In approximately 35 hours of a work week, our team had completed a (mostly) fully functioning prototype for our DialOasis implementation project! An unbelievable feat that we were all certainly proud of. A feat like this requires concentrated time blocks of work, efficient planning, quick decision making, and of course a skilled team.
As a little recap of our project- DialOasis was a design conceived in last year’s GMI team and it was our goal this year to execute this design in Costa Rica, working with the materials and tools accessible to us. This is easier said than done. In the United States, we are spoiled with a wide variety of machines, innumerable materials organized neatly online, and even the familiarity with stores and store types available. When working in a country that is foreign to you and even more so not very developed in the digital world, much of what you find is by word of mouth- hence conversing with the locals is absolutely vital. Additionally, having a key local collaborator as we did with Invenio University to provide a work space and their assistance in making this project aided our team immensely.
When approaching our project we had pre-established teams working on the various aspects; material acquisition, prototype design and manufacturing, and prototype testing. I was on the design and manufacturing team. Throughout the week, each team had to present their findings and designs to the rest of the teams as mini check-ins for the progression of the project. I found these progress updates to be very important as they laid the foundation for the iterative process of design. Each team’s presentation introduced more information that either confirmed or altered another team’s plans. For example, when the materials team presented to the build team their findings in the local hardware store, it caused the build team to reconsider how we constructed the layout of the dialysis room. Another key turning point for the build team was when the testing team presented several good considerations we needed to take per the recommendations of a maintenance engineer and doctors at Liberia Hospital. I noticed at times each team’s decisions were contingent on another team(s) so it made it difficult to proceed. In the future, it would be more helpful if the teams collaborated more during their decision making processes, prior to the check-ins. Again, I highlight the fact that the design process is by no means linear. In fact, it goes forwards then backwards then forwards again and maybe even through a loop! But that is all the fun (or not so fun) parts of it and most importantly what makes a good project.
Now to focus more the build’s team process. My team was made up of me, Ryan, and Sanjana. It was imperative for our build team to design and properly execute the ideas we came up with through CAD, but with limited time we mostly needed to physically test our ideas on the go. During the idea brainstorming process, I found myself mentally shutting down my own ideas that didn’t make sense. This is mainly coming from a lack of experience for building large scale objects using power tools and not knowing what was at our disposal. However, I learned that I needed to think a little bit further than outside the box- call the ideas “wild”, if you may. It is these “wild” ideas that can spark breakthrough solutions. As a team, we had to plan the key features of the dialysis room: how the panels connected, the sink (which I will delve deeper into), the layout of the room, accessory units, and the door. The engineers at Invenio were incredibly supportive in helping us build the frame of the dialysis room, which allowed us to focus on the sink design.
The sink was the star of the show for our prototype because it was the biggest aesthetic concern for the dialysis patients. Prior to beginning a dialysis session, patients must wash their hands for 5 minutes of rigorous scrubbing and keep their hand sterile during the process. Therefore when designing the sink we had ensure that the sink provided sufficient space for the patient to wash their hands (without floor spillage). It also had to be feasibly built or bought, a reasonable cost, and easy to maintain by the patient. We ended up coming up with a trough-like shape for the sink that would be wide enough for the patient’s hand-washing process. Because the material’s team had a limited resource cache, our sink idea could not be found in the hardware stores, so we decided to build and manually bend this sink out of stainless steel with an origami approach. To explain what I mean by origami, we had to cut and bend the stainless steel (and I will emphasize manually, thanks to Dr. Richardson for helping us a ton!) to enclose on the sides and attach to the back piece of stainless steel… all in one piece! It turned out pleasantly very successful. The back panel included a shelf for soap and towels and we also installed a rain- gutter system underneath to catch the used water into a bucket. All the remaining fine details of the layout were ironed out after we finished the sink with the help of the other teams. We were so relieved that our sink idea worked out even better than we thought.
Now although our job was technically done, making the prototype is only part of the implementation process. Next we had to get patient and hospital staff feedback! Well actually first we had to disassemble and transport this dialysis room over an hour drive to the hospital, in which some of the drive consisted of very bumpy roads. Additionally, the truck that we had to use to transport the room was too small and on Thursday at 8pm, we had no other options… Working with what we had, we managed to situate the panels in teepee structure that really stabilized the pieces well, with the help of straps and cardboard!
Friday was the day that all our hard work and dedication would shine! We had the opportunity to set up our dialysis room in the dialysis department in the Liberia Hospital. Four dialysis patients and many nurses, doctors, and even the hospital director crowded in the tiny room to offer their perspectives and share their enthusiasm. We received a lot of very valuable viewpoints and feedback that would benefit the room and ultimately the patient using the room. Some of the patients were simply too happy to point out any flaws, but the more feedback we heard- the more we can improve for the second iteration of the prototype. It was exciting to see DialOasis become a viable product that will soon be in patients’ homes in Costa Rica and even more exciting to see patient’s reactions and hear their expectations.
Looking back on this ‘sprint’ to complete a DialOasis prototype, I enjoyed completing this big project in such a short time period. We concentrated what really could have been a month’s work into one week. Yes it was hard, but having less time created more pressure to allow creative productiveness to flow. It was especially crucial to have the stakeholders’ thoughts on the project sooner rather than when the final product was fully complete to ultimately save time and money
Here at GMI, we tend to live by mantra of work hard, play hard. We ended our full week with an adrenaline rushing zip-lining tour in Monteverde! It was unbelievably amazing and exhilarating. The zip line course took us through the densely packed forests and high above the cloud forests, making us feel like birds in the sky.
We are now back in the central valley of Costa Rica in the city of Santa Ana. Although, I will miss the wildness and jungle setting of Guanacaste, it also made me appreciate what the central valley provided- less bugs and less humidity! This week we will get ready for our internships through a one week industry course. It is also my birthday on Tuesday so I’m looking forward to celebrating with my GMI team 🙂
Until next week! Pura Vida.