Week 2: Hitting the Ground Running

Week 2 has been another long and exciting week. I am exhausted, but excited for our day off tomorrow where we’ll be traveling to La Paz, a famous water fall garden not far from San Jose! This will be our first (and hopefully not our last) opportunity to get to see some of the natural beauty of Costa Rica. I love the outdoors, so this trip will be some much-appreciated food for the soul.

The main reason this past week was so tiring was the short course on medical device innovation we have been participating in over the past 4 days. Essentially, each of us was put into a team with local Costa Rican students to present a design for a medical device that we had scoped over the past few days. What would normally be spread out over months or maybe years was compressed to four days. That meant we always had to move faster than we wanted to, making broad assumptions and general calculations. This was very challenging for me (and from what I’ve gathered, many of us in the cohort). I wanted to know more about the need we were addressing and the technology we were using in our design, but was frequently told my team needed to move on to finish everything in time for our presentation. Upon reflection, I’ve noted this tendency has its pros and cons. On one hand, it will push me to gain a depth of understanding on problems I work on in the future. On the other, I suspect I will also have to be able to make engineering decisions without all the facts. If everything else was a bust from the course (which it wasn’t), I at least got better at having to make impulse decisions.

Low-fidelity prototyping with bajajs

The course had plenty of high points though. One of the most entertaining was the introduction to low-fidelity prototypes where we designed a “bajaj” to safely carry ping pong balls as fast as possible down a zip line and into a collision with a wall. I’ve attached a picture of my team’s design, which got dubbed “the purse.” I’m confident we would have had the best design (gone down the zip line fastest without losing the ping pong balls) had the bottom of the zip line been more than a foot off the ground. Due to our tall and heavy design, we ran aground and never made it to the wall. But alas… Maybe the competitive side of me is still a little bitter. 🙂

A low-fidelity prototype of our final design: a device to control posture of patients with cerebral palsy in wheelchairs

After being introduced to low-fidelity prototyping with the bajaj, we began prototyping for our actual design in the short course. The idea was to physically embody our idea in the simplest way possible to get a better understanding of its performance in a short amount of time. Each team was able to choose from materials like popsicle sticks, cardboard, pipe cleaners, and good ‘ol duct tape. I found this to be surprisingly helpful in evaluating our ideas! My team was able to determine very quickly that our first idea would not be able two requirements we had set for it, which allowed us to pivot while we still had time. This tool will definitely be one that I take with me for a while.

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