there’s a lot of work that has to be done to make sure these projects run smoothly. It’s especially hard to work with community partners that don’t give us the assistance we need to run our projects in a time-efficient manner. I was glad to hear Dr. Benard’s presentation, and I was able to sympathize with many of his students on the difficulties of developing and sustaining a community project.
One of my favorite hobbies is finding ways to give back to the community through design. I have participated in Via Colori, a nonprofit chalk painting festival, for the last two years. I volunteer a weekend each November to create a large street mural. Hundreds of artists come from around the world to do the same, and the end result is an outdoor art gallery. The proceeds benefit the Center for Hearing and Speech, a community organization dedicated to helping children with hearing loss. Besides Via Colori, I have used my graphic design skills for many promotion and branding projects for the Bonner Leaders program. I like to give back as much as I can, and I hope to someday do the same with my skills in industrial design, or perhaps what I’ve learned at this internship.
The end of last week wasn’t quite okay, as you can read in my latest blog posts. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason, but I was feeling very low energy and that probably made me force myself harder to put effort into my work. I was happy to hear that the last C++ lesson was a recap of what we had learned, because that gave me time to finish the inheritance project. Overall, I think I did okay with C++, but I know that if I don’t use it, I’ll lose all the knowledge of what I learned. I’m sure it’ll be useful if I end up in some sort of web-based design, but I haven’t decided on my specialty in design. In a way, I don’t want to decide yet because I’m still in the early stages of my degree, and I want to keep my options open.
Saturday, June 8
I woke up early on Saturday, about the same time as my roommates. As for how the previous days went, I wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic to go to the ropes course. However, I was willing to follow through with the program. We met up with Andrew, who drove us to the ropes course. It was a beautiful day outside, and I was actually able to enjoy Iowa’s agrarian landscape this time, because it was pouring when Abby drove us from Des Moines.
When we got there, we gathered and did some team building activities. I have attended many leadership camps before, so I was familiar with the activities. Afterwards, everyone who wanted to swing individually got their chance, and after lunch, we climbed the structure. About halfway up the structure, I gave up and got let back down. I don’t like climbing, but I thought I should try because I had the chance. At first, I thought that those two activities were mostly individual, and not team-centered, but later I realized that teams of people had to participate for each person to participate safely.
At the end of the ropes course, I even had some energy to spare. I think the good weather really helped.
Monday, June 10
We started with our Solidworks course today. I am so relieved to finally work on a graphics-based program. I’ve never done Solidworks before, but I’ve heard from the industrial design upperclassmen from UH that they use it a lot. I’m happy to be getting a head start on the program this summer.
As for the program itself, I think I’ve been doing well. Alex said the ability to design in three-dimensions, and two-dimensions, at the same time, would be a very helpful tool that I’ve learned in Industrial Design. I’m glad to hear that what I learned in school can contribute to the objectives of this program.
I met up with Stephen today to discuss more about that — what I can contribute to this project from my background. This may sound really simple, but perhaps I can understand design from a human perspective. I’d like to create products that are accessible to the user. I’m not just concerned with how –or if it works, but I want to make sure that it’s something that people want to use. What makes them want to buy the product, or download the app?
We did another Solidworks session, and I enjoyed the second class too. I like looking at complex parts and figuring out what steps I have to take to make it. I find the reverse-engineering process interesting, and something very useful that I can master. The only thing I’m nervous about the journal club reading. I’ll have to find enough time to read it along with all the other readings that I have to do.
Today was been okay, just about the same as yesterday. I’ve continued to do some thinking on the question, “what am I doing here?”
I always tell myself that I don’t know anything. I won’t believe that statement every time I say it, because the learning I do isn’t recalling facts or functions. I know how to create, organize, and present. Still, it doesn’t feel like I know anything, because I can barely teach a novice a formal lesson about what I study. The type of learning we do in Design is so atypical that sometimes I think that I’m not attending lessons; I’m just working on a portfolio.
I know the majors of the other interns in this program, but when we list them off, all in a row, I can’t really tell how much each person has learned their field. “An industrial design student entering her fourth year” isn’t really an accurate way to describe my current situation. I haven’t been doing industrial design for the past three years. I’ve only done industrial design for one year–or actually if you count it by studios—for one semester. It’s about as far as I got when I studied civil engineering for a year, which didn’t feel very far at all, either. These past two years, I’ve personally struggled with not feeling like I’m making any progress. I have a feeling that I will continue to struggle with this until a year from now, at the latest.
I have a few problems. (1) I feel completely behind the rest of the class in coding, and I feel as if I can’t confide in anyone who knows it on my level. (2) I’m starting to doubt my coming into this program as an ‘expert’ in my field. I’m not a expert. For instance, drawing is so basic to industrial designers, and I feel behind the rest of my class at UH at that basic skill. Re-entering design school last year, I was so confident that I would do extremely well in Industrial Design because (a) if fit my natural abilities perfectly and (b) I would work really hard to get better. I did work really hard, but still came out as average, without much support from my instructors. (3) Since I don’t feel like I am bringing any extra skills to my project, I feel like a layman. At our project meeting yesterday, I felt very inexperienced because I didn’t know if any of the ideas I suggested were actually possible. It’s as if a person, with little to no experience in interaction design, computing, and psychology, was brought onto the project. When I applied to this REU, I thought, “wow it’s really amazing that they’re offering us this experience,” but now I feel really useless. I’m perfectly willing and able to complete what is assigned of us for our projects, but I don’t think that I can use any of my skills to help the group.
Well, I think one skill that might be useful is writing. The University of Houston Honors College has challenged my writing so much, and I think my writing has improved tenfold with every Honors class that I take. From what I’ve gathered from research writing, it seems to be a lot easier than the other types of writing I’ve learned. My goal is that I want to contribute substantially to writing the paper, and not to be completely overwritten (I might not have much control over that, though).
I feel that there’s a whole lot more for me to learn. Maybe I’ll enjoy the HCI class? Solidworks (and 3D printing, if that’s chosen as my Deeper Dive) would be extremely helpful in my major. Again, I have to be patient, and I would have to stay optimistic to give me the best chance of learning the material.
Hello again. When we started the program, Eliot warned us that there might be a point in the first few weeks when we might think, “what am I doing here?” I was hoping he wouldn’t be right, but now I’m asking myself that question. I thought I would be honest about it, as to avoid writing a fake blog post.
Why do I feel like this? Well, I think it started with the C++ training, and my lack of understanding any of the concepts. I think I would feel better about this if I just “clocked out,” and stopped caring about having to learn the language. I’m not going to do that. I’m not even sure why I won’t consider it an option at all, but I suppose that’s a good thing. I am still trying, and I know I will continue to try, despite my feeling bad about it. I need to find a resource where I can learn C++ without being on a completely different level than the rest of the interns. I’m also going to try to figure out what I could use C++ for down the road.
I was also having thoughts along the lines of “what am I doing here?” this morning. We had blocks of unstructured time, and I felt aimless. I drew out some concepts of virtual environments, but I’m still self-conscious about my drawing skills, so I might not present them at the project meeting today. I did organize some of my thoughts and observations from the research on paper, which I found helpful. I still feel limited with my ideas, however. There must be a lot more variety of virtual environments that we could test, and it baffles me that I can’t think of very many.
At the Luncheon Lecture, Evrim Baran, an expert on learning technologies, spoke to us. Interestingly enough, she was delighted to hear of my major, as she had minored in Industrial Design as an undergraduate. One of the insights she had is: that of all the courses she took in undergrad, she learned the most by designing products. Throughout her presentation, I saw how she used Industrial Design in her professional life, even as a specialist in education technology. She helps her students from all sorts of disciplines learn about how to integrate technology effectively into their curriculum.
I had hoped by the end of this post, I would find some profound conclusion to my initial problem, “what am I doing here?”, but I haven’t found it. I’ve only thought of some steps I should take. I need to give myself time to adjust to this new environment and figure out what more I need to do for my project.
After lunch on Monday, another C++ lesson was scheduled. All of the language is unfamiliar, but am confident that I can master it in time. I’m interested to see how I can use coding skills in industrial design. I only heard of coding mentioned with industrial design once. My friend created a medical device and her team partner had coded it. I don’t know any practical applications of coding in ID, but I would like to learn, hopefully using the resources available in VRAC.
On Tuesday morning, I came in early to practice C++, but I felt that I didn’t get very far. At 9am, the Craft of Research session focused on problem statements, as well as some information on IRBs. My fellow interns and I working on the teleport project gathered to collectively work on our problem statement. Interestingly enough, we all had slightly different perceptions of the objects of our project. We talked it over, but later confirmed our ideas with Lucia, when she gave us a tour of Jon Kelly’s lab. Later that evening, I reread the most recent draft of the teleport research paper. I reinforced my understanding of the project, and now I feel ready to ask my project mentors questions and suggest ideas on future directions. I also read our project’s IRB application, and now I have a concrete understanding of how the IRB evaluates projects, and I also learned of some smaller details of the project that I had not read about in the paper.
Eliot lead the Luncheon Lecture on Tuesday. I entered the room first and asked him how his day was, and he responded frustratingly, but I couldn’t quite understand what he was talking about. I was suddenly intimidated, but while he presented, I understood his claims that he could be a person who can be confided in. Eliot told us at the beginning that some of us would ignore his advice, although we really shouldn’t. I took this skeptically and curiously, wanting to hear what he had to say about his professional experience. He explained that he took a really roundabout way of education, professional experience, and academia. I was reminded of a presentation given to me by a product designer in high school. She showed a linear graph. That’s how some students expect their life to be when they leave high school, but the true result is a lot more complicated. It’s a web of finding something you like, realizing you didn’t like it, falling behind, getting back up, and repeating any of those steps again. Eliot’s message was the same as that product designer’s. In the end, they both found paths that were right for them, while taking positions that they loved. By the end of the presentation, I realized that I don’t ignore Eliot’s advice, because I knew it was truly helpful. In my short college career, I’ve experienced so many setbacks and turning points in realizing what I wanted to do. I feel like my current story is a piece of a much larger one. If I ever present like Eliot did, I’ve probably gotten enough life content for 7 minutes of an hour long presentation.
Photos with Paul — it was fun, although it was very warm outside. I really liked the photos that were sent out afterwards.
I came in early again to practice C++ this morning. I made much more progress than on Tuesday, and I think I’m getting the hang of some basic concepts. I’m still a little discouraged, because everyone else looks like they’re attending a Kindergarten lesson, and I’m struggling to keep up. But I bet they don’t know how to use Photoshop/Illustrator/InDesign like I do in ID, so I guess some people have different skills than others. I want more, so I’ll keep practicing coding.
Yesterday, I had a brief moment of doubt. I started thinking things like, ‘who in their right mind would accept a designer to this program?,’ or, ‘if engineers can do interaction design, then what do designers do?’ Honestly, I’ve got to stop doubting and start asking people these questions.
Shortly after my last blogging session, I went to the ARG training. That class that Stephen lead was one of the best classes I have ever been in. I find myself to be an insightful person, and this class helped give me answers about people that I’d been searching for. Here are some things that I’ve learned:
- “Not yet” instead of failure. I have found this strategy helpful myself. I’ve been getting used to “getting back up again” after failure, but it was a long and arduous process that I had to go through.
- Hierarchical — How close are you with your boss? I’ve experienced being on the same level with teachers since elementary school. I often struggle in classes, but if my professor knows me, and knows that I’m working hard and trying, they are more likely to give me second chances.
- Effects of assertiveness/dominance in group dynamic. I think most, if not all people, have experienced this if they work in groups. I find myself on both sides of the spectrum: I can give direction, or I can follow what other people are saying. In the latter, I usually assume that “diffusion of responsibility.” If it’s their problem, why should I feel like I can contribute to the group? I wonder if that’s the reason why most inefficient group projects result in one person doing all the work.
- Stereotype threat. This was probably the most profound example that I learned. If people feel like they’re being marginalized, they may try to work even harder to fight the stereotype. That stress takes up their concentration and they do worse at the task. I’ve learned, that especially when I’m competing, I have to forget my weaknesses and the stress over beating my competitor. I would just have to be the best I can possibly be, and that would be my best effort.
I experienced most of these examples before in my life, but learning them in a classroom environment was so fulfilling. I could only ask for more lessons like this.The project meeting that followed was productive, as we set out some work to do for our project.
Afterwards, we went on a tour of State Gym. It wasn’t as big as the campus rec at UH, but they have some great facilities and resources. I need to figure out when I can go there.
On Saturday, we went to work on bikes at Val’s. I got the impression, that most, if not all interns, had a great time there. I was the first person to choose a bike. I felt weird riding it at first, because I hadn’t done so in years. I soon got accustomed and I’m hoping to use it to move around campus. Lucas and I worked together to make a storage device to store Val’s many tires and wheels. We were basically just given one large and one small pallets to use. I think we worked together well. We used both of our ideas to create the final design, and we both contributed to the building. It’s nice to find out that my building skills actually came to be helpful here in Iowa.
Later on Saturday evening, Andrew took some interns to Summerfest at Campustown. We came just at the end of the kids festivities, so we saw the results of the cutest dog competition (Winston, the champion is pictured below). I also saw three baby goats that were sleeping next to each other, and I thought that was very cute. The root beer floats that were being handed out were an added bonus. We got dinner at Fuzzy’s, a Tex-Mex place (but is it Tex-Mex if it’s not in Texas?). I liked the food there, and I think I will definitely return to Campustown to check out more of the other food recommendations.
Sunday’s schedule was very fluid, as I did not have anything set planned for the day. I watched Dr. Kelly’s XR lecture, and although some of the findings were things that I learned before, I did learn more on the second round of watching it. My roommate, and also project fellow, Vrinda, discussed with me some ideas for experiments that we would share with the group. I’ll save those details for my notes, until we decide to go forward with one.
I arrived early for today’s C++ class, and I was nervous. I didn’t know how to code, and when the instructor asked people to raise their hands if they had, almost all the interns did. I felt like I was asking questions that would seem so obvious to the other interns. I got over those fears, and the class went along fine. I tried my best not to fall behind, and I seemed to keep up with the content, which wasn’t too much. He did say that we would be learning at a very fast pace, so I have to be able to learn quickly. I will spend the rest of this hour trying to nail down some basic concepts.
Following my last post yesterday, the REU interns took a pre-assessment for the REU program. I think this assessment could have been improved by the REU program coordinators creating a focus group of previous REU interns to evaluate proper questions for the assessment. I also think the survey project could use a larger staff.
The Craft of Research class on Thursday was beneficial to me because I learned about good and bad research. This was particularly helpful because I learned that bad research exists in the academic community. If I become immersed in any type of writing, I tend to agree with everything a persuasive author is saying. Two years ago, I read Hobbes and briefly started to agree with absolutism, until I returned to my US government mindset. I tend to respect most academics, as they are experts in topics I know very little about, but some professors do conduct bad research. This Craft of Research class taught me some indicators that would help me identify bad research and to form analysis of particular issues that are presented accurately.
Today has been an informative day thus far. I began the day by reading on the Meyers-Briggs assessment. The reading argued that the Meyers-Briggs test was popular yet not founded by evidence in the psychology academic community. We took the test, and to be honest, I’m not sure why we did. The test was not proven by researchers, but our program’s purpose is promoting research. For the team work assessment following, we were encouraged to look past the results of the test, so I am confused on why we sought the test’s results. As for the test itself, I received the same result as I did a few years ago. At the time, I personally had fallen into the trap of believing the test results to be true, because they captured some aspect of how I act. I know now that the test itself does not show the whole picture of a person’s personality.
The ISU library research class was highly informative. I conducted a literary review before, and now I greatly appreciate knowing all of the resources that are available to students. I think that I can thoroughly research this summer by supplementing the ISU databases with the University of Houston databases. I appreciate being a university student and having these resources available to me.
The VR technology tour expanded my appreciation to be researching at the VRAC this summer. I grew up in Maui, Hawaii, which had few computer science educational resources. My father, an Applied Business in Technology professor, has some of the most advanced devices at the only University/Community College on the island. VRAC has resources far beyond those offered on Maui. I was able to interactively experience VR/AR, 3D printing, and the C6. The resources at VRAC reaches far above any expectations I could have had of this facility. I feel fortunate to be researching here this summer.
Prior to beginning this REU, I had no expectations. I boarded a flight headed for a state I had never been to, people I have never met before, and at a university studying a discipline I had never explored. I was ready and willing to experience anything, although I was nervous.
After my arrival, I was in a whirlwind of memorizing people’s names and where they are from. I was overloaded with information, and it did little to help me set my expectations for the program. It wasn’t until the dinner at Steven’s house that I began to realize the nature of this REU. Steven and Elliot described an adventure of sorts, where strangers became best friends and where we could comfortably discuss new research that was unknown to us at the beginning of the summer. My nervousness still persisted, but I felt more assured in a program that had reliable experience.
Over the first three days, I went through orientations and tours with the other REU interns. I have clearer expectations for the program. I want to feel acclimated to the Iowa State campus, and be comfortable in exploring and using the different facilities. For my research project, I want to specifically know what I can contribute to the project. I want to answer:
- What am I good at?
- What can I use from my background to provide something that the other team members can not?
I also hope to place this whole REU experience in the context of how I can apply the skills I have learned to a job, and in the future, graduate school. I will keep reflecting on these skills and answering the above questions through my future blog posts.
My first two days at Iowa State were overwhelming yet exciting. There was a lot of information presented, but I am trying to take care to listen to all the instructions and guidance. I’ve already gotten to know some of my fellow research interns, and I’m excited to spend the summer with them. I came to Iowa State for a educational learning experience, but I have the idea that I will also learn outside the classroom and research lab.
What I hope to Learn