Studying Abroad at TU Delft (2018-19)
This past semester I was fortunate enough to be one of three students selected to attend an exchange semester at TU Delft in the Netherlands. This was a first for me as well as for the University of Cincinnati as we were the first class of students to attend TU Delft from our program. I participated in a master’s level exchange with a focus on integrated product design and advanced concept development. I spent my semester working with a group of other international students to deliver a proposal for the next generation microgravity research workspace for the future of manned space flight. I have put together a video explaining the exchange for future UC study abroad students that sheds light on what to expect and gives context to the program:
I grew immensely as a designer at TU Delft. I was exposed to completely new prospectives and approaches to design. TU Delft holds a uniquely methodological approach to design. I learned about different theories of approaching product development and innovation as well as project management. These more quantitative methodological approaches served as an interesting counterpoint to the more qualitative approach to design that have grew accustom to at UC. I found myself pushed to conduct thorough user research studies and deep literature reviews of academic papers to inform my design decisions. For me this was valuable alternative to the more ethnographic ‘deep dive’ studies and rapid user testing that I have been practicing.
As much of the curriculum was focused on group work, I was able to learn and swap design approaches with Dutch and other international students as we tackled hard design problems hands on. This resulted in a mixing of design methodologies and approaches to problem-solving from many different schools of thought. I never fully appreciated how wide the field of design was before being exposed to so many different perspectives.
The focus on group work also taught me a lot about myself and how I function working in a team. I learned how stubborn and slow to compromise I could be. Early in group work I would find this slowing down our process as much of the time would be spent discussing how to accomplish something but not actually working. I grew to recognize my tendencies as time progressed. Though I have a long way to go I feel that I have made a start in becoming a better team player.
Most of all I grew in my world and cultural understanding. I was always told that studying abroad is life changing but I always assumed that this was a result of learning how another culture lives and expanding your prospective. For me the prospective expanding moment was more of a realization how similar life is regardless of context. I went into this experience looking for differences to expand my horizons but what I quickly found was just how much of life is the same. I put together a video reflection of this with the clips of video I have collected while abroad:
This experience I will not soon forget. I feel that I have grown bother professionally as a student of design and personally as a globally minded individual. I have learned so much about my field and about myself. Most of all have gained friends from all over the world. With luck these connections will go some way to making this world just a little bit smaller. After all, I feel that it is bonds like these that hold the world together, particularly in light of recent events.
Building a Guitar (2017)
Since I was a kid I dreamed about making my own guitar. I have binders full of old doodles of guitars on my wide ruled school paper from elementary school. It has been a long time coming but I have finally fulfilled that childhood dream.
The goal I have myself was to design and build an electric guitar that fit into an established brand’s lineup. I followed a user-centered design approach where throughout the design process I used woodworking and rapid prototyping to execute my design intent in a physical working model. I started the prosses by analyzing the current guitar offerings of Fender (a premier guitar manufacturer), and identified a market opportunity for the brand in an entry-level student guitar. I then explored ideas (what us design types call ideating) on what an entry-level guitar would be for Fender by implementing a user-centered design and continually asking the question: what the target consumer would want from this guitar? I started with sketches then refined my design in CAD (computer aided design). During this process, I tried to keep in mind how the guitar would be manufactured so the execution of the design would be economical. I used rapid prototyping technologies like laser cutting and CNC machining to produce a prototype and final functional model.
Throughout the process, I enjoyed being able to apply the skills I have learned in studying industrial design. I have been play guitar since I was in the 5th grade, and for almost as long I have been dreaming up and sketching guitar ideas. Now I have finally achieved my childhood dream of designing a working guitar and that sense of accomplishment is very rewarding.
One of the toughest aspects to deal with in this project was investing a lot of time and effort in doing something one way just to find out that it was the wrong way to go about it. There were plenty of times in the project where I had to backtrack and redo or fix parts of the guitar or design. I spent a lot of time going back and forth between my physical prototype and my CAD model, refining and reworking the ergonomics of my design. Some of the hardest moments came when modeling the guitar in CAD where I had to approached making the form a number of different ways before I was able to get useful geometry that I could properly cut on a CNC machine.
Through the project, I dealt with all sorts of unexpected complications and I got pretty good at rolling with the punches (and scouring the internet for answers). One of these moments was having to deal with chipping on the surface of the guitar after milling it out on the CNC. I ended up having to sand back most parts of the model and recut the rounded edges by hand. That being said, I know now better ways of approaching building guitars now if and or when I make another one.
Along the way of realizing this project, I picked up many technical skills. At the onset of the project, I had never used CAD software or set foot in a woodshop. In fact, my prototype guitar was made mostly by hand with the aid of a templet I had laser cut from an Illustrator (2D graphics software) file. The prototype served as my introduction to wood working. I developed a new-found appreciation for the craft in the hours I spent in the DAAP woodshop. However, it was there in the DAAP shop where I was introduced to what a CNC router could do. While I was working one night a CNC operator from DAAP’s rapid prototyping center was milling out a car model. I was amazed at how this machine could turn a block of material into a perfect car model. That’s when I decided I needed to polish my CAD skills and see what I had to do to utilize that machine to make my project. In the process of doing that, I ended up getting a job at the prototyping center running that very machine.
In addition to the technical skills, I also grew personally. This has been the first time I have juggled a long-term extracurricular project along with my regular school work. I would be remised if I didn’t say I experienced setbacks, for I had more than a few, including working without access to a shop on coop. As a result, the project dragged on longer than I had anticipated. That being said, I learned a lot in the process. I had to figure out how to be quick on my feet and fix problems or change directions when I faced obstacles. I like to think I matured through the process by becoming more self-driven. In fact, I hold these soft skills far above the technical ones I gained as they have applications far beyond that of just designing and building a guitar.
There is no shortage to the applications of the soft skills I developed. I have learned a lot from having to seriously think this project through from start to finish. During the project, I had to think about what step was next and how I planned to execute that next step. This planning and forethought is applicable to anything. I have found that I am already applying this to my day-to-day life. Now on co-op, I before I get to work, I think about what I have to accomplish and how I will accomplish it. As cliché as the phrase ‘internalize and execute’ is, I find that it is the key to delivering on responsibilities.
In a very direct way this project will be an important addition to my portfolio for my next job search. It demonstrates my ability to design, draw and style a product while also showcasing my ability to bring that design to life. This is very valuable as much of the time in industrial design it is one or the other, designing/styling or making/engineering, and this project bridges the gap between that ‘warm’ and ‘cold’ design. In a larger sense, this project has made me grow as an individual. By giving myself a challenge to accomplish and delivering on it, I have enabled myself to develop skills that make me more self-disciplined. This project has been a transformative experience and spurred me to grow in not just surface-level technical abilities but in a more abstract way as a person.
View presentation and feedback from the luthier community on reddit here
Communication and Leadership (spring 2016)
This past semester (spring of 2016) I had the privilege of taking and participating in a communication and leadership seminar specifically targeted at majors within DAAP. We practiced public speaking, perfected the art of the elevator pitch, investigated cover letters, explored how the way we dress affects how we are pre-saved, and practiced formal dinner etiquette and toast making.
I found how difficult it can be to communicate exactly what you mean to convey in a simple elegant way in a public speaking setting. This is especially true when trying to sound sincere and authentic, not like a scripted robot. This spurred me to develop my own system of notes for presentations short of a script but more than just bullet points.
Throughout the course this importance of concise communication held true. I was able to directly apply this concept to my studio critiques to better convey the my designs and the processes I took to achieve them.
Bellow is a sample of the notes I developed for my elevator speech. I designed it so that I had more substantial prompts for each talking point with strong concise phrases but more flexibility than a prewritten script. I did this so that I could retain more authenticity and sincerity in what I say than just reading a script.