Capstone: Final Writing and Documentation – TA




CADMUS | Mission to Europa

Space exploration is becoming more and more automated with probes, satellites, and rovers flying forth from Earth’s orbit while humans haven’t gone farther than the International Space Station in decades.  This is hardly surprising considering how expensive and risky space exploration is. Yet there is still a call for human exploration, particularly with endeavors like Mars colonization. Something is still drawing humans out into space despite the greater dangers and higher costs.  Humans may not be the sole explorers of outer space anymore, maybe not even the main explorers, but their role is still important. Alongside the robots, drones, and AI that will undoubtedly come to characterize space exploration, human explorers continue to fill a critical role. This project aims to bring that importance, along with the abundance of technology that now accompanies space exploration, directly to the general public as an immersive experience.

This installation immerses the user in the sensation of space exploration, highlighting the technical and banal tasks that are involved in such an endeavor.  Users experience the process of donning a space suit and entering a strange and dangerous environment. However, part of their experience is to fix a malfunctioning probe that was sent before them.  The probe has three blinking LEDs, each with an associated port. The user interfaces with the probe by plugging a cable from their wrist controller into one of the ports. Then, by adjusting a potentiometer on the wrist controller, they can change the blinking frequency of the corresponding LED.  Once all three LEDs have been recalibrated to a specific frequency, a separate green LED on the probe lights up to indicate success and the user can exit and take off their suit. Although the user has been given this specific task to complete, their focus is not solely on the probe or themselves or any one part of the installation.  Instead they are surrounded by all of these elements intersecting to simulate modern space exploration. The individual components are not particularly sophisticated in themselves, but together they create a profound experience of the thrust of human pioneering for the next few centuries.

MIC: Final Individual Documentation – TA

Over the course of these 14 weeks, I have definitely learned a lot about China’s manufacturing process.  The course originally seemed to be focused on electronics, which influenced my original project proposal, but I actually feel that working on a simple consumer product was better for understanding the fundamentals of this process.  Electronics require many extra steps (e.g. PCB printing, surface mounting components, etc.) that would have made the process much more confusing, especially for people without my background. By working on simple products the task became less about designing circuits (very electronics specific) and more about how to bring any given design from idea to realized product.  At the beginning of the course I thought that an entire product was manufactured from raw components all in a single lab. Probably the biggest thing I learned about how manufacturing is done is how companies use Original Equipment Manufacturing to take existing products and put them together or modify them to create new products. This is closely related to the supply chain, which feeds into the BIll Of Materials (another important concept I learned).  Another characteristic of Chinese manufacturing is the speed of prototyping and design, which Christian emphasized and we experienced firsthand but is hard to grasp without much understanding of the speed of the western manufacturing cycle.

Working with Linda had good and bad consequences.  Both of us wanted to design a perfect product before moving on to manufacturing, which left us a bit behind in the process.  I handled the engineering considerations, particularly the electronics for the early conceptions of the cane, while Linda worked on the aesthetics and took care of things like 3D modeling.  This division of tasks actually worked fairly well. During our ideation we were able to go back and forth trying to balance grand ideas with feasibility until we came to a design we both liked.  This was particularly good for me, because I usually don’t care so much about how things look; as long as it does what it is supposed to do I leave the aesthetics as secondary. Having Linda’s input to keep this as a priority was especially good for a product that could one day go to real consumers.  It helped break the tinker trend of IMA and moved us closer to a realistic product that would be manufactured in China. As for Linda, I’d like to think I helped her learn to have some idea of how the parts of a project come together before commiting to a design. There were many ideas we had that simply weren’t going to work with our budget, timeframe, and expertise, and taking a moment to consider the logistics of those ideas carefully can save a lot of time that would be wasted on impractical designs.

MIC: Final Group Documentation – TA


BOM and Suppliers:

We bumped into hardships finding manufacturers who would adjust the cane/crutch according to our needs. We feel that  If we had more time we could have kept looking for partners, but by the end of the semester we needed to focus on the product so we resorted to using finished products from Taobao and putting them together ourselves.

Mission statement: To bring color to the lives of people with mobility issues by improving the aesthetic of medical crutches.

CandyCrutch© is a line of crutches designed to be more interesting and fun to look at.  Sporting bright colors in minimalist patterns, these crutches empower users to feel confident and proud while using them.  There is even a glow-in-the-dark version of CandyCrutch©! The crutches are medically-tested aluminum crutches that can hold up to 100kg each, coated in acrylic paint and vinyl stickers.  Regardless of their reason for using crutches, everyone will feel better using CandyCrutch©.

Over the course of this project, we went from ideation and market research to design and prototyping. Our initial idea was to innovate on cane design to help the elderly, but eventually looked at children’s crutches instead. All of the crutches we saw were very bland and boring to look at, and we thought it would be simple to add some colors and design to these crutches. After researching materials and designs to customize the crutches with, we were not able to find a manufacturer willing to work with us. In the end we decided to get the component parts and assemble the crutches in-house. The results may not have the professional finish we were hoping for, but they are just a few steps away from fully realized products and we learnt a lot throughout the journey. What we take away from these 4 months is a thorough understanding about the manufacturing process, especially in China.

We learned how to identify and research market opportunities, come up with products to fit those opportunities, and how to bring those products from idea to reality.  Part of this process involves balancing ideation and production, and it’s usually best to do both at the same time. It is important to revise the product you’re working on, but you also need to time deal with factories and other aspects of the supply chain.  Another critical facet of this process is talking to real people who could be using your product. If we had moved from ideation to production sooner we might have been able to adjust to the obstacles that came up, and would have had a more finished product in the end.  In the end, we realized we are probably too charity-minded to be good business people. 😛

Our next step would be to look for a manufacturer who would not just produce the crutches for us, but also paint professionally.  Additionally to the paint, we would try and modify the height adjustment system of the crutches as well.  Once we found a manufacturer for the crutches, we could consider applying the same concept on canes, so we could extend our market.

MIC: Journal 10 – TA

There is a good mix of crutch manufacturers who have a Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) within our range (50 pieces or less) and manufacturers who have much larger MOQs (some require over 1000 pieces). However, we have been having trouble connecting with suppliers through Alibaba. We suspect that it might be the way we have worded our request, or the fact that we aren’t using an Alibaba account but just giving our email address at the end of the email. Alternatively, it might be our request for a small customization that is driving manufactureres away.
One extra thing I learned about through this experience was Original Equipment Manfuacturing. Professor Rudolfo kept using the term OEM, and I thought he was referring to a specific company that produces crutches. Later I looked up the acronym and realized he was referring to the process of using another companies products inside one’s own product, as a componant piece. I could even see how a manufacturer might be more willing to sell to an OEM, since it avoids the potential problem of the buyer turning around and selling the exact same product without modification in a market the manufacturer simply wasn’t aware of. In such a scenario, the manufacturer would probably prefer to sell directly into that other market, since that’s the only value which the buyer added. However, with OEM, there are much more value which the buyer adds besides identifying a market, so the manufacturer wouldn’t have much incentive to try to cut out the buyer from the process.

MIC: Journal 9 (Sustainability) – TA

Overall, effective sustainability almost always leads to reduced costs in the long run. It’s cheaper to keep an expensive item around for a while than it is to frequently replace a cheap item. Of course, if the one is sufficiently expensive or the other sufficiently cheap this statement may no longer hold, but we usually fall in the middle where the gains in sustainability are worth the increased costs. However, the distribution of these costs complicates this issue. For example, the manufacturer usually only incurs the upfront costs of manufacturing the item, so only the immediate short-term costs affect them. Therefore, long-term sustainability is not necessarily a concern for manufacturers. Instead the consumer is the one who must pay the cost of maintaining and replacing the item, which more accurately reflects the true overall cost. Still, once the item leaves the user, it may continue to incur costs for the society in the form of waste. This is where recyclability comes into play, for although neither the manufacturer nor the consumer directly reduces their costs by using recyclable items, overall it means less waste going into landfills or burning into the atmosphere. Moreover, the costs saved overall by reusing materials can be sent back into the manufacturing process by offering reduced prices on recycled materials, thus bringing those saved costs back to the manufacturers and consumers. In essence, the problem of sustainability centers on the distribution of costs, which has produced a very flawed incentive system particularly at the level of manufacturers.

MIC: Journal 6 – TA

How much of a ‘maker’ are you?

As a fourth year IMA student I have definitely become much more of a “maker”.  I work on a variety of projects every semester that definitely fall into this category.  However, I don’t tend to be very innovative with my designs.  I prefer recreating older designs to learn how they may have been achieved, without really trying to make new or unique systems.  So in this regard I’m not so much of a “maker”.  Still, the ideals of the maker community have taken root in my mind, and inform all of the projects I make.

MIC: Journal 3 (Project Presentation) – TA

Presentation Link:

Following the presentation, we discussed how the project could be focused on people’s feeling of doing good rather than focusing on any significant impact to climate change.  Much like recycling, it could provide people with an immediate way to feel that they are contributing to a solution without needing the levels of power that are required to make significant change.  It was also suggested that I could investigate kinds of technology that haven’t been applied in an urban consumer setting before, such as flexible solar panels.  I could also try to do something involving the bike sharing system, another new technology in the urban setting.  This would probably involve harnessing the power of the motion of the bike, such as adding a small fan to capture the wind going by, or even possibly attaching something to the gear system to get that direct mechanical energy.  These are all great ideas, and I think the first suggestion would be a great way to focus the product at a relevant market.

Capstone: Midterm Update – TA


The part of the project with the most progress so far has been the sensor device.  I’ve attached several sensors to track time and heart rate and display it back to the user, and more sensors could be added or swapped to customize the experience.  Once the task is firmly decided, the final sensor device can be assembled and packaged nicely (or integrated into the space suit).

Speaking of the space suit, there hasn’t been as much progress here.  The suit part will consist of just an upperbody covering, a backpack for “oxygen”, and likely some gloves as well.  The helmet, however, is a very tricky matter.  All helmets on Taobao are either made for kids costumes or are extremely expensive (over $100 US).  I may look into alternatives to a traditional space helmet, such as making a hazmat-type helmet that includes just a flat view piece and a flexible material around the rest of the head.

Finally, a room has been secured for this installation, so I can begin to decorate it to create the desired atmosphere.  I will be moving in to this room to start working within the next couple weeks.


Most of the original ideas are still present from project proposal, but there are new ideas that have been added to the project.  The one major change has been the task which the user performs.  The original plan for a task which should be completed quickly but without too much rapid movement does not achieve the desired effect of the experience (based on user testing, which is summarized here).  Now a new task is required.  One possibility is having the entire experience be an effort to find a solution to a particular issue expected on a real Europa mission, and would require some sort of skill based effort (rather than a time based effort; imagine the space equivalent of changing a car tire).  One great advantage of this kind of task is that it gives an explanation for why the user is not really on Europa, because the simulation becomes part of the immersive experience itself.

Additionally, the sensor device may be integrated into the space suit rather than being an external handheld device as originally intended.  This would not be too difficult to achieve, and seems more practical for a space mission than having to hold a device in your hand all the time.  I may also add a communication system such as a walkie-talkie, but this is far from being realized.


The immediate tasks that need to be accomplished are to get a suit together (particularly the helmet) and come up with a good skill-based task.  After the suit I have a suit, I can look into integrating the sensors and other electronics into the suit.  Then I can focus on the world-building, decoration, and story of the experience.  At this point, I expect the physical and narrative elements of the story to require roughly the same ammount of time to finish, although the physical parts will be prioritized first.  Of course there will be come progress made on both sides throughout the coming weeks, but it is likely that more time will be devoted to the physical elements first and then the narrative elements later on.

Capstone: User Testing 1 – TA


For this user testing session, I prepared a basic Arduino system to track the “radiation” and “oxygen” of the simulated Europa mission.  The mission I gave the users to perform was to put items into a toolbox from a pile of random objects.  They were asked to fill the toolbox as much as possible, but not to take more than the time allowed from radiation and to try to limit their heartrate (which reflected their oxygen use).  Although none of the spacesuit has been prepared, the users put on a large button-down shirt backwards and then wore a backpack that was meant to hold their oxygen supplies.  Unfortunately there was no helmet.

The Arduino system kept track of radiation as a time limit, which was displayed on a Grove 4 Digit Display.  Each digit must be individually calculated (using modulo operations) and rendered, but is otherwise very simple to implement.  I followed this guide which explained how to connect the display without using the Grove-Base shield, and also links to the necessary libraries.

For the “oxygen”, I used a Grove Ear-clip Heartrate Sensor to track the user’s heartrate, and from there calculate their hypothetical oxygen use.  For this testing session I just counted the number of heart beats and displayed that after a successful mission.  An unsuccessful mission displays “dEAd”.  The code was a bit more involved, but didn’t require any libraries.  I did have to check the attachInterrupt() documentation from to make sure everything was working properly, but otherwise this wasn’t too complicated to get working.  There is also an LED which blinks with each heartbeat, and a button to press to signify the user is finished (stopping the countdown and giving them a successful mission).


I tested with three different users.  All three were present for the whole trial, but they took turns testing the project.  After the test was over, I asked each of them what they were thinking while they were performing their task, and what they think would make the project better.  They all said they were focused mainly on trying to fit as much into the toolbox as possible, and gave the following constructive feedback:

  • There should be audio feedback, both for the timer (beeping as it gets close to zero) and for the heartbeat (maybing playing the heartbeat back to the user).
  • The buttons should be bigger; the entire user interface should be made more accessibly.
  • They are interested in what the real suit would be like, particularly the helmet.

Also, from observing them testing the project, I noticed the following improvements that can be made:

  • The users focused too much on the task, and not much on the experience or the technology.
  • Radiation and heartbeats are very similar methods of tracking.  There isn’t enough of a difference between minimizing time use and minimizing oxygen use; finishing as fast as possible will preserve both.
  • The task needs to be changed to something that doesn’t have such a time pressure.  The user should feel like they have a chance to pause and take in the experience, rather than rushing as quickly as possible.
  • A suit and helmet are the next things to implement.  These will go a long way toward creating a memorable experience and immersing the user in the simulation more.
  • Audio feedback should be introduced somehow.  I should also test having the user wear headphones, particularly to see how effective the noise cancellation is.



#include <Wire.h>
#include <SoftwareSerial.h>
#include <Suli.h>
#include <Four_Digit_Display_Arduino.h>

Four_Digit_Display_Arduino    disp;
const long TIME_LIMIT = 121000;
long max_time;

int heartbeats = 0;

#define button 8
boolean pushed = false;
#define LED 7//indicator, Grove - LED is connected with D4 of Arduino
boolean led_state = LOW;//state of LED, each time an external interrupt
//will change the state of LED
unsigned char counter;
unsigned long temp[21];
unsigned long sub;
bool data_effect = true;
unsigned int heart_rate;//the measurement result of heart rate

const int max_heartpluse_duty = 2000;//you can change it follow your system's request.
//2000 meams 2 seconds. System return error
//if the duty overtrip 2 second.

void setup()
  disp.begin(4, 3);
  max_time = TIME_LIMIT;

  pinMode(LED, OUTPUT);
  pinMode(button, INPUT_PULLUP);
  attachInterrupt(digitalPinToInterrupt(2), interrupt, RISING);//set interrupt 0,digital port 2

void loop()
  digitalWrite(LED, LOW);

void blinkLED(int pin, int period) {
  if (millis() % period < (period / 2)) {
    digitalWrite(pin, HIGH);
  } else {
    digitalWrite(pin, LOW);

void displayTime() {
  long t = max_time - millis();
  if(!digitalRead(button) && t > 0) {
    pushed = true;
  if (t > 0 && !pushed) {
    disp.display(1, (t / 60000) % 10);
    disp.display(2, (t / 10000) % 6);
    disp.display(3, (t / 1000) % 10);
  } else if(!pushed) {
    disp.display(0, 13);
    disp.display(1, 14);
    disp.display(2, 10);
    disp.display(3, 13);
  } else {
    //disp.display(0, (heartbeats/1000)%10);
    disp.display(1, (heartbeats/100)%10);
    disp.display(2, (heartbeats/10)%10);
    disp.display(3, (heartbeats/1)%10);

/*Function: calculate the heart rate*/
void sum()
  if (data_effect)
    heart_rate = 1200000 / (temp[20] - temp[0]); //60*20*1000/20_total_time
  data_effect = 1; //sign bit
/*Function: Interrupt service routine.Get the sigal from the external interrupt*/
void interrupt()
  digitalWrite(LED, HIGH);
  temp[counter] = millis();
  switch (counter)
    case 0:
      sub = temp[counter] - temp[20];
      sub = temp[counter] - temp[counter - 1];
  if (sub > max_heartpluse_duty) //set 2 seconds as max heart pluse duty
    data_effect = 0; //sign bit
    counter = 0;
    //Serial.println("Heart rate measure error,test will restart!" );
  if (counter == 20 && data_effect)
    counter = 0;
  else if (counter != 20 && data_effect)
    counter = 0;
    data_effect = 1;

/*Function: Initialization for the array(temp)*/
void arrayInit()
  for (unsigned char i = 0; i < 20; i ++)
    temp[i] = 0;
  temp[20] = millis();

MIC: Journal 4 (Concept Sketches) – TA & LL

Our team decided to continue with Linda’s idea about of helping her grandmother.  We started by considering what elderly people with limited mobility would need.  What are their greatest challenges?  We made a short list consisting of the following:

  • Mobility
  • Communication
  • Safety
  • Strength and physical ability
  • Entertainment
  • Memory

After deliberating, we decided that there wasn’t such a need for entertainment, and there weren’t many communication issues that fit with mobility.  So we chose to focus on the remaining four issues: mobility, safety, strength, and memory.

5 alternative concepts:

  1. Flashlight with storage 拐杖多功能带灯
    1. Head of the cane
      • Flashlight
      • Smaller space for storage
      • Screwing the cap on and off like a water bottle
      • Head in changeable
    2. Rest of the cane/stick
      • Changeable height
      • Two or more parts
      • Bottom part contains bigger storage space
    3. Purpose: Seeing in the dark, storing safely smaller objects such as money
  2. Screen with buzzer
    1. Head
      • Built in screen and buzzer
      • Screen on top side of the head, less likely to break
    2. For reminders.
  3. GPS accessory
      • GPS feature
      • Small
      • Easy to put on/take off
      • Connected to an APP
    • Purpose: find Grandma (or her cane) where ever she adventures to
  4. Hook cane
    1. Head
      • Retractable hook
    2. Purpose: help to hold and carry bags
  5. Hook accessory
      • Retractable hook
      • Can be put on any cane/wheelchair
      • Easy to put on/take off


This patent is for the assembly of a cane which can be broken into segments.  We plan to have a similar segmented design with an adjustable height setting.

This patent is for a cane whose head includes a light and a storage compartment, just like our first design.

This patent is for a cane with interchangeable heads, which we intended to do with our cane.