Last Assignment

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Pugh Chart for the ten selected ideas:
2011-10-23 23.05.58.jpg

Brainstorming names for the ideas:
2011-10-23 23.05.13.jpg

Original images of selected idea:

And without further ado...

The Nightcap

Idea Evaluation


To set out on this adventure I am looking for things related to water bottles.

Flavor Dispensing Bottle Cap
LED Bottle Cap for Lighting
Modular Water Bottle
Cooling Water Bottle with Thermal Mass
Water Bottle with Removable Divisions for Separating Liquids
Water Bottle with USB Charger for Charging
Water Bottle Bag with Ziploc for Sandwiches
Water Bottle that Captures Water from the Air
Water Bottle that Projects a Ruler
Water Bottle with a Heater for Sanitization

Flavor Dispensing Bottle Cap:
Feasible: Yup
Marketable: Yes, who wouldn't want to inject flavor on the go?
Novel: No, some people have already tried it (although theirs are kind of ugly)
Blast cap in action
Bottle cap patent
The really weird thing about the blast cap is that there is absolutely no information about buying them that I could find - it seems like a big pyramid scheme for selling them.
Really weird
Components: Squishy thing for flavor, flavor vial, cap.
Estimated Cost: $2 per cap, $0.25 for refill 25 mL vial (it would come in a package and you'd be able to refill the vials yourself).
Market Survey Price: $4

LED Lit Bottle Cap:
Feasible: Check (it'd be more feasible than the one I built with some SMD LEDs and button cells).
Marketable: Yes - most of the designs I've seen are focused around aesthetically lighting a liquor bottle.
But with the proper modifications, this thing could take the world by storm.
Novel: Not really, as it's been done before (above) but not with the intention of allowing someone to read or functioning like a candle (dispersed light around). There's a huge toss up between how much light is output and how concentrated it is. A single LED would work if focused for reading, but not for lighting a table (unless you really want to set the mood).
Patents relating to the idea:
LED Bottle Cap
Estimated cost: $6 per cap
Components: White LED, 3x Cell battery, Switch, Circuit Board, Battery Connector, Housing (cap itself + seal).
Market Survey Price: $5

Modular Water Bottle:

Feasible: Yes, although I can't find it at the moment I have seen something similar with storage containers. They screwed into each other (plastic shell with top and bottom threads, allowing them to be connected).
Marketable: Yes, although I haven't seen anything directly relating to this.
Novel: No,
Image of plastic modular bottles.
The modular Alex bottle
Although with the take on creating compartmentalized 'accessories' for it that don't just store water, like an LED chamber, a food storage container, a thermal mass container, etc. it might be.
Estimated Cost: All PET + molds. $5 per bottle.
Market Survey Price: $15

Cooling Water Bottle with Thermal Mass
Feasible: Yes, although I can't figure out the math for combining two materials at different temperatures with different specific heats, so I don't really know how much metal would be necessary to provide a good thermal sink. The goal here is to cool a liquid, but that means you'll likely be on the run (although you could grab something out of the freezer quick). It would likely be easier to have a vacuum sealed water bottle that would insulate very well, and those are already purchasable.
Useful: Yes.
Novel: Likely not - people have combated this problem in the past with those freezer bottles where you freeze water on the outside and it cools your drink.
Market Survey Price: $21

Water Bottle with Removable Divisions for Separating Liquids and/or solids
Feasible: Absolutely.
Useful: Heck yeah.
Novel: Nope - someone already did it (although they only have two chambers).
Hydra Duo
Market Survey Price: $15

Water Bottle with USB Charger for Charging
Feasible: Yes - combining an ordinary water bottle with something like this you could definitely make one.
Useful: Definitely - you never know when you're going to need a charge. Although it would be more useful if you had a MicroUSB and Apple connector right there so you wouldn't need to lug those around as well.
Novel: I haven't seen it done, although it's not really a novel combination of the two ideas (nothing that someone experienced in water bottles and electronics wouldn't combine for themselves).
Market Survey Price: $25

Water Bottle Bag with Ziploc for Sandwiches
Feasible: Absolutely.
Useful: Finish the drink and crumple it up for later. Definitely useful.
Novel: Probably not, people make bag bottles already. Adding a ziploc (and changing the form factor for the worse) likely wouldn't be appreciated much. It could be like a new ziploc though - the water is not drinkable you freeze it to keep your food cold all day.
Market Survey Price: $8

Water Bottle that Captures Water from the Air
Condensing water (dehumidifer, something that is cold) requires a bit of energy - you need to make a surface cold for the water to condense on it. You could, under the proper conditions do this more easily if you leave your water bottle out over night (dew on the grass, same effect). Typically you need a compressor (like in your refrigerator or dehumidifier), you compress a gas like freon, and you get a cold surface. Water collects here, and then you collect it somewhere else (this is why your freezer gets so much frost). Running these compressors requires a large amount of energy - and a mechanical Air2O system wouldn't be feasible, but a dew based one would be.
Useful: In limited applications (camping).
Novel: No - it happens all the time, you're just capturing it.
Market Survey Price: $32

Water Bottle that Projects a Ruler
Feasible: Probably - the math is escaping me at the moment, and all the diffraction examples online are very simple - but complicated images can be formed with diffraction gratings (holograms), so this should be possible. Diffraction gratings are drastically affected by changes in wavelength, but luckily an LED wouldn't cause too much of a problem over 1 inch lengths. A laser LED might need to be used.
Useful: In limited applications, there's usually a ruler near by, or I just use my finger to estimate.
Novel: Nothing new is being combined here, just recycling old technology with a facelift.
Market Survey Price: $4.25

Water Bottle with a Heater for Sanitization
Feasible: No. The energy required to boil just 10 mL of water is ~25 kJ. This is a C cell battery, and for cleaning it once a week you'd be better off boiling water and dumping it in.
Useful: Maybe - I would like it for frothing coffee, although 10 mL is not very much water.
Novel: I haven't seen one, but there is likely a good reason for that (see Feasible above).
Market Survey Price: $22

So we talked a lot about water bottles so far - but one of the things we didn't focus too specifically on was bottle caps. These things are usually pretty useless - they cover your bottle or clip on your bag. They can be made significantly more useful though (lighted caps, flavor caps, something else caps). Browsing on Amazon yields a few different styles of caps - most of them are focused for SIGG bottles where the cap is pretty easily lost. There's a big gap for expensive useless caps, or cheap functional caps. I suspect this is because of the lack of competition and the relatively niche application of the product. Also - people would be more likely to get a cap from the manufacturer (SIGG, CamelBak) so they know it works. Most of the designs incorporate a way to clamp the cap with a carabiner, or a sports bottle fit. The lowest price for a cap was ~$5 (it just screwed on). But if you lose your cap, you're going to need one and you'll pay how ever much they're charging (unless you just get a new bottle).


The Water Lantern

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I chose to apply SCAMPER and another technique to the lighted water bottle.

Substitute: Can I substitute one part for another?
You could remove the cap and place it on the bottom, depending on where you would like the light output.

Combine: Can I combine or merge it with other objects?
As per the other ideas generated, you could screw different types of bottoms on, allowing you to purchase a lighted portion, a cooling portion, and use them all simultaneously.

Adapt: What else is it like?
This is kind of like a firefly, they emit light and I want to capture them to use later. I could have a small container on the water bottle that allows the fireflies to light up at night when I need light.

Magnify: What can be magnified?
The LED at the center could be magnified and better distributed. Or distributed with a fiber optic.

Put to other use: Can I use this idea in other markets or industries?
An LED could be placed at the tip of a pen to provide illumination while writing.

Eliminate: Must the part be different from other parts?
The entire top LED/battery assembly could be replaced with glow in the dark paint and allow ready modification of currently existing water bottles (and anything you carry with you frequently).

Reverse: Can I transpose cause and effect?
Instead of using a water bottle, a light up sheet could be used instead to go behind a piece of paper to make night reading easy (although the pages would have to be single sided otherwise the text from the other side will bleed through).

Morphological Chart:

One of the ideas to come from this chart was a squeeze bottle to provide energy (like the squeeze flashlights, but you'd squeeze the bottle).

Another idea was a temperature differential driven water bottle that gains energy from cool/hot water going into the bottle (greater deltaT, more energy produced).

Brainstorming with Friends


So Sunday night is a difficult time to get a chunk of time from my roommates and friends. Everyone puts everything off until Sunday, like me, and they have other things to do. So this brainstorming session wasn't as long or as well documented as it probably should been (I didn't want to suck up too much of their time). Anyway - I grabbed four of my friends/roommates and got on with the show.

One is a Political Science major, one is a History major, one Global Studies/ Spanish, one is an English major, and I'm an EE. Good mix of people in there.

Anyway we started the session off with a bit of candy and joke telling (it's really hard to think of funny jokes on the spot).

We then got down to business - I told them how to go about this brainstorming business, write an idea down, give it a name, give a verbal brief description, and get onto your next idea. Build off of each others', and we're going for lots of ideas.

We started with no topic in particular (something with water bottles) - people were kind of shy of saying stupid ideas. Knowing the people I was with made it kind of funny as I saw the ideas they generated, I could kind of follow why they wanted something in particular (like a sandwich cooling water bottle). We did this for about 10 minutes and started to run out of steam. We then switched it up and I had them pick their favorite TV/Movie character. Someone picked James Bond, Spongebob, Spiderman, Jason Bourne, and Steve Zissou.

It seemed like the ideas came faster initially but died off during the role playing. Fitting a topic to a person is not always easy.

We stopped after this, I cut the pieces of a paper in half and told everyone to grab some of their favorite ideas. There were slightly more than twenty, but some really good ones.

A lot of the ideas involved light - water bottles with music visualizers, lensing water bottles for fire starting (or in James Bond's case - torture). Flavoring / carbonating the water was another cool topic. My roommate Travis thought of a collapsable water bottle - that would be really nice for camping. He also suggested a water bottle that plays music when you open it (as opposed to squeaking). My roommate Jack thought of a Nalgene with a reading light, which is a really good idea - when isn't your water bottle by you? From that idea, we moved onto lantern bottles, glow in the dark bottles, and fluorescent bottles. My friend Scott thought of a water bottle with a bunch of chambers so you could have two drinks in one container. I thought of a water bottle with a button you could press and dispense some Ibuprofen or flavoring into the water. My roommate Dan thought of a water bottle that would condense water on its surface leading to a never ending supply of water.


Awesome Things

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I'll get one of those pinterest things soon... until then I'm making a list.
Obligatory picture (Source).

I really like the internet, if you haven't heard of it it's this amazing interconnection of things people think, know, and do. It lets me connect with anyone on the face of the planet in seconds. And, for the moment at least, it hasn't been overrun by businesses striving to make money and shape what I do on it.

I like photography. I haven't updated that site in a long time.

I like riding bikes. It's really exhilarating on a brisk night.

I like rechargeable batteries.

I like camping.

I like Minneapolis and the Stone Arch Bridge.

I like ideas.

That's all for now, more (better) things to come soon.

Ethnographic Research: The Water Cooler


I started thinking of things I could ask people that most people do around the sink that wouldn't have too much variability (people with a dish washer would have a different view of washing dishes than those without). I decided filing up water bottles would be a cool area to explore.

Three days is all it takes to die of dehydration. Here in America we never need to think about water distribution, it's an invisible service that's always there. Power goes out, I've never seen the water go out. Water is how many diseases spread around the world, and harvesting water is one of the first problems an expanding community will face (I'm a member of Engineers Without Borders, almost all of the projects we work on deal with storing, routing, and cleansing water).

I started my research with a survey/interview.

1) How often do you drink water (cups per day)?
a) 4-5 cups a day
b) ~40 oz
c) 6 glasses
d) rarely - no flavor
e) 3 glasses
f) 1 - 1 1/2 Nalgene's per day
g) 5 glasses (minimum)
h) 2 glasses
2) Where do you get the water from?
a) Fancy machine at work or the tap at home
b) Sink or culligan at work
c) Drinking fountain at school, sink at home
d) -----
e) Tap
f) Tap
g) Tap and drinking fountain
h) Tap, drinking fountain
3) What temperature water do you like?
a) Cold (always with ice)
b) Sometimes ice, but lazy so just as cold as the tap goes
c) Cold or room temperature
d) If the water is really cold, I'll drink it - hassle to put ice cubes in.
e) Room temperature in winter, ice cold in summer
f) Cold (ice cubes)
g) Cool
h) Room temperature

4) What do you drink it out of?
One person used a tumbler with a reusable straw. Supposedly they're good for coffee and sell them at Starbucks.

Everyone admitted to using these every once in a while.

One person used a sport water bottle at work.

Two people use Nalgenes. One of them mentioned the measurements on the side came in very handy when camping as a measuring cup.

5) How often do you wash your water bottle?
Most people do not wash their water bottles. Three people wash them once a week, others rarely to never wash them, and one person washed their water bottle when it smells.

6) Do you put other liquids in it?
Four people do not mix other liquids in their water bottle, one person frequently drinks lemonade out of their tumbler, one person puts liquids that aren't resealable in their water bottle, and one person on infrequent occasions (camping) puts other liquids in their water bottle.

7) What don't you like about the process?
Water pressure was a big complaint people had, it takes a while to fill up a large water bottle when the pressure is low (for both the sink and the drinking fountain). The water not being cold enough was a frequent complaint.

8) Anything else? This question turned more into an interview than a survey, they would tell me a couple stories about why they did certain things with their water.
Many people brought up traveling and drinking water (this question was more of an interview where I let them lead the conversation). The water at home is always the best, a couple people from up north said that the chlorine in the water does not taste good, but they still drink it.

The person with the Tumbler said they use it because at work they get a discount on drinks in the cafeteria when they use their reusable cup. Their only complaint about the Tumbler was that they had to carry it around, as it isn't sealed around the straw (which is reusable and plastic). They were slightly confused how to clean the inside of the straw out (there was some lemonade pulp left in there).

One person said they have traveled around much of the world and never really had a problem drinking it anywhere they went, except for northern Minnesota near the iron range.

A couple people mentioned how awesome the new drinking fountains at the U are (with the counter and water bottle filler). They said filling up water bottles in drinking fountains is generally a pain, and they can't fill it up all the way. They also mentioned that people spitting in the drinking fountains is absolutely disgusting.

One person suggested an auto sensing drinking fountain where it would detect if your face is over the faucet and turn on, preventing the need to press the button to turn the water on (preventing the spread of germs).

One person mentioned that they can drink water faster out of a straw than a wide mouth bottle.

One person said they love H2O, but they drink a lot of juice too.

Water Bottle Roundup:
I went to the kitchen and looked on the water bottle shelf for all the water bottles we have.


Water pressure was a large concern of people - so I decided to investigate it in my house. I took the 32 oz Nalgene and timed filling up the water bottle with three different sinks in my house. The kitchen and upstairs both filled up 32 oz in 12.2 seconds (one unscientific measurement) which gives a flow rate of 1.23 gallons per minute. According to, in 1992 a bill was passed to mandate the flow rate of faucets and shower heads to no more than 2.2 gallons per minute.

The faucet in the basement filled up 32 oz in 7.5 seconds, giving a flow rate of 2.0 gallons per minute. The faucet in the basement and the upstairs looks almost identical, so the problem is either the sink(s) or too low of pressure due to the difference in pressure with the distribution center. Water pressure would not be an easy problem to tackle, short of replacing the sink itself or moving. Maybe water pressure isn't the correct word - the flow rate is lower than people would like, although they're related.

One of the big complaints people have is that the water isn't cold enough. There are two ways (that I can think of) to solve this problem - make the tap colder (requires electricity, and a new piece of equipment) or make a better water bottle. I haven't seen any (haven't really looked either) water bottles with thermal mass on the bottom that you could put in the freezer to chill - although this isn't a portable solution (your first drink of the day will be the coldest). Also - for the metal based water bottles they will sweat if they're colder than the atmosphere. Plastic is better in this regard - it is insulated better, but you don't really know what kind of things are leeching into your drinks. A plastic outside lined stainless steel water bottle with a cooling thermal mass on the bottom (but not too heavy!) would be cool.

One problem I found in testing the different water bottles in my house was that the steel bottles with relatively small rims do not fit ice cubes from the tray (crushed ice would work, but it's less common). Having a thermal mass in the bottom of these metal water bottles would let me get chilly water without smashing ice cubes to fit them in.

Let's recap with some problems/awesomes people stated (I have a feeling this is getting incredibly long and daunting to read):
Plastic water bottles can leach chemicals into water.
Single layer Stainless steel readily takes on the temperature as liquids inside (no coffee!)
Insulated plastic is nice for coffee and water (keeps it cool/warm longer)
Water pressure is a big issue for the sink.
The new water fountains work really well for filling up bottles.
Getting the water cold is sometimes a challenge.
People don't clean their water bottles very frequently, and they aren't getting sick so it likely isn't an issue.
One awesome thing that no one said - no one drinks bottled water regularly!

Bug List

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I don't like throwing away packaging for things I buy. Sure it might help with marketing and making people buy your stuff, but if I throw it away to use the product, just why?

Laundry is not fun to do... especially throwing things in the dryer, why can't there be one machine that washes and dries?

I don't like how Summit twist off caps need a bottle opener to open.

I don't like how I have had two keyboards die on me this weekend. They're the newest ones too... the 15 year old one still works.

I really don't like how I can't ride my bike through the McDonald's drive-thru.

I don't like how I still have keys for everything... where are the fingerprint scanners?

I don't like how I don't know how all the stuff on my desk is built.

I don't like how we live in American houses and fill them with Chinese goods.

I don't like how complex our society is becoming, it allows us to push all the problems associated with making stuff elsewhere without actually solving the problem. We're problem pushers.

Assignment #2: Everything and the Sink


Hmm just finished my entry... and it's gone... all gone. I left this page up overnight and it logged me out, then lost my data :(. It's getting close to class time so this will be a rapid fire approach.

To spark the creativity this morning I watched a few episodes of Spongebob... what could be better for thinking of new things involving a sink?

Television Sink: Why not put a television in your sink? After a long night of partying when you have to do every single dish, it's going to take a while. Pass the time with some TV.

Mossy Sink: What better way to save money than to grow your own sponges? Lining the rim of the sink with sponges prevents water from seeping onto the counter and allows you to trim off a new sponge whenever you need one.

Le Sink De Sponge: Lining the entire surface of the basin with sponges allows you to be a little rougher with the first dishes you put in. Toss them in - they'll just bounce around. The sponge lining allows you to rub your dishes on the sink to clean them.

Usage Competitions: Consumption is a hard thing to quantify - but already have lots of data for it. Xcel energy gives you nice usage charts, you know how much gas you use, you know how much water you used (consumed and sent back). We need good iPad/web applications that can turn usage into a game with your neighbors. You get extra tax rebates for winning. We also need a way to measure how much garbage we throw away (city would need new 'weighing' garbage cans, or an attachment for the garbage trucks). Americans love consumption and competitions, which do they love more?

Dish-it-out: Dish it out allows you to forget about drying your dishes and putting them away. Above your sink is a rack that is on a track (like a cat in a hat), when the dishes are dry part of the cupboard slides out and the dishes slide in. They are placed on top of each other and then the DIO slides back out. What could be easier?

Robot Cleaners: I'll tell you what could be easier - if more of the dish washing process was automated. Monkey cleaning bots that hang above the sink loaded with industry leading computer vision software allow the monkey to identify the crock pot from the wine glasses. They come down, clean the dishes, pass them onto the other bots, and put them on the DIO. Just put your dishes on the counter and they take it from there.

All-In-One Faucet: Have you ever wanted a restaurant style faucet in your house? Now you can with the AIOF! Thirsty for a coke? Got it. Want a beer? Check. Scrape your knee and need a liquid bandage? We got ya covered.

LED Enhanced Faucet: I really want to experience synasthesia. Mixing of the senses is such an odd concept, but as I'm not synasthetic I need the next best thing - mixing my senses externally. I made this thing over the summer: it works really nicely and lets you gain intuition about music through your primary sense - vision. Although we do it all the time with touch, varying the color of an RGB led with the water pressure / velocity would be really cool.

Speaker Sinks: Again with combining senses - touch and hearing generally don't go together (at least in the examples I can currently think of). Putting a speaker in a sink, combining it with cool chemicals like Corn Starch ( would be a cool demonstration for kids, and if the corn starch could be replaced with soap you might be getting close to the dishes that clean themselves (or break themselves).

Webcam Spy Sink: Lame name, amazing idea. Have you ever wondered who left their bowl of two week old pasta in the sink for a week? Now you can find out with the WSS! Designed to capture images of sink activity, you can now monitor who is leaving their dishes behind.

And now time for some mind map pictures that might help with seeing some of these ideas:
This is the first mind map I made before I remembered silliness was a requirement of the assignment. I really need to start double checking instructions before I start barreling down a path.


Assignment #1: Creative Cookies


Except for vegetarians, everyone likes meat. How about some meat cookies? There's Mole, which is a cocoa infused sauce commonly used to cover Chicken. Chicken cookies? That just doesn't sound good. How about bacon? Chocolate covered bacon cookies? Everyone likes chocolate chip, almost everyone likes bacon... I think we're on to something here. Going off of the Ghiradelli recipe on the back of the chocolate chips. I headed off to Rainbow to see what kind of bacon they offered. I quickly perused the bacon section and my eyes fixated on maple bacon. My mouth started salivating... this is going to be delicious. I found some Ghirardelli 60% cocoa chips, and they had a nice recipe on the back.
2 1/2 cups unsifted flour, 1 tsp bacon soda, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 cup butter, 3/4 cup sugar, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 2 tsp vanilla, 2 eggs, 2 cups Ghirardelli. I got home, gathered all my ingredients, and wondered how this would turn out.

Looking over the Ghirardelli recipe, and taking what I knew about bacon, I realized I wouldn't need any salt. I also wanted to add some of my roommate's homemade maple syrup, as it really is the best syrup I've ever had. I threw the bacon on the pan and started the cooking process.

I let the bacon sizzle while I shifted my attention to mixing all the dry ingredients. I put in a little less than the suggested white and brown sugar, as the maple syrup and bacon will surely compensate for sweetness.

Dry Ingredients

This kind of reminded me of a prop for an old building in a movie.
Hospital Light

The bacon finished fairly quickly, and a taste test proved that it was delicious.
Sizzled Bacon

A lot of time is spent baking and cooking in my house, so my roommate decided to paint some messages on the wall.
Me Gusta Cocinar

With the bacon finished cooking, it's now ready to be sliced and diced.
Bacon for Slicing

Slicing Bacon

Sliced Bacon

The bacon is diced, it's now time to add it to the cookie mix.
Bacon Mix

About 3/4 of the bacon was used (in addition to the few pieces that were eaten for taste testing). This mix seemed perfect in retrospect, but a complete guess at the time.

Forming Cookies
I laid some parchment paper down so I wouldn't have to grease the pan. The cookie balls were formed and the cookies are ready to start cooking in the oven that was preheated to 375 degrees F.

I had to take a couple sneak peaks to make sure the cookies weren't over cooked, and they smelled delicious.
Oven Cookies

After about 12 minutes, the cookies looked perfect and they were extracted from their inferno.
Completed Cookies

Then the moment of truth came... I brought a couple of roommates into the kitchen (after they wandered through a few times to try the bacon and the batter) to try the final product. It was amazingly delicious, the perfect blend of soft and sweet, crunchy and salty.

If I tried this again, I think I would experiment with adding more bacon, it's a subtle taste in the cookie but I think adding more would probably gross me out - I'm trying to eat a cookie, not bacon with cookie flavoring.

Recent Comments

  • Brittany Edwards: The flavor injector seemed like the most feasible idea. I read more
  • Andrew Carlson: Andrew, you did a very thorough job researching your ideas. read more
  • gilbe503: I liked your variety of ideas. I do think you read more
  • grim0168: Now my second selected idea: Lensing water bottle for starting read more
  • grim0168: SCAMPER – I chose the water bottle that helps keep read more
  • SarahKanan: This was a really creative topic to take on....I never read more
  • maxwe068: You have a lot of good problems to work off read more
  • Nance Longley: It's amazing how many ways there are of carrying water read more
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