Prototype Feasibility and Plans

Posted on: Thursday, January 17, 2008


After considering the range of options, we have decided to produce a partially operational appearance prototype of our Sustain-a-Stack. This best suits the feasibility of our proposed product because we feel confident that we can build a hardware prototype of our box, which will look very close to what we want as our final physical form, with some of the functionality partially working. For instance, we will attempt to have a partially working version of our watering system for this prototype, as well as our humidity sensor; but, we know that it will be a difficult process to get these functions working, so we will be content to have these moderately working.

A. Software Issues
1. Software involved: Flash

2. Programming the Arduino board to sync with Flash is a technical issue that we will need to overcome, as only a few of our members have done this before. Also, programming the calendar and the humidity-sensing functions of the widget will be other programming issues that we’ll need to deal with.

3. We believe that we can deal with these issues as we have two members who have had prior experience working with Flash and Arduino together (Kiks and Brian), as well as an expert ActionScript programmer (Manuel); the other remaining members of the team also have working knowledge of Flash.

4. Our primary option is to use Flash and Arduino together. But, as a backup, we are willing to try other options, such as Max/MSP and Arduino, or Max/MSP and the Teleo kit (most of our members have experience with Teleo).

5. All the members of our team have access to both Flash and Arduino-related applications. Any “special” equipment, such as the Arduino board, can be borrowed from the library. Alternatively, Andrew is planning on purchasing an Arduino board himself, so we will most likely be using his, with the library’s as a backup (and/or for testing purposes).

B. Hardware Issues
Our main focus is to have the hardware detect information to send to the Arduino board which will take a bit of trial and error. Enough time is alloted for this task and if we have extra time, we can shift our focus to having the buttons and the watering work.

1. Hardware involved:

  • Arduino - library (then later on, buy one for ourselves)
  • sensors - potentiometer, temperature sensor, humidity sensor (?)
  • LED’s
  • wires
  • wood
  • housing (start of with cheap plastic for the prototype)
  • buttons (to control the light and water distribution)
  • soil
  • plants - start off small (Pete II)

2. Getting multiple sensors to interact with the Arduino board will be one of the major technical issues that we will need to overcome. Making sure that the water and soil from the plant’s environment do not disrupt the electronic hardware components (and vice versa) will be another issue. Finally, getting the buttons to work correctly (e.g. releasing water whenever the water button is pushed) is another issue to deal with.

3. Though we’ve had prior experience with Arduino, we’ve never tried connecting more than one sensor at a time, which will require more research and experimenting in this aspect. Some of our members have dealt with electronics before so we’re fairly confident with solving most of our hardware component concerns.

4. In the case that a specific sensor does not function as we intend it to, there are other sensors out there that we can use as substitutes. Our options for the hardware will depend on the availability of supplies in the stores that we will be going to.

5. All the hardware that we will be needing are easily accessible at any hardware store. We will be doing most of our purchases at Lee’s on Main Street and the other electronics store on the same block. The whole group has agreed to pitch in to pay for the materials that we will be needing for this semester.

1. We have roughly 4 weeks to prototype before the presentation and user testing.

  • First Cycle: Rough construction of the form of our box, and a low-fidelity interface of our widget;
  • Testing: Running our tests with the same, or at least similar, types of people that we interviewed in the first semester, as they represent our actual user group.
  • Second Cycle: We’ll take the feedback from the testing and put it towards our “Final” prototype, which will hopefully be working…

2. Most of the construction will be done on Saturdays and Monday nights. We will also want to bring whatever we have ready to class to get instructor feedback, ask questions and to continue working on it.

3. We will be taking care of the funds that we need for the project. Outside dependencies will just be help and advice from instructors. The amount of supplies and resources that we will be needing is undefined as it will continue to change through our trial and error prototyping process but we have already listed down what we need for the initial construction session this Saturday.

4. Roles of members:

  • Hardware-wise, Andrew, Derek, Kiks and Kurtis will be dealing with wiring and attaching the sensors, buttons, etc. to the constructed physical prototype. Brian will be in charge of getting these components to transmit the necessary input to the software side of the product.
  • Software-wise, we will be assigning Manuel to do the Flash ActionScript programming, working closely with Kiks, who will be handling the Flash-to-Arduino programming components. Derek and Brian will be assisting Kiks and Manuel wherever they can.Sammy will continue to manage the group, make sure we stick to the timeline and do the shopping for materials needed.

5. We have back-ups for most of the aspects of the prototyping phase. The alternatives for the technical software and hardware components are discussed in our feasibility study above.

Whew! That was a long post. We’ll try keep it short and sweet next time :)