Design term has started again, which means I will again be embarking on a month-long project following the four stages of the design cycle — this time I will be creating an artificial heart valve and presenting it to students in grade seven. As per tradition, design day kicks off the project with a series of activities designed to ‘tune us in’, to borrow a few words from the PYP inquiry cycle.

Embedded below is a video reflection of my key takeaways from today’s activities, which included a series of brainstorming activities and a rapid prototyping group task.

I used to think that a product design had to be planned meticulously before putting being put into practice. But today Mr. Metz placed a lot of emphasis on ‘failing fast’ — i.e., getting a prototype out there as quickly as possible, even if there is a chance of failure. Now I see why it is always beneficial to identify weaknesses in a design so they can be patched up in the next prototype.

For example, pictured below was our group’s initial prototype. Most of the design was good in theory; we attached latex tubes through which water could flow and used of a plastic sheet for the valve mechanism. However, we made a portion of the design using cardboard, which, in hindsight, was not the brightest idea I’ve ever had. Sure enough, the cardboard became soaked after testing and soon began leaking water.

Prototype 1

We were able to bounce back our mistakes, however. Our second, refined prototype was a lot more auspicious, as we limited ourselves to water-resistant materials. As shown in the image, we found a way to trap the water using a glove, with the help of a suspended balloon. This experience certainly proved Mr. Metz’s point well!

Prototype 2

If I could do the activities all over again, I would try to document the process more comprehensively by taking more photographs as evidence of our group’s progress. This was another main talking point of the day — Mr. Metz stressed the importance of using multimedia to document the evolution of our designs.

Lastly, a few administrative items. During the initial activities we were asked to create a mind-map of what we knew about the project, what we wanted to know, and where we could find that information:

Mind Map

We were also tasked with drawing and labelling a diagram of the heart. Having a group member with a penchant for art certainly helped with this one!

Heart Diagram

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