Assignment 7

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Down to the last assignment now, selecting one of the following ideas, and more importantly, pitch that idea.


  • Socket Snap Bindings: The bindings become a part of the snowboard, quick attach - detach features

  • Rotatable Bindings: Easier maneuver over flat areas

  • Hat-helmet: Head protection built into a hat

  • Two-piece Snowboard: Allows easier maneuverability over flat areas

  • Magnetic Fluid Jacket: Changes viscosity (and thus degree of protection) based on acceleration

To make the selection I created the following Pugh chart.
Pugh chart.png

My findings from the feasibility research in the last assignment proved very useful during the ranking, though I must admit that it decreased my interest slightly for some of the products (the Magnetic Fluid Jacket for instance when I found out the price of MR fluid).

From the Pugh chart, two products seem most viable, the Socket-snap Bindings and the Hat-helmet. When reviewing these two, I considered the impact and need for the two products. Upon further consideration, the Socket-snap Bindings may not have as much competitive advantage as I first estimated because despite its different functionality from current quick attach and release bindings, it didn't add much beyond that purpose (potentially more convenient storage, but not significantly). It could of course be combined with the rotatable bindings, but that also applies to normal bindings. At this point my eyes were slowly fixating on the Hat-helmet idea, which I ultimately picked. From the feasibility research I found no directly comparable products, and the market reaches beyond snow sports to another very large market, bicyclists.

Product name
My approach to finding a name for the product was to look up synonyms and describing words for some of the Hat-helmet attributes.
Guiding words.jpg

Ultimately the name I chose was "Flex-helm" and I feel quite good about the decision. It adequately describes the product and the word flex can be interpreted both as flexible or as in muscle flexing (implying that the flex-helm is strong and will keep you safe). I also tried using the product name in sentences to see if it would sound strange and I didn't find anything wrong with it.

Final Product.jpg

Finally, here's my pitch for the product!
Flex-helm pitch.wmv

Assignment 6

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Customer feedback
To start with, here are the top 10 ideas from last week:
Hat-helmet: Head protection built into a hat
Knee Sliders: Slide down ski hills, or cover flat ground when snowboarding
Magnetic Fluid Jacket: Changes viscosity (and thus degree of protection) based on acceleration
Two-piece Snowboard: Allows easier maneuverability over flat areas
Adjustable Push Propeller: Propel yourself over flat areas when snowboarding
Flexboard: Has semi-flexible material in the snowboard binding region to enable the user to push himself forward with his feet
Socket Snap Bindings: The bindings become a part of the snowboard, quick attach - detach features
Rotatable Bindings: Easier maneuver over flat areas
Velcro Bindings: Quickly attach - detach from the snowboard (additional bindings probably necessary for regular riding)
Bike-brella: Bicycle attachment that protects from wind, rain and snow


To evaluate the ideas I created 4 surveys. Now, you may be asking yourself: "Why did you create 4 of them?". Well, the survey tool I used only allowed 10 questions per survey, so I had to split the ideas into categories.

The first one had the Hat-Helmet, Knee sliders, and Magnetic fluid jacket. It is worth mentioning that I expanded the Knee slider idea such that you can also use them to slide down regular slopes instead of only using them to cover ground when snowboarding.

The second survey had the Two-piece Snowboard, Adjustable Push Propeller, and Flexboard.

The third survey had the Socket-snap Bindings, Rotatable Bindings, and Velcro Bindings.

Since I had 3 ideas per survey I could only ask 2 questions each because I always included an image which counted towards the 10 question limit. They were: "Could you see yourself buying this?" and "How much would you pay for this in USD ($)?"

The last survey only had the Bike-brella idea, in which case I used the opportunity of asking what people thought of the idea as well.

Survey Highlights
I explained the categories when I posted this on Facebook so I wouldn't get many responses from people with no snowboarding experience for those ideas. I also specifically asked people to give honest answers and refrain from trying to make me feel good about the ideas :)
I had in total 30 participants for the first survey and 15 for the rest. I was slightly disappointed that people didn't like my Knee Slider idea (only 10% would buy it), but perhaps that is because it would rather be targeted towards kids playing in the snow.

Also, the Bike-brella was not a hit, however this didn't surprise me all that much and now I bring up one of the issues related to surveys. Most of my Facebook friends are Icelandic, though I know there were replies from some of the people I've met in Minneapolis (based on the comments I got). If I were to guess on the viability for marketing the Bike-brella in Iceland, I wouldn't be very optimistic because of various reasons. However, I have a feeling that if I purely had results from people living in Minneapolis, there might be a different story to tell. Some of the comments people had about the idea were: "May cause people to fall in winds", "Good idea for Minnesota", and "I would look like a complete idiot". Since I didn't do any additional "Minnesota only" evaluation for this idea it was eliminated.

I must say that I do believe people were honest in their opinions on the products. For instance the Velcro Bindings results were, well... Take a look for yourself!
Velcro statistics.png

I'll now present a graph where the popularity of the ideas is measured by whether people could see themselves buying the product.
Survey statistics.png

Based on the graph, the 5 most marketable products turned out to be: Socket-snap Bindings, Rotatable Bindings, Hat-helmet, Two-piece Snowboard and Magnetic Fluid Jacket. These will be analyzed further in the next sections.

The price points gathered from the data are a little difficult to interpret, because the range is often very broad, in which case one thinks, where do I draw the line between the customers who aren't willing to pay enough from the rest? Are perhaps some people overestimating what they would pay as well?
Therefore I choose to represent the values as: "Pure average" - "25% of the lowest values dropped" - "maximum price" for each product.

Socket Snap Bindings: $250 - $330 - $600

Rotatable Bindings: $78 - $92 - $175

Hat-helmet: $58 - $72 - $170

Two-piece Snowboard: $200 - $255 - $400

Magnetic Fluid Jacket: $136 - $157 - $300


Novelty Assessment
The 2x2 matrix creation was a little more difficult than I anticipated. Perhaps that's because it was hard to distinguish which features to draw out, and what products to use as reference for some of the more novel ideas.

Let's start with the Socket Snap Bindings idea. The easy - difficult axis indicates difficulty (quickness) of fastening the bindings.
Snap bindings.jpg

Next I looked at Rotatable Bindings. Now the issue here is that I couldn't find any bindings at all that could be rotated. However, I did find a few addons to the snowboard which enable the bindings to be rotated. I didn't know these actually existed until I did a more thorough investigation this week, the product which seems to be most dominating is called "twisted bindings" (I might actually look into buying this for myself :P). The problem was I had no clue on what other feature to use to measure them. I ended up putting in some regular bindings as well, but this didn't really feel right... The horizontal axis is a measure of how easy or difficult it is to cross a large area of flatness. I'm open for suggestions on what I could have done differently.
Rotating bindings.jpg

Then I dived into the Hat-helmet idea. For this I used regular helmets for comparison (and the new "invisible" helmet of course). The measurement I used was how much the helmet stood out, i.e. how much did say "Hey I have a helmet on my head" versus "Hey look at that cool thing on my head".
Helmet 2by2.jpg

Alright, let's look at the Two-piece snowboard. I did find something called Dual Snowboard. It's not exactly what I had in mind, but very interesting nevertheless. Then something called a "Twistboard" turned up, which is VERY similar to what I had in mind... Well, there's that. Might still be a market for a new brand, especially if these snowboards are selling :) The low - high axis is based on maneuverability of the snowboard. Unfortunately I was unable to find a price for the Twistboard.
Two piece snowboard 2by2.jpg

Last idea on the list, the Magnetic Fluid Jacket (this is indeed a long assignment). Based on a comment I got in my survey, looking into non-newtonian fluids might be beneficial to get rid of the electronics necessary to make the magnetic fluid work. Anyway, the products I looked at for comparison were protective jackets, where degree of protection (based on looks and description) was evaluated.
Jacket 2by2.jpg


Patent Search
I found a relevant patent for each of the five products (though some are more relevant than others). The format I use to present these is "Idea name - Name of patent - Patent Number" and then a link to the full patent.

Socket Snap Bindings - Step-in snowboard binding - EP 0844902 B2
https://www.google.com/patents/EP0844902B2?cl=en&dq=quick+snap+snowboard+bindings&hl=en&sa=X&ei=OlCdUru0O8qYyAHg0oDQDQ&ved=0CGwQ6AEwBw

Rotatable Bindings - Rotating device for a snowboard binding - EP 2550999 A1
https://www.google.com/patents/EP2550999A1?cl=en&dq=rotatable+snowboard+binding&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4BGdUqbDNeH4yAG3u4DYDQ&ved=0CD4Q6AEwAQ

Hat-helmet - Flexible Helmet - EP 0921734 B1
https://www.google.com/patents/EP0921734B1?cl=en&dq=flexible+helmet&hl=en&sa=X&ei=DRSdUpnMJqWMygGp5YCQBg&ved=0CEwQ6AEwAw

Two-piece Snowboard - Articulated two-piece snowboard with rigid, flexible connector - EP 1993683 B1
https://www.google.com/patents/EP1993683B1?cl=en&dq=two+piece+snowboard&hl=en&sa=X&ei=4hadUrujEaTqyQGTkIGYCg&ved=0CDcQ6AEwAA

Magnetic Fluid Jacket - Magnetorheological fluid damper - EP 1270988 B1
https://www.google.com/patents/EP1270988B1?cl=en&dq=magnetorheological+fluid&hl=en&sa=X&ei=CMWeUoHnFcG4yQHjloCwAQ&sqi=2&pjf=1&ved=0CFMQ6AEwBA

The rotatable binding patent is effectively the same idea, the two-piece snowboard is similar, but the other three patents deviate quite a bit from the proposed products (though they are to some extent still relevant).


Feasibility Assessment
The Socket-snap Bindings as describe require a specific snowboard with holes for the Socket-snap. Perhaps a better description for this product would be Socket-snap Snowboard, because the change is effectively made to the snowboard, and any conventional type of binding could be used (though it could be expanded to the bindings as well).The biggest concern with this idea is whether this intrusion to the snowboard reduces the performance of the board, and the need to prove that it doesn't.

The material cost for this would therefore be in the same as that of a regular snowboard on the market, except with the added fastening method between the Socket Binding and the snowboard. Because snowboards are made in a very large price range, my analysis will estimate the added cost to the snowboard. In the snowboarding industry there is significant focus on keeping the boards and gear lightweight. Therefore, I'm assuming the use of Aluminum 7075 alloy (high strength) at a price of $43,000/m^3 (based on Discount Steel prices). The estimated amount of material needed for the mechanical attachments is about 100cm^3 which leads to an added material price cost of $4.3 or $43 retail price.

The Rotatable Binding has the embedded question of whether to manufacture a whole binding that does the job, or an addon such as the two products that were found on the market. The way I've currently described it is a binding that does the job, so I'll continue with that. My feeling for this one, since I already know this has been made, would be to enter the market. I only found two products. People seemed significantly more aware of one over the other. Finishing a product like this at acceptable standards would take time, at which point the other product might be too dominant, UNLESS I was able to drive the price down.

I based the material requirement on the image of the Twisted Bindings (at least if I had much more material I wouldn't be doing a very good design job). I used 20cm diameter disc of 5mm thickness This lead to a total cost of $6.75 per binding or $67.5 retail price. That makes $135 if wanted for both bindings (which is not really necessary). Note that this price is slightly lower than the $90 current retail price of the product, but calculations may also be off.

The Hat-helmet has a lot of unknowns in terms of what specific materials to use, and how much is required to give adequate safety, and how much safety to compromise to make encourage non-helmet users to use the product on the basis that it looks better than a helmet. Determining the correct level of safety, including significant amount of testing is the biggest concern about this product.

For an estimation of cost I assumed two layers of thick fleece material (at $4/m^2) and an 11mm thick Ultra-Strength Neoprene Rubber sheet for protection (at $105/m^2) with assuming the head to be a 20cm hemisphere. The price came down to $14 material cost, or $140 retail price.

For the Two-piece Snowboard , this product is practically a normal snowboard with the added feature of being in two pieces which can (and should) be mechanically attached together. As for the Socket-snap Bindings, the biggest concern would be proving the same performance after breaking the board up in two pieces.

To estimate the cost of this product, again I will look at the added cost to a typical snowboard. The locking mechanism would require lightweight material so I'll use the 7075 Aluminum alloy again. Estimated amount of required material is roughly 300cm^3 for a material cost of $12.9 or $129 retail price.

Finally, the Magnetic Fluid Jacket. There are two main concerns with this idea. One, it will require A LOT of testing and may not be a feasible approach at all. Two, keeping the cost down. If you look back at the cost analysis from the survey, throwing away the lowest 25% values gave a dollar amount of $157.

Therefore, let's move for pricing. It turns out that a liter of the Magneto-Rheological fluid (MR fluid) costs $750 and the density is 2280g/liter. Let's start by assuming that the fluid would be placed locally so the jacket is not filled with expensive fluid. Even then, it is my feeling that it would require at least 500mL of fluid, probably much more. This yields a raw material price, EXCLUDING any fabric and electronics, of $375. Assuming the rest of the material cost will be roughly $25 this sums up to $400, so I daresay, things aren't looking too bright for this product

Assignment 5

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Part 1: SCAMPER
I had a good opportunity to start this weeks assignment on a 3.5 hour flight to Las Vegas last Thursday. I brought along notes about how to apply the SCAMPER method and initiated the structured idea generation process. To spare you from my poor handwriting, the manipulation of a typical snowboard (my theme is snowboarding) is presented in writing rather than photos from my notebook, including a sketch of my favorite idea for each SCAMPER letter.

S - Substitute
- Put a blade under the snowboard that is rotatable using your feet
- Personal theme-song snowboard (when riding down hills)
- Slide & snap bindings
- Egg shaped snowboard
- Snowboard with an attached belt drive that is rotatable to put in and out of contact with the slope
Motor driven snowboard.jpg

C - Combine
- Bindings + boots => Snap bindings (this exists, question is why isn't it popular?)
- Cross-country motor snowboard (yes, it is essentially a snowmobile, just a smaller version)
- The adjustable push propeller
Adjustable push propeller.jpg

A - Adapt
- Magnetic slide bindings
- Wing jacket (flap your arms to propel in flat areas)
- Gecko bindings
- Velcro bindings
Velcro bindings.jpg

M - Magnify
- Hinged bindings that fold over your boots and locks together (would take a lot of space)
- Sled-boarding
- Body-boarding
Body-boarding.jpg

P - Put to other use
- Hand controlled snowboard
- Higher friction material for beginners and elderly
- Belt board for street riding
Belt-board.jpg

E - Eliminate
- Split board in two parts
- Tiny board
- Rotatable snowboard
Rotatable snowboard.jpg

R - Rearrange
- Front-style snowboard riding (face forward with feet in new angle positions)
- Magnetic slope and snowboard riding
Magnetic slope & board.jpg

Part 2: Table based idea generation
For this part I decided to try out the TRIZ method by converting the problem statement:
"Rod needs a way to move across flat areas because you have no good means of propelling yourself when locked in a snowboard."
Into:
"Speed needs to be increased over flat areas when snowboarding because of issues with use of energy of the moving snowboard".

The words in bold are those of interest with respect to the 39 TRIZ problem parameters, number 9 and 19. Moving on the the Altshuller matrix I found that the innovative principles I should be looking at were number 8, 15, 35 and 38. These correspond to the following innovative principles: Anti-weight, Dynamics, Parameter changes, and Strong oxidants.
I actually looked up the reversed box (i.e. 19 on the y-axis instead of x-axis) which gave the numbers 8, 15 and 35, so no new ones to work with.
This resulted in a few ideas, the ones I liked the most were:
Aerodynamic clothing
Aerodynamic jacket.jpg

Flexboard - Boot sections are made of semi-flexible material that enables the user to push against the snow with his/her feet
Flexboard.jpg

Part 3: Reflect on silly ideas from brainstorming
The top 10 list from last week was filled with realistic ideas, so I decided to browse quickly through all the ideas, and pick out some I thought had potential use with a different representation. From there I did the following manipulation.

Ideas related to improving snowboarding safety:
Marshmellow suit -> Heavily padded ski-wear for children
Rubber under snow -> Learning areas with thick layer of powder snow

Ideas related to moving over flat areas when snowboarding:
Flintstone riding -> Bindings snap in and out of sockets in the snowboard (i.e. they are actually part of the snowboard and snap in to complete it)
Crawl -> Knee sliders

I found this process to be very interesting, because during the brainstorming I didn't pay attention to the "Crawl" idea at all, but when I looked at the picture of a man crawling, I immediately started looking for solutions that could

Part 4: Top 10 product ideas
So now I'm down to the big moment of choosing the top 10 ideas over the last few weeks to move forward with.
Alright, I just had a really fun moment I have to tell you about. When doing the selection, I thought "Someone has probably made retractable ski poles before" so I googled it. Looking through the results I saw the suggested images for the search terms and found the picture I posted on my last blog as first choice! Though these don't seem to be too common, they exist which reduced the novelty of the idea so ultimately it didn't make it.
The top 10 ideas are:

Bike-brella
Bike-brella.jpg

Two-piece snowboard - By Þóra Jónsdóttir
Two-piece snowboard.jpg

Rotatable bindings - By Jerry Kessler
Rotatable bindings.jpg

Magnetic fluid jacket
Magnetic fluid jacket.jpg

Hat-helmet - by Þóra Jónsdóttir
Hat-helmet.jpg

Padded ski-wear (including gloves) - By Þóra Jónsdóttir
Padded underarmor.jpg

Adjustable push propeller
Adjustable push propeller.jpg

Velcro bindings (additional attachment will probably apply)
Velcro bindings.jpg

Flexboard
Flexboard.jpg

Socket snap bindings
Socket snap bindings.jpg

Knee sliders
Knee sliders.jpg

Assignment 4

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This weeks assignment was to host a brainstorming session on two topics based on the opportunities and needs found during last weeks ethnographic research. The two problem statements I chose to work with were:


  • Rod needs a way to move across flat areas because you have no good means of propelling yourself when locked in a snowboard.

  • Zach needs a better way to protect his head because helmets are expensive and reduce his field of vision.

When defining the topic statements, I didn't want them to be too narrowed down. I also took into account some of the comments I got from the last assignment, to incorporate my research statistics into the problem statements. This applied to the second problem statement I picked, because from my research I found out that 40% of all snowboarding injuries were wrist injuries. This yielded the two topics:


  • How might we enable snowboarders to move in flat areas?

  • How might we reduce snowboarding injuries?

Brainstorming
For hosting the brainstorming session as an international student, my pool of people to invite was slightly limited, but definitely something to work with. I contacted some of my friends and invited them over for brainstorming, pizza and beer. I felt this would kill two birds with one stone as I've heard about a research that claims beer is good for idea generation whilst coffee is better for idea refinement and details. Of course the amount of beer would have to be controlled, since too much would probably lead to negative effect. Those who were available and attended the brainstorming session were the following:


  • Þóra Jónsdóttir from Iceland - BS degree in Business

  • Jerry Kessler from Montana - Mechanical engineering graduate student

  • Aayan Banerjee from India - Mechanical engineering graduate student

  • Pieter Custers from the Netherlands - Mechanical engineering graduate exchange student


All of the participants had experience with snow sports except Pieter, me and Jerry were the most experienced snowboarders. Now, I did take a couple of pictures of the group, but when I looked at the images today, I found out they were bad and out of focus. Since this is the first time I've been taking opportunistic photos (i.e. something I can't just set up and take pictures of again if it fails), I learnt the lesson of looking at the results before moving on :)

I sent them the two problem statements to the participants 30 hours in advance and asked them to bring a few ideas for each topic. I also included some context relevant to each statement based on the ethnographic research for the less experienced participants (such as the fact that snowboarders take on foot out when riding ski lifts, the fact that 40% of injuries are wrist injuries, whilst head injuries are the most serious ones etc.).

Enhancing Creativity
Before initiating the actual brainstorming, to get everyone active we played Zip - Zap - Zop, and the one word story game. As an easy means of increasing the dopamine flow of participants, I offered dark chocolate with almonds.
Dark Chocolate.png

In an attempt to increase creativity of participants further, I created playlists to have background music during the brainstorming process. I had two playlists, one purely with classical music, and another with songs I considered playful / feel good. The two following link give a sample of the kind of feel I was going for (I was unable to use the link feature in the blog setup, if someone knows anything about that, please leave a comment).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTE_h-BKDF4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRy0W3jpk7Q&list=PL_OFTwCkams9zcUGFYugptvabtZYCyVlH

Before we started brainstorming, I said that as a group effort, we would unlock goods after a certain number of ideas (snacks and beer I know they like) at 25, 50, 75 and 100 ideas. A reward based effort. I do believe it served its purpose as encouragement, though at one point I had to tell them to stop counting current ideas until we had finished brainstorming on the topic and focus on finding more ideas. I also prepared a rolestorming list, partly with the same roles as we had in Tuesday's lecture, and partly new roles.
Rolestorming.jpg

The tool I came up with as an idea generation method was the "What if" method. This should be applied when idea generation starts to decrease during a brainstorming session. It drastically changes the current way of thinking, to encourage more ideas. The questions I prepared in advance were:

  • What if there was no snow?
  • What if there were no mountains and everything was flat?
  • What if there was only ice and no snow?
  • What if we couldn't feel pain, but the body would still take all the damage?

First topic: How might we enable snowboarders to move in flat areas?
I found this session to have a nice flow of ideas, and it wasn't until after 22 minutes that I brought up the question "What if there was no snow?". I stopped the session after 28 minutes, when idea generation had slowed down significantly. The total number of ideas was 58, and number of ideas per minute per person (IPM) for this topic was 0.41.

The following image shows the wall after the session (before sorting).
Brainstorming Topic1.jpg

We then sorted the ideas. Since there wasn't room for everyone around the wall, I allowed talking and discussion on how to sort and the naming of the categories. The following image shows the labeled categories.
Categories Topic1.jpg

Top 5 ideas
For selecting the best ideas, I asked everyone to write down individually what they thought the top 5 ideas were. We then compiled the lists and selected the ones that got the most votes. For any ideas that had equal number of votes we had a discussion about them which ultimately lead to the following 5 ideas:

1. The two-piece snowboard by Þóra
Two-piece snowboard.jpg

2. The rotatable binding by Jerry
Rotatable bindings.jpg

3. Retractable ski-poles by myself
Retractable ski-poles.jpg

4. The pull lever propulsion by Jerry
Pull lever propulsion.jpg

5. The snap-in boots by myself (even though I know this product exists, we allowed it on the basis that it's very rarely used, and that we need to find out why)
Snap-in boots.jpg

Besides the best 5 above, there was a bunch of energy and mechanical based ideas which might also be interesting to look further into.

Second topic: How might we reduce snowboarding injuries?
I found this session to start out nicely, but relatively early on (after roughly 13minutes) the idea generation decreased, so I brought up the question "What if we couldn't feel pain, but the body would still take all the damage?". This didn't seem to stimulate many new ideas, so I decided to bring forth my rolestorming list. That did the trick in terms of generating ideas (though one can debate the realism of many of them). Shortly after I felt that participants were getting exhausted from brainstorming so I concluded this session after a total of 23 minutes. The total number of ideas for this topic was 49, and surprisingly the IPM was slightly higher 0.43 contrary to how I felt about how the session was going.

Again, an image of the wall after the brainstorming session.
Brainstorming Topic2.jpg

We followed the same sorting process and came down to these categories:
Categories Topic2.jpg

Top 5 ideas
Following the same process as before for selecting the top 5 ideas, the following were chosen:

1. Magnetic fluid jacket by myself (density of fluid is based on acceleration, hardens upon high acceleration)
Magnetic fluid jacket.jpg

2. Hat-helmet by Þóra
Hat-helmet.jpg

3. Padded underarmor by Þóra
Padded underarmor.jpg

4. Mohawk helmet by Jerry (make helmets more "cool")
Mohawk helmet.jpg

5. Wrist guarding gloves by myself
Wrist guarding gloves.jpg

Besides the top ideas for snowboarding safety there were some related to changes at the ski-resorts (for instance moving platform at the top of ski-lifts, or having rubber sheets under the snow in certain areas) which I found quite interesting as well.

Assignment 3

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This weeks assignment was to perform an ethnographic research on our individual sub-themes of winter. Mine is snowboarding, which I'm very excited about, because snowboarding is one of my favorite hobbies (though I definitely could be more active). There were three parts:
1. Conduct three interviews with potential users
2. Observe people in the setting to the related sub-theme
3. Engage in activities related to the sub-theme
(please enjoy the following image I found online to set the mood before reading further)

Snowboarder1.jpg

Part 1: Interview Preparation
I started out reading the Ethnography Primer and IDEO Bootleg, from which I adapted some of the suggested methods. Me being a seasoned snowboarder I realized that "Assuming a beginner's mindset" would have to be carefully executed and would affect how to ask and behave during the interview. When I got to "Interview preparation" I immediately thought: Why not use a tool for this which I'm already familiar and create a mind map to get me started on the questions. The map can be seen below.

Mind map snowboarding.jpg

From this I generated a set of guideline questions for the interview, which lead to 20-25 minute discussions about snowboarding:


  • Tell me about the last time you went snowboarding

  • How often do you go snowboarding?

  • Tell me more about your snowboarding experience.

  • Can you walk me through a day where you went snowboarding?

  • Tell me about an experience you've had with snowboarding parks.

  • Tell me about bruises and injuries you've had when snowboarding.

  • Do you wear safety equipment when snowboarding?

  • Tell me about your off-pist experience (if any).

  • Tell me about snowboarding bindings and how you use them.

  • Can you tell me about your experience with ski-lifts when snowboarding?

  • What do you enjoy most about snowboarding?

  • What do you find most frustrating when snowboarding?

Interview planning
Preparing for an interview is not very fruitful unless you actually interview someone. The first thought that crossed my mind when thinking of people to interview was from TV news back in Iceland (my home country) a few years ago about some guy who won gold in a snowboarding competition. When I looked into it I found out that his name is Halldór Helgason and more specifically he won the Big Air at the 2010 Winter X games. I was very excited about how awesome it would be to get an interview with him, and tried contacting him via facebook. Unfortunately, I never received a reply, but I did get an interesting insight from their videos and blog which I'll get to later.

Another resource for snowboarders I thought of was the Ski and Snowboarding Club at the University of Minnesota. They meet on Wednesdays which was highly inconvenient as I was not prepared for interviewing at that time, so I sent an e-mail which was forwarded to a few snowboarders in the club. Again, no reply, which was a bit disappointing.

Interview 1
Time to move from my failed attempts to the people I ended up interviewing, I thought of a former project mate, Rod (a soon to be PhD candidate in mechanical engineering), whom I remembered mentioning that he went skiing a few times during last semester, and that he used to snowboard but didn't anymore. This was definitely something worth looking into as a potential laggard.

Chosen points from interview with Rod:
It turned out that he was encouraged by a downhill ski team during high school to switch from snowboarding because then you could go skiing everyday.
When asked about comparison between the two sports, he said: "Skiing is less cumbersome. When you get on the chair lift you need to take your boot out, then when you're up you need to st down and fasten yourself while your friends are waiting for you".
When talking about a day snowboarding he mentioned that he enjoyed going through back country but is more difficult on a snowboard because you don't have good means to move across flat areas.
In terms of safety equipment, Rod has always worn a helmet "for the sake of not becoming brain-dead" but thinks butt pads and shoulder pads are silly because the snow is already kind of soft. He did, however, break both his wrists once when he went too fast off a jump.

Interview 2
Due to my failed attempts, I still needed a candidate that could be considered somewhat of an expert in the field. My second interview I had was with Tom, a bike mechanic at Eric's Bikes and Board.

Chosen points from interview with Tom:
Tom has experienced a broken elbow and 2 concussions from hitting a table top in a snowboarding park weird, and not being prepared for icy spots riding downhill.
In terms of safety equipment Tom has never used any. Last few years he has been meaning to buy a helmet, but hasn't mainly due to cost.
When asked about bindings he said: "Bindings... I feel that bindings have been unchanged for quite a while". Besides the typical two strap bindings he mentioned that towards the end of the 90's they made a snap in binding similar to ski boots. Main advantage was faster attachment and stiffer connection to the board. Main drawback was that it sometimes got clogged with snow.
During our ski lift discussion Tom said it was fine riding lifts on snowboards, but tricker than with skis. Biggest thing was getting off the lift, going down the small slope because you only have one foot attached. In an attempt to remedy this problem, many people have started riding with friction pads on their snowboards.

Interview 3
For my third interview I still wanted an experienced person and asked Rod if he knew anyone. He suggested I talk with Zach, who was in the same project team as me and Rod last semester (a graduate mechanical engineering student). He was going deer hunting on Friday over the weekend and suggested talking to a friend of his who had tons of experience. As it turns out, his friend had his qualifying exam for PhD candidacy this Monday, but said he'd be available Thursday this week, so I plan on interviewing him then. Instead, the third interview I had was with Zach when he got back from his hunting trip.

Chosen points from interview with Zach:
In relation to snowboard parks he mentioned: "If you're not experienced, it's hard to go to snowboard parks and practice because there are so many experienced people hogging all the rails and jumps"
When asked about safety equipment and why he didn't use a helmet he answered cost, and that he didn't put himself in risky situations. "A part of it is also that if I'm wearing a helmet it decreases my field of vision"
During the ski lift discussion he said: "When getting off it can be pretty interesting to watch, there's always people falling up there".

Opportunities and needs
The problem statements below are based on the quotes from the interviews.
Rod needs a way to move across flat areas because you have no good means of propelling yourself when locked in a snowboard.
Snowboarders need a better way of riding ski lifts because loading and unloading with one foot not attached is difficult, and re-attaching takes time.
Zach needs a way to improve his snowboarding park skills because experienced people hog all the rails and jumps.
Zach needs a better way to protect his head because helmets are expensive and reduce his field of vision.

Part 2: Observe
For this part I decided to observe snowboarders indirectly (due to obvious reasons) through videos. What I found out is that there are tons of videos out there, both "How to" videos and riders doing tricks and stunts. Of course it should be kept in mind that since these are videos, the content can be selected and does therefore not give a full picture. Many snowboarders putting videos online are amazingly skilled and their moves seem effortless. The following image is taken from one of those videos. If you're wondering, then yes, he went for the jump, pulled the snowboard from his feet, held it in that position, put it back and landed safely. It's not an illusion.

Snowboarder2.jpg

My biggest take from the video watching (besides how amazing they are) was that most of the performers were not wearing any visible safety equipment including helmets (except for goggles if one considers that a safety equipment). There were a few cases where a person had a helmet, but majority did not, even though the stunts involved insane jumps and/or metal rails. Also, referring to the previous picture, it seems that either there are bindings that allow for extremely quick and easy detachment from the snowboard, or he wasn't fastened.

I also read some of Halldór Helgason's blog. One of his most recent facebook entries was "I'm gonna start wearing the invisible helmet from now on..." including a youtube link to the subject. While I'm not sure whether he was being serious or not, this indicates that he's probably had many discussions about wearing helmets before, and this topic is on his mind, though he still chooses not to wear one. Hearing the explanation from a snowboarding professional like that would be of high interest to me, and I plan on making further attempts to receive that information.

Part 3: Engage
Again, because it's quite difficult to engage in snowboarding activities for the time being, I did some research instead. According to Snowsports Industries America (SIA), the proportion of snowboarders has been increasing compared to alpine skiing and cross country skiing from 33% in 2009-2010 to 39% in 2012-2013. Interestingly the total snow sports participants has decreased over the last two years in all categories. This trend can be seen in the following graph, generated from the data available at the SIA website.

Snow sports participants.jpg

Gender statistics for the 2012-2013 season indicate that 67% of snowboarders are male, compared to 60% for skiing. SIA also offers market size data, split into specialty store and online purchases, which can be seen in the following table. Obviously this includes more than just snowboarding goods sold, but is good for getting a ballpark value. Another reference from Statistic Brain claimed the total snowboard equipment sales in 2011-2012 was $454.1 million. It should be noted that their estimate of US snowboarders in 2010 was 6.1 million which is significantly less than SIA predicted. However, this shows that there is a considerable market for snowboarding products, and a large number of people enjoy the sport.

Another statistic I looked into was snowboarding injuries which was an interesting read. It turns out that there are roughly 100,000 wrist injuries worldwide which accounts for 40% of all snowboard injuries.Head injuries are more common for snowboarders than skiers and tend to be more severe as riders get more experienced. This is due to the fact that even though the frequency of incidents is reduced, there is more speed involved and potentially more dangerous activities.Due to the mechanical function of the bindings locking the feet to the snowboard, knee injuries are lower leg fractures are much less likely compared to skiing. Interestingly 4-8% of snowboarding injuries take place while the person is waiting in ski-lift lines. This goes back to one of the problem statements due to the inability to propel yourself with both feet attached in a snowboard. There are definitely many opportunities for snowboarding improvement, the question is how?

Assignment 2

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For this second assignment there were three objectives.
1. Get in a playful mood.
2. Create a mind map with the theme: Winter.
3. Come up with 10 silly ideas related to winter.

Objective 1
I played Taboo and a couple other similar games last weekend at a party for the first time, which I find to be a funny coincidence. To get in the right mindset when working on the assignment, thinking of all the improv from last week, what better to do than watch a few episodes of "Whose line is it anyway?". I watched the most recent season and was slightly caught off guard when I saw Drew Carey wasn't the host anymore. I enjoyed the episodes nevertheless, those guys never seize to amuse me :)

Objective 2
I created the following mind map. My initial sub-categories may have been a bit too broad, so I narrowed it down a bit more. I would be interested in diving further into snowboarding, snowball fights, and ski-clothing for future work.

Mind Map2.jpg

Objective 3
Even though I already had a few ideas before really diving into this part, "Whose line is it anyway?" and a good steak with a bit of red wine really got me in the right mood to tackle this. Coming up with silly ideas also proved to be much more fun than I dared to anticipate. I was laughing pretty hard imagining some of those ideas of mine. I only hope that some of my drawings will convey the witty images I had in my head at the time and will make you giggle as well! (or perhaps it was all in the heat of the moment and my ideas aren't funny at all)

Idea 1: Always sunny ski-goggles
The always sunny ski-goggles make sure that even if you get bad weather on your ski-trip, you'll still see the sun!
Always Sunny Ski-goggles.jpg

Idea 2: Disco jacket
Fashionable skiing gear with flashing disco lights in multiple colors. Be the best dressed person on your skiing trip!
Flashing Light Ski Jacket.jpg

Idea 3: Bike-brella
The bike-brella shields you from the worst of weathers for the brave souls who venture biking during winter.
Bike-brella.jpg

Idea 4: Helmet slipovers
Slide a figure of your choosing (a polar bear for example) onto your helmet to look awesome! A variety of choosing from the animal kingdom and mythical monsters such as the Abominable Snowman.
Helmet slip-overs.jpg

Idea 5: The musical snow sled
As fun it is to ride down hills on snow sleds, imagine how much more fun it would be if it played epic songs while gushing down the slope (Don't stop, believing!)
Musical Snow Sled.jpg

Idea 6: Snowball roulette
Want to spice up your traditional snow balling? Then the snowball roulette is just the thing for you! Load one or more of the chambers with snow, the wheel, and pull the trigger. Playing this game with other people is advised.
Snowball Roulette.jpg

Idea 7: The snowflake sucker
Do you have fun capturing snowflakes with your tongue? Why not push it to the extreme and have a suction device get those flakes for you!
Snowflake Sucker.jpg

Idea 8: Snow distributing airplanes
Are you tired of living in a country where expectations are to have snow during Christmas, but remarkably often that's the exact time when there is no snow at all? (I know I am, Iceland is a deceptive name). Snow distributing airplanes will fix that issue in a jiffy!
Snow Distributing Airplane.jpg

Idea 9: Snow guns blowing colored snow
Even though skiing trips are a blast, to make them ever so slightly more entertaining, snow guns with colored snow will paint the slopes in all the colors of the rainbow (or at least some). Enjoy riding down the hills in a more colorful environment!
Colored Snowflake Snow Gun.jpg

Idea 10: Singing gingerbread cookies
The last idea I'm posting on the blog (but not the least for sure) are the singing gingerbread cookies. Each cookie plays a Christmas song until you eat it. Everybody wins, enjoy the Christmas song until you get tired of it, at which time you're forced to eat a delicious cookie :)
Singing Gingerbread Cookies.jpg

Assignment 1

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As soon as the assignment, experimenting with cookies, was described, I immediately started thinking about what kind of cookies I wanted to make. Jumping from one cookie type to the other (healthy, sweet, appetizer), thinking what novel ingredients I could use, I soon realized decisions had to be made. I decided that for the cookie experimentation I was going to choose a focal ingredient and use the flavor bouncing method with an incremental approach. However, because I didn't want to constrain my list of ingredients too much (and lack of cooking experience to know what actually goes together), I didn't demand that every added ingredient could go with ALL the previous ones listed.

Choosing ingredients
I wanted the focal ingredient to go well with many others, and chose cheese. Because the concept "cheese cookies" is not novel by itself I did a Google search for "cheese cookies" to explore what kind of cheese cookies were already out there. As expected there were many hits, but after many pages of different recipes I felt confident that there was much room for incremental experimentation to be done. Based on my own experience I initiated the flavor bouncing, seen in the picture below.
Flavor bounce2.png

Next stop was Whole Foods and Target to buy the ingredients. My feeling was that choosing the right cheese for the cookies would be important, so I picked out five different types; Blue cheese, Fontina, Gouda, Brie and Prairie Breeze Cheddar (from left to right). Other ingredients were pistachios, tart cherries, apricots, pear, pomegranate, salami, chili, red wine, red currant jam and mango chutney. Cayenne pepper was also used in the experiments. This list has some classic cookie ingredients such as jam, but most of them are uncommonly used in cookie recipes (mango chutney, salami, red wine) and I was excited to try them out. The pear was a bit of a wild card as I've never tried cheese with pear.
Ingredients2.jpg

Experimentation
The baseline cookie dough used was based on the 1-2-3 recipe from Ratio Expert on Cookie Dough by Michael Ruhlman. I felt that with the cheese, sugar would not be needed, so I used 2 parts butter and 3 parts flour as a guideline. Judging how tasty the cookies were was done by myself and my girlfriend. A full list of variations tried is as follows:

First round:
Brie
Brie + red wine
Gouda
Gouda + apricot + chili

Second Round:
Cheddar
Cheddar + mango chutney on top + cayenne pepper
Fontina
Fontina + pear + red currant jam

Third round:
Blue cheese
Blue cheese + salami + chili
Brie + pomegranate + pistachios
Brie + salami + mango chutney + cayenne pepper

Final round:
Gouda + salami + mango chutney + cayenne pepper
Gouda + red wine + salami + mango chutney + cayenne pepper

Choosing the right cheese
Because I wanted to find the best cheese, I made cookies with cheese and nothing else for each type of cheese. Surprisingly we found out that the cookies were not very sensitive to the type of cheese used though you could taste subtle difference, except for the blue cheese, which gave a distinct flavor. Though the blue cheese cookies were not bad at all, both of us preferred the other cheese types (perhaps because I often prefer blue cheese in its uncooked state). Because the difference between the other types of cheese was subtle, the obvious choice of cheese was the Gouda, being the cheapest cheese by far.

Round 1
For rapid feedback, I put 4 cookie types in at a time. In the first round I found out that I had put too little Brie because the cookie tasted like butter. Red wine definitely had potential as an ingredient and the apricot and chili combination was decent, though more apricots wouldn't have hurt.
First batch2.jpg

Round 2
From the second round, the mango chutney topped cookie with cayenne pepper was definitely the most tasty cookie yet, while the pear cookie filled with red currant jam was a failure and didn't taste good at all. At this point I tasted the tart cherries (I have never had them before, they just looked interesting at the store) and felt that they would serve a similar purpose as jam in terms of flavor, in which case I would rather choose the smooth texture of jam, so I scrapped the idea of using tart cherries for my cheese cookies.
Jam filling.jpg

Round 3
For the third round I wanted to give the Brie another chance because I put too little of it in the first round. The pomegranate + pistachio cookie was not a hit. The pomegranate was dominated by the cheese flavor, and the pistachios proved to be a bad addition to the mix. The two salami cookies were both very tasty and interesting. The blue cheese + salami + chili cookie was good, but there was too stuffed. The brie + salami + mango chutney + cayenne pepper cookie had the mango chutney mixed in the cookie dough this time scored highest of all the cookies. These results directed the path for the final round and was moving towards a kind of an appetizer cookie.

Final round
For the final round of testing I was very curious if adding the red wine would improve the cookie even further. For presentation, I also felt that having the mango chutney on top of the cookie made it more interesting and appealing. If the red wine was to make it to the final recipe, it would have to improve the cookie significantly, because people are generally not going to want to open a bottle of red wine just to be able to make the cookies. The result was the cookie without the red wine was actually better. Through my tasting experience I felt that there was a bit too much butter in the cookies so I decided to reduce it a bit, especially since the cheese and salami are rich in fat. This lead to the final recipe:

Cheese cookies with mango chutney & salami
1 cup Flour
3/4 cup Butter
1 cup shredded Gouda cheese
2.5oz Salami (roughly)
3oz Mango chutney (roughly)
Pinch of Cayenne pepper

1. Preheat oven to 350F.
2. Add the flour and butter together and mix to create base dough.
3. Add shredded cheese and mix.
4. For the salami you can either shred it or cut it to small pieces, but personally I like the shred method (use the larger shredding option). Add the salami and mix thoroughly.
5. Form the cookies on baking paper.
6. Add mango chutney on top of each cookie.
7. Spread a tiny bit of cayenne pepper on top of each cookie (seriously, don't over do it, cayenne pepper is very spicy). Alternatively it can also be added to the cookie dough and mixed thoroughly before forming the cookies.

Final recipe2.jpg

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