Final Idea Selection and Pitch

Final Considerations and Pugh Chart:

For the final week of class, I looked back on my top winter-related product ideas and chose the best one. To track my considerations, I created a Pugh chart and compared one benchmark product, a snowmobile emergency response system, with the other ideas in several categories.

  • Novelty: "Has this been done before? Is this applying something old in a new way?" (Uniqueness was originally a separate category, but I combined it with Novelty when the products scored similarly for both.)
  • Marketability: "How were the product concepts received by my survey participants?"
  • Feasibility: "How much time would be needed to engineer this product? What sorts of resources would be required?"
  • Fulfills a clear need: "Are people looking for the solution this product provides? Does this product provide the best solution?"
  • Big Impact: "Does this product directly save lives?" (Most of my products fall under the category of Winter Safety.)
  • Personal Interest: "Is this product concept worth developing? How willing would I be to pitch this idea? Do I think this product is cool?"

Pugh Chart.png

Based on the comparisons, I decided that "Thin Ice Indicators" would be the best product concept to pitch. Not many survey participants were willing to buy the product, but most recognized the impact the idea could have. The idea addresses known problems faced by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and doesn't pose any major engineering or technological challenges.

Final Name and Sketch:

After brainstorming different names, I decided to call my product "Beacon." I think the name is an apt physical and symbolic description of the product.


Elevator Pitch:

The final assignment for the semester was to give a concise presentation pitching the idea. Click below to watch my elevator pitch. Sorry for the slight video delay; I'll try to fix it as soon as possible!




Preliminary Idea Evaluation

To objectively evaluate my top ten ideas from last week, I wrote a short survey asking participants to put a monetary value on my developing products. I submitted the survey to Amazon's Mechanical Turk and paid 14 online users to share their opinions. 


I gave each product a "marketability score" equal to the number of participants who said they would buy the product plus one half the number of participants who said someone they know would buy the product. I further evaluated the five ideas with the highest marketability scores and compared the average price participants said they would pay to an estimated manufacturing cost for the product.


Heated Windshield Wipers:

The most marketable idea was "heated windshield wipers that remove ice and snow from the windshield of a car, in addition to rain." Though the idea isn't novel--innumerable patents have been placed--the concept is ripe for improvement. I constructed a two-by-two showing that there are many simple, low-end wipers that rely on friction or a separate de-icing agent and two  complex, high-end wipers that use an active heating system. There appears to be an open market for a simple heated windshield wiper with a compact design. Neither heated windshield wiper on the market is built to be used year-round, a feature that could be valuable in a new design. Also note that there is an open but likely unfavorable market in complicated, chemical-based windshield wipers.


The greatest design challenge for this product is developing a functional and compact heating technology. A rough estimate of the retail price for a pair of heated wipers is $53, which is ten times an estimated materials cost where $2.30 is spent on two pounds of rubber, $2 is spent on two pounds of steel, and $1 is spent on circuitry and miscellaneous expenses. This is less than the $73 the survey participants were willing to pay on average.

Modular Windshield
The other most popular idea also involved cleaning car windshields. I described it as "a modular windshield that removes ice and snow from the front of a car." It involves a thin, transparent coating that revolves around the windshield and displaces snow and ice. I found a patent that also involves moving windows on a vehicle.

The greatest design challenge for this product is engineering a system that makes effective use of the ultra-thin glass technology available to remove snow from a windshield. The concept must be further refined to reach an accurate manufacturing cost estimate. The survey participants were willing to pay $266 on average for this product.

Expanding Lifeboat
One idea that proved surprisingly marketable was "a small package that expands into a portable lifeboat the size of a queen-size bed." The original idea was meant to rescue winter drowning victims, but I expect some of my survey participants were interested in the product for recreational purposes. The closest product that I could find on the market was the folding kayak, a very portable boat for a single passenger. I also found a patent for a folding lifeboat.

LifeboatInfographic.JPGThe greatest design challenge for this product is developing a method of rapidly expanding a small and portable package into a large floating object. A rough estimate of the retail price for a rapidly expanding lifeboat is $119, which is ten times an estimated materials cost where $6.90 is spent on six pounds of rubber, $4 is spent on four pounds of steel, and $1 is spent on miscellaneous expenses. This is on par with the $108 the survey participants were willing to pay on average.

Snowmobile Automatic Crash Response
The fourth most popular idea was "an automatic emergency response system built into a snowmobile that alerts medical personal when the snowmobile is crashed." Many cars feature similar systems that could easily and affordably be applied to a snowmobile. I was particularly interested in Ford's Sync system which utilizes bluetooth and smartphones to make the technology cheaper. The patent for this technology is (somewhat disputably) held by Eagle Harbor Holdings.

The greatest design challenge for this product is reducing the retail price. In my research I found forums discussing the concept. It seemed that online snow mobile enthusiasts had limited interest in adding to the cost of their snowmobiles. I wasn't entirely sure how to estimate the cost of developing the mostly digital technology. Paying a team of five app developers each $15 per hour for 100 hours would cost $7500. This cost would be spread across numerous snowmobiles however. My survery participants were only willing to pay $81 on average (removing an outlier who was willing to pay $2000), reinforcing my findings that the retail price is a major limiting factor. Ford's Sync system is substantially more expensive at $395.

Clothing with GPS and Automatic Emergency Response
The last popular idea was "an automatic emergency response system built into a hat that alerts medical personal when the wearer of the hat is submerged in dangerously cold water." I found one patent that features socks utilizing GPS technology for many purposes, including emergency situations.

JoshClothingInfographic.PNGThe greatest design challenge for this project is engineering a relatively small GPS device that functions underwater. A rough estimate of the retail price for clothing with integrated GPS technology is $120, which is ten times an estimated materials cost where $2 is spent on fabric, and $10 is spent on electronics and miscellaneous expenses. My survey participants were willing to pay $84 on average for this product.




The goal of this week's assignment was to brainstorm more ideas addressing the questions: "How might we make frozen lakes safer in the winter?" and "How might we save a victim drowning in cold water?". I also compiled the 10 best ideas that I've collected during this ongoing problem-solving endeavor.

SCAMPER with Ice Safety Picks

To generate more ideas, I had a short brainstorming session using the "SCAMPER" method. This technique involves making observations about a design and imagining various types of modifications that could be made. I chose to modify a basic tool already used to address my problem statements, handheld ice safety picks.



Below are some of my favorite sketches with short explanations.



I thought about ways to change the spike component of the device. I remembered a survival factoid about how fishing spears are more effective with multiple prongs, and thought the ice picks might improve with this modification. 



I tried to mix the ice safety picks with a harpoon gun and sketched a grappling cannon.


Noticing a strong resemblance, I named the modification after the Hookshot from The Legend of Zelda video games.



After realizing that human tongues have the uncanny ability to stick to ice and metal poles, I thought that a drowning victim might be able to use sticky, handheld devices to climb out of frigid water.


I'm not entirely sure what aspect of the ice picks I magnified, but a large, spiked wheel with hand cranks seemed like an appropriately extreme modification to the original device.

Put to Other Use
I had trouble imagining creative alternate uses for small icepicks, but I did like the idea of hollowing them out and using them as a means of frosting desserts.

Put to Other Use.JPGEliminate
I didn't see much that could be removed from the basic ice pick design, but I decided that the handle wasn't entirely necessary. The metal prong could be attached directly to a winter glove.

Instead of a single spike in the middle of the handle, I considered a hollowed design with spikes lining the edge.

Rearrange2.jpgMorphological Analysis
Some of my SCAMPER ideas were influenced by the morphological analysis I completed on the ice safety picks. I focused on the functional requirements "attaches to ice, attaches to user, and usable in cold water."

MorphologicalAnalysis.jpgReimagining Silly Ideas
Another additional source of ideas was the pile of silly ideas I had from last week's brainstorming session. Below are the best silly ideas reimagined to be more feasible.

hulk.jpgA rapidly inflating lifeboat could displace the cold water around a drowning victim instead of a green man.oil.jpgA victim's coat could be filled with a tight-fitting, oily layer of insulation.

Top 10 Winter Ideas




Brainstorm Facilitation

This assignment placed me in a leadership role as the facilitator of a brainstorming team. I was excited to work with a group, but I first needed to find group members! By means of Oreos, I recruited several students from a variety of backgrounds and majors. Their interests ranged from political science to mechanical engineering to philosophy.


 I briefly told them about my assignment and personal interest in design, sharing a quote.

"Design in its simplest form is the activity of creating solutions. Design is something that everyone does every day." -Daniel Pink

I wanted the group to feel qualified and comfortable while participating in an activity that might be unfamiliar.

I taught several improvisational warm-up games to get my team excited about brainstorming. We played Red Ball, Bears are Great, Look at Me, and a new game of my own creation. For this game, I had the participants choose a partner. I instructed the pairs to design a living space for a clown, a shark, and an ent to coexist. They had to please their disparate customer base in only five minutes. I periodically bombarded the teams with additional stipulations including an outer space requirement and the necessity of their design to support orchestral performances. I wanted the team members to practice convergent thinking and rapid-fire ideation.


Here are the final clown-shark-ent house designs:


For the main portion of the brainstorm, we focused on my ongoing project theme of thin ice safety. I generalized my problem statements from last week to open more conceptual space for the team. A total of 40 minutes was spent on the prompts "How might we make frozen lakes safer in the winter?" and "How might we save a victim drowning in cold water?". I gave the participants paper and color-coded markers, and they returned a flurry of ideas for me to tape on the wall. The four participants generated 59 ideas with an average of 0.37 ideas per person per minute. At the end of the session, each group member voted for his or her six favorite ideas. Below are ten of the most popular ideas.

"Ice Thickness Indicators" by Claire Warren

1457525_10200860663900909_1646728394_n.jpg"Replace Lake with Olive Oil" by Paul Trisko


"Policy to Break up Ice" by Noah Shavit-Lonstein


"Floating Dock Systems" by Claire Warren


"Hulk Jump" by Noah Shavit-Lonstein


"911/SWAT Hat" by Hannah Mills993434_10200860664860933_2093200612_n.jpg

"Bubble Maker" by Claire Warren

1379712_10200860664780931_555440697_n.jpg"Rebreather and Space Suit" by Paul Trisko


"Ghost-converter Headband" by Hannah Mills644532_10200860664820932_407673834_n.jpg

"Refreeze Ice" by Claire Warren580620_10200860664700929_5267874_n.jpg



Research and Problem-Finding

For this week's assignment, I settled on a specific winter-related topic to research. I chose to explore thin ice and cold water safety, recalling the reports of drowning and hypothermia I hear every year. By conducting interviews, I learned about the experience of falling through ice and the physiological effects it has on the body. I sought out individuals who have fallen through ice or experienced hypothermia, have knowledge about winter safety, or have experience rescuing drowning victims.

Michael Tormoen


Michael is a freshman at the University of Minnesota who responded to my online search and volunteered to be interviewed. He has much experience with falling through ice, having fallen into the pond at his grandparents' house on ten different occasions. During childhood visits to northern Wisconsin, he and his cousins would dare each other to run across a semi-frozen pond. Someone, usually Michael, would break through the ice and fall into the cold water. All the children would respond with laughter--including the now shivering Michael. It was difficult for Michael to get out of the water. The cold numbed his senses and his limbs. He tried to push himself up onto the ice, only to break through again. He repeated this action, making a path to the shore five or six feet away. After he had climbed out of the water, the adults would run outside, yelling and fearing for his life. They brought him inside, dried his clothes, and warmed him--scolding him all the while.

Michael recommended that anyone who falls through ice should stay calm and regulate their breathing. He also emphasized the importance of spreading one's weight across a large surface area when attempting to get back onto the ice.

Laura Garbe

laura.jpgLaura is another student who volunteered to be interviewed. She shared a story about her experience with mild hypothermia. Laura was swimming at her family's cabin, not during the winter, but on a particularly cold Memorial Day weekend. She, along with her brother and a friend, pulled a swim raft into the lake. Laura's brother and friend mostly stayed on the raft, but she swam to the bottom of the lake and spent more time in the water. Later the trio was too cold to stay in the water, and the three made their way back to the cabin. Laura's brother and friend quickly recovered from the cold, but she was shivering uncontrollably for the next couple hours. She tried to recover by drinking hot tea and sitting on a couch under a blanket but didn't feel much better. She didn't fully warm up until taking a long, hot shower.

Laura recalls feeling lethargic and cold to her core. Immediately after leaving the water, she wanted a way to quickly transfer heat to her entire body, a need that she couldn't fulfill with what she had on hand.

Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht

Gord_Giesbrecht_web.jpgDr. Giesbrecht is a professor at the University of Manitoba who researches human response to extreme environments and has performed hundreds of cold water immersion studies. I used many resources from his website to learn about surviving a fall into cold water. I have contacted him but have yet to receive a reply. I hope to interview him via phone next week.

Kara Owens


Kara Owens is the information officer of the Boat and Water Safety division of Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources. We've made contact, but she was unavailable for interview this weekend. We plan to meet next week, and I expect that she will have lots of relevant information. I've already used her Boat and Water Safety website as a research source.

Other Interviews?

I also contacted the University of Minnesota's Department of Emergency Management and a local snowmobile retailer asking about local winter safety problems and precautions. Both have yet to reply, but I hope to interview their staff members next week.

Designers make observations and conduct research to gather information about their topic of interest. Because it was impossible for me to observe people falling into freezing water, I focused heavily on researching my topic.

Two particularly useful resources were videos on Dr. Gordon Giesbrecht's website, titled "Getting That Sinking Feeling" and "Cold Water Survival." The first is extremely relevant to a product designer. It compares two snowmobile jackets, one that is more comfortable but absorbs water and another that is more expensive but drains water and is buoyant. The better-designed flotation suit, though less comfortable, is able to save a drowning victim. The second video shares specific techniques to climb out of freezing water.

I was also interested in Dr. Giesbrecht "1-10-1 Rule" of cold water immersion. For one minute, a victim in cold water gasps and hyperventilates involuntarily. To survive, he must calm down and concentrate on not drowning. Over the next 10 minutes, the victim loses effective use of his fingers, arms, and legs. Without a life jacket, he will drown. This is the critical time window in which the victim can potentially escape without outside assistance. He can survive for an additional one hour. After this time period, the victim will die of hypothermia. It is a misconception that hypothermia quickly kills victims within minutes.


Designers often take an empathetic approach to their topic, attempting to experience it for themselves. I didn't want to jump into a frozen body of water, but I did opt for a cold shower one morning.

coldshower.jpgConclusions and Problem Statements

The goal of the interviews and research was to create problems statements to be contemplated later in the class. These are a few problem statements I constructed:

"Michael, a child who has fallen into an icy pond, needs a better way to get out of the water, because pushing vertically only further breaks the ice."

This problem was inspired by Michael's ineffectual attempts at getting himself on top of the ice. Dr. Giesbrecht also noted in his "Cold Water Survival" video that this technique is a common first response of a victim in cold water.

"Laura, a victim of hypothermia, needs a way to warm up her entire a body quickly, because simply insulating herself isn't stopping her uncontrollable shivering."

In my interview with Laura, she strongly emphasized her need to become warm quickly. She needed heat actively transferred to her body, rather than slowly contained by a blanket.

"Snowmobile enthusiasts need a way to see patches of open water, because their current headlights don't allow them to safely travel at night."

In Dr. Giesbrecht's "Getting That Sinking Feeling" video, a demonstration depicted snowmobiles plunging into water at night. It was stated that the riders should have slowed down so their headlights could illuminate the water. I wondered why the riders didn't simply have better headlights.

Idea Wallet

The final portion of this assignment was to start an "idea wallet" and a "bug list." I have been recording interesting inventions, solutions, and oddities I encounter in my idea wallet to use as resources for future creations of my own. A bug list is the opposite. It contains all of the frustrations, glitches, and design flaws I notice every day. Below are two example entries from my week.


One frustration I've had recently was riding to class on a soggy and snow-covered bicycle seat. Some people create makeshift covers out of plastic bags, but I think it is reasonable to expect a better solution. Coincidentally, I also observed a clever idea that monopolizes on this problem. In the picture above, a local business created adjustable and formfitting bicycle seat covers and planted them on college students' bikes. In a brilliant advertising ploy, information about the business was spread and an entirely unrelated consumer need was fulfilled. I'm sure the positive experience created by the advertisement will leave a far more favorable and memorable impression than its direct message--all for virtually no cost.


Winter, Mind Mapping, and Silly Ideas

For the second week of my creativity class, I was tasked with sketching ten winter-themed product ideas. As an added challenge, these sketches were required to be "silly," with the hope that they would be novel, or at the very least, interesting. Embracing this attitude, I found a frivolous and impractical activity to get myself in a creative mood.

unicycling1.pngunicycling2.pngunicycling3.pngClick here to watch an inspirational montage:

I had never ridden a unicycle previously, and I had a fantastic time. It was challenging, but I was surprised that balancing on a single wheel felt possible. I greatly enjoyed falling and awkwardly pedaling around, so I imagine being a proficient unicyclist would be even more fun.

Seasonal Mind Map

Refreshed by unicycling, I began thinking about the theme of my sketches. I contemplated winter and wrote down as many winter-related things as I could think of. Some notable associations were ice palaces, ugly sweaters, and the Northern Lights. I was required to choose three sub-themes of winter that I will explore later in the class. I chose warm beverages, shoveling, and the danger of thin ice.


10 Silly Ideas
I used a variety of methods to imagine my silly winter products. Some resulted from idea generation techniques learned in my class. Others were spurred by a connection I saw on my Winter mind map. Many were developed by simply doodling and enjoying myself.

One of my favorite ideas initially began as an attempt to combine snowshoes and the bellows of a fireplace in an interesting way. I considered how snowshoes interact with the snow on the ground and how bellows take in and release air. I suddenly thought of a practical winter-related problem, shoveling, and designed Vacuum Shoes. The user walks along her snow-covered driveway, vacuuming the snow into a backpack. The backpack then melts and purifies the snow, converting it to delicious tea.

VacuumShoes.jpgAnother idea came from the desire to stay warm while walking to class. I designed the Portable Fireplace as a rolling companion to provide warmth on the go. I began adding features, and the product became the winter equivalent of a summertime beverage cooler.

I considered the modifications drivers make to their car tires in the winter and wondered if any similar changes could be made to a snowboard. I ended up sketching a snowboard with a platform and rolling tread system, similar to a tank or snowmobile.

SnowboardTreads.jpgThis series of sketches depicts the transportation issues facing snowpeople.

SnowmanMover.jpgAnother product idea involves a scarf threaded with small tubules, allowing it to store hot beverages. The warm liquid keeps the user's neck warm, and the positioning of the scarf allows easy access to the tasty hot cocoa within.

CocoaScarf.jpgBlankets that taste like hot cocoa. Enough said.

This sketch depicts an electronic Christmas tree that can send and receive digital gifts.

iTree.jpgRather than melting snow with salt or sand, I thought it would be better to melt it with eco-friendly gas before it even hits the ground.

Thinking about snowflakes and how they interlock to form shapes, I considered snowflake-shaped nanoparticles that could be used in manufacturing. Alternatively current manufacturing processes could be used on snow. I envision a snowflake 3D printer that makes snow sculptures.

This sketch depicts a mold for making a slide out of ice. Ideally a whole frozen playground could be made to last the winter.



Excavating the Fossil Dig Cookie

For the first assignment of my creativity and idea generation class, I was commissioned to design an innovative cookie within a week. The cookie had to be novel, valuable, feasible, and edible. I wanted to ensure that it would be different than all the other cookies in the class, while still being interesting and tasty. I also had to keep the time constraint in mind, considering only readily available ingredients and the utensils my dormitory's kitchen had to offer. After reviewing these guidelines, I gladly purchased a fancy sketchbook and started working on my culinary assignment.

Initial Thoughts

Thinking about the resources available to me, I first considered baking a cookie using only food from my dining hall and dorm room. I thought it would be amusing to make a delicious cookie out of the somewhat unreliable food supply of a scavenging underclassman. I also liked the idea of the cookie being a means of introducing myself to my classmates. I'm likely the only freshman engineering student in the upper-level design class, and I wanted to show some of my unique flavor. Ultimately, I thought I could engineer a far superior cookie.

I looked for cookie ideas everywhere and found it helpful to discuss the project with friends. In addition to keeping my mind focused on the task, it was great to bounce ideas around and hear what people like in their favorite cookies. Doing so gave me a wider perspective and drove the project in unexpected directions. Some people even had their own developed cookie ideas, including a three-dimensional cookie mug into which milk could be poured.

I wanted more ideas for my cookie so I held a devoted brainstorming session, sketching as many different cookies as I could in 40 minutes.

brainstorm1.jpgEarly in the session, some ideas were astoundingly boring (see "stop sign cookie"). Some were extremely interesting but not entirely feasible (see "cookie waterfall"). Eventually I settled into a rhythm and had some potential cookies on paper.

brainstorm2.jpgNote: I could not successfully imagine a "raisin cookie for people who hate raisins."

Idea One: The Burrito Cookie
One of the ideas I chose to develop further was based upon a local pizzeria's "Guacamole Burrito" pizza. I enjoyed the combination and wondered if it could be adapted to make a sweet and savory dessert.

burritosketch.jpgI liked the idea, but I had some concerns regarding the longevity of guacamole and salsa, ingredients I consider vital to any burrito.

Idea Two: The Fossil Dig Cookie
I was more excited about what I had termed the "fossil dig cookie." I wanted to recreate my childhood fascination with uncovering fossils, appropriately supplemented with a lifelong fascination with cookies. The dessert would feature embedded dinosaur bones, a sandy covering of graham cracker crumbs and brown sugar, and a small excavation kit.

smalldinosketch.jpgI thought more about the paleontological cookie and how I could create small, edible dinosaur bones. I considered using marshmallows, fondant, broken candy canes, white chocolate, Lucky Charms cereal, or Halloween candy. I also wanted to create small signs using toothpicks to mark the excavation site.

As my thoughts moved beyond the theme of the cookie to an actual recipe, I recalled some of my friends' suggestions and my own favorite cookies. I decided to combine a familiar peanut butter cookie with an intriguing vanilla pudding cookie that I had never heard of previously.

After browsing the store for ingredients, I decided to make my fossils out of Lucky Charms cereal. I opted to stick them on the surface of the cookies using Nutella rather than hiding them inside.

I gathered my ingredients and brought "Draft Recipe Alpha" to a community baking session. People were somewhat confused when I told them about my peanut butter/vanilla/chocolate chip cookies, but no one was terribly upset by the concoction.

Click here to watch a video:
Short Commentary.mp4

Delicious Experimentation
cookie base.jpgThe first batch of cookies was rapidly devoured. Everyone appreciated the fluffy texture and peanut butter flavor. A few cookies were frosted with Nutella and fully decorated.

LargeCookie.jpgThough the cookies were a bit small and had to be combined to fit a large dinosaur fossil, they looked reasonably nice. Unfortunately, the decorated cookies tasted overwhelmingly of Nutella and the more subtle flavors were lost.

Another Shot at Greatness
I decided to bake a second batch, hoping to hone in on a better fossil dig cookie. I doubled the recipe, hoping to make larger, more easily decorated cookies. I tried rolling the dough in the graham cracker crumbs, wanting more aesthetically pleasing cookies. I also created a glaze using brown sugar to replace the previous Nutella covering.

Overall the changes were fantastic. I preferred how the new cookies looked and tasted. The graham cracker coating, in addition to adding a thematic flair, tied the flavors together in a surprisingly fulfilling way. Though I doubled the original recipe, I ended up making twice as many cookies of about the same size. It was difficult to make recognizable and evocative dinosaur designs, but the theme was still carried by the numerous, small fossil patterns.

The Finished Product
example.jpgSign.jpgfull batch.jpgFinal Recipe (2 dozen cookies)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/6 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 of a 3.4 oz pkg. vanilla pudding mix
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4/3 cups flour
  • 2/3 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 37 pinches of graham cracker crumbs
  • Additional melted butter
  • Additional brown sugar
  • Lucky Charms cereal

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix together all the things.
  3. Shape dough into round morsels; roll in additional graham cracker crumbs.
  4. Bake 15 minutes or until edges are a delightful brown color.
  5. Whip additional melted butter and brown sugar into a smooth glaze.
  6. Cover cookies with glaze; use Lucky Charms to make fossils!

Thanks to Tyler Maxson and Amanda Zak for assisting with photography.