The splash-proof bowl is an engineering design accomplishment because it was my first use of a formal design process and I believe the results were amazing. My team and I worked seamlessly and efficiently and we ended up with a high quality design.
The original design brief my team was given was to reduce splashing caused my pouring liquids into containers such as tea cups and pots because hot liquids like coffee or boiling water can cause burning. This opened up a vast opportunity to define and frame.
The root problem my team acknowledged was that pouring liquids causes splashing which causes burns. As per our interpretation of the design brief, the problem was not protecting the end user or transferring contents of the liquid. It was to reduce splashing. The original problem was therefore accepted. The original objective however; scoped only to one cause of the problem, namely the splashing caused from transfer of liquids between containers. However; it follows from the problem that the objective is to mitigate splashing in general.
We recognized multiple sources of the same problem. Liquids splash in the following scenarios:
- Transfer of liquid from one container to another (as per the original brief)
- Dropping/placing solid objects into liquids
The original design brief also scoped coffee and tea as causes of splashing and burns.
In general, we decided splashes caused by pouring tea or coffee are trivial and outside the scope of the problem. This is because coffee and tea is poured from a reasonable short distance generally through a sprout (that increases accuracy) and it is poured at a relatively low rate compared to pouring a whole pot of water into a different container. As such, the problem does not pertain to pouring coffee or tea and the engineering team has re-scoped the problem to dealing only with large containers with high volumes of liquids.
We then listed our objectives. The original design brief requested a solution that costs less than a funnel ($1.49) but we decided this was not adequate. It was not reasonable to require the solution to perform better than a small piece of plastic that was terrible at the same task. We changed it to $15 which is the price of a standard IKEA pot. The rest of the objectives were derived from the client, namely: conserve pouring efficiency, affordable and simple to use.
The next step was to conceptualize. My team tried a variety of method and admittedly this is where I determined which methods were most effective. We tried brainstorming together as a group and brainwriting except instead of presenting solutions were simply pass our piece of paper around. Afterwards we surmised to use a tweaked brainwriting method (as described in my process) and techniques to apply in order to be creating (wishing and challenging assumptions). Through this process we came up with a lot of designs. We decided we had enough solutions and that our framing was adequate so we proceeded to the critique and analysis step.
The pictures above were the remaining concepts after the first two iterations of the process defined below. The images in them were the very first ultra-low fidelity prototypes.
During the critique and analysis step we analyzed each solution for weaknesses and strengths. During the first iteration we made drawings and talked about feasibility and linearity with our requirements. We eliminated designs like that. Next, we used pugh charts to compare each of the remaining solutions. The pugh charts helped us realized which designs excelled, where they excelled and why. This allowed us to combine two designs during the next iteration which ended up becoming our final design. The final design chosen was a hybrid of a curved pot with three legs and a pot that had a groove in the middle in which a divider could be inserted and removed. The idea was that to reduce splashing caused by pouring, the curvature would mitigate impulse. On the other hand when considering reducing splashing by dropping solids into liquids one of my team members thought, “what if the liquid was not there to begin with?” The divider thus isolates the liquid to one side. Solids would be placed in the other and the divider could then be removed to allow merging. Only due to time pressure did we not create prototypes of the different designs.
During the prototype step, we created low-fidelity prototypes of our final design made out of construction paper and tape. This is different from the ‘refine’ step where high fidelity prototypes are made. This prototype served only to show the application of one of our features, namely the divider. The prototype allowed us to visualize the design and through feeling it the team realized some shortcomings. One of them was that the divider could only be used once in the beginning. Secondly, the depth of the grooves and sealing techniques had to be researched. Third, the divider might serve to remove heat from the liquid it isolated so it would have to be made of some thermal insulating material. These were some of many.
This lead to the refinement step. Under pressure of time we refined the features. For example the detailed design team we ‘subcontracted’ recommended polypropylene plastic as the material for the divider. This lead to a semi-polished final product which we were able to present to the teaching team.