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SENSUS

At-home screening device for diabetics at risk of peripheral neuropathy that increases their chances of early detection

2.009, Product Engineering Processes, is an MIT class designed to provide students with a team-based product development experience. The class is intended to emulate what engineers might experience in a design team at a modern product development firm. As part of a corporate innovation strategy, students will create product opportunities inspired by a very broad product theme. With a team of 18 students, we designed, built, and launched a working alpha prototype of Sensus while managing a $7000 budget over the course of three months.

Feel free to walk through our early phases of product development: opportunity identification, idea generation, customer and market data collection, idea selection, concept development, mockup building and testing, embodiment design, and the construction of a high quality functioning alpha prototype.

Idea Generation

Given the theme of 'Kindness', our team set out to individually brainstorm any and all product ideas. These ideas stemmed from various sources, from our own interests and experiences to an idea fair held by the class. This idea fair presented us with ten different and real problem spaces, ranging from managing and showcasing an orchestra during a pandemic to creating interactive devices for zoo animals. After individually brainstorming, we narrowed down to a few ideas each to present to the team.

3 Ideas Presentation

Considering potential customers, market, technical feasibility, and other assessment criteria, our team voted on six final ideas to present to the class. This is a critical step in the process of choosing a direction for our team’s final project. Using a poster to highlight the main features, we gave a short elevator pitch on each of our ideas. Our team’s ideas shown in the gallery were mainly related to empathy, comfort, and protection.

During this stage, our team was also just getting to know each other. We learned each other’s interests, strengths, weaknesses, and communication methods and as the system integrator this was especially important to me. I was beginning to delegate tasks, figure out timing/scheduling to keep everyone on track, and standardize communication across the team. This would set a strong foundation for our team moving forward.

Sketch Model

Exploring and addressing as many key questions about our concepts as possible, our team set out to flesh out our top four ideas by creating sketch models. These were presented to the class to inform classmates and instructors about concepts that we were thinking of, and to obtain helpful design feedback early in the process that would help us decide which one concept would be pursued for the rest of the term. We presented Boost-It, TranquiliSeat, Blubricator, and PNAT. Boost-It sought to solve the problem of easily and safely raising and lowering equipment on a ladder. TranquiliSeat aimed to create a seat stabilization solution that would make car rides more comfortable especially for those who endured recent injuries. Blubricator explored a small, portable bike chain lubricating solution that would make the process much easier and more efficient. Lastly, PNAT was the earliest iteration of Sensus that aimed to test for peripheral neuropathy in the comfort of the patient’s home.

The biggest takeaway from this stage of the design process were the following:

  1. Focus on the users (and other stakeholders) more as this is important in directing the product.

  2. Don’t be afraid to explore all avenues. This applies to every aspect of the idea from its functionality to its design.

  3. Communicate often between task forces. This can be by appointing task force leads and having regular updates.

Assembly Review

The goal of the assembly review is for our team to develop a clear, detailed, and shared view of the overall product and its architecture. During this time, however, we are still continuing to explore design options and performing physical tests for high risk aspects of the design. For this review, we created early stage CAD models, interaction storyboards, and a product contract that includes a description, value proposition, user persona, market, customer needs, product attributes and engineering specifications.

 

The biggest takeaway from this stage of the design process were the following:

  1. Conduct lots of user testing to get as much feedback as possible on the current iteration.

  2. Use all the resources you have at hand. This includes literature as well as staff, users, peers, and more.

  3. Prepare a timeline such as a Gantt chart to keep the team on track and on the same page.

Technical Review

At this stage, our team aimed to inform instructors about the state of our functional, final prototype and to obtain critical feedback. The review helped us practice how to factually present a product prototype to colleagues in a professional working context and obtain design feedback. At this point, we had a fully functional prototype in which the most important technical features of the product were working and testable by users. We tackled the most difficult technical challenges early on so that there would be time to try multiple approaches. Then, we left time before the technical review to work on the integration of the components and the resulting debugging of the completed system. The feedback received at this stage set us up to build our final alpha prototype for the final presentation.

 

The biggest takeaway from this stage of the design process were the following:

  1. Interface between task forces often and early. Communicate often while being transparent with timelines and backlogs.

  2. Make critical design choices as early as possible to leave enough time to build and iterate based on feedback and testing.