Team Animaker Final Reflection

Our team, The Animakers, shared an incredible experience in building “The Steering Buddy” this semester. As we embarked on our first journeys in Digital Making, the group set a goal of improving the safety of our roads – and the experience of the drivers on them. We began working on a concept for a steering wheel attachment that would serve as a turning and steering assistant for drivers driving any type of vehicle. Our first step was to craft a “How can we” statement. We drew from the knowledge we gained from when Design for America held a workshop for our class. Once we identified the problem that steering a car be immensely difficult if you have any type of physical impairment, we created the following how can we statement: How can we build a customizable steering solution for these individuals in a way that is cheap, easy to add/remove, and safe for any and all drivers to use.

Next, our focus was directed towards identifying who would use this attachment. We envisioned a driver with low muscle tone, arthritis, carpal tunnel, or other physical disabilities around the hand that needs a bit of extra help in maintaining control over their vehicle. If “The Steering Buddy” can help this driver steer their vehicle more easily then we will create not only a better experience for the user, but for other drivers on the road as well. The road requires significant trust that other drivers are equally capable and alert – our purpose in creating “The Steering Buddy” was to improve upon this level of trust in both our users and other drivers on the road.

After coming to a shared understanding of our problem and solution, the three of us began to work on designing and building “The Steering Buddy”. The process, though sometimes challenging, gave each of us new knowledge in Digital Making which will serve as an excellent foundation for how we approach problem solving moving forward.

Our first step was to see if there were similar products already out there. We didn’t get too far along in our search before discovering The Brodie Knob, an attachment quite similar to the one we originally envisioned. Nonetheless, we used this new information to think about how we can improve upon The Brodie Knob. We set out to find the biggest issue with Brodie Knobs which we ultimately determined was its price point. Standard Brodie Knobs cost an individual roughly $60 to purchase. Additionally, the Brodie Knobs currently out on the market are not customizable nor seamless to add and remove from the steering wheel. In light of this new understanding of what is already out there, we set out to create an attachment that was cheap, easy to add and remove from the wheel, and customizable for the given driver.

Even after achieving this, our number one priority remains the safety of all drivers on the road. We understood this even more clearly after receiving some insightful feedback from our fellow classmate, Scott. Scott mentioned to us early on that we would be wise to ensure the strength of our product – we wouldn’t want a driver using “The Steering Buddy” to steer only to have it come off the wheel. Users of our attachment will likely be relying heavily on its sturdiness as the whole point of the device is to create leverage for physically impaired drivers. We used Scott’s feedback and our own ideas in order to create the base of our design. We decided that the best way to ensure durability (while also achieving our other goals for the product) is to utilize a 3D printed screw to bind each part of the attachment. Creating this screw became quite tricky as we had to find exact measurements just to get the parts to attach. When we tried to widen, elongate, or shrink the screw, it also impacted the distance between the grooves on the screw. As a result, the other pieces of “The Steering Buddy” were also impacted by these changes because the screw connects each piece of the whole attachment.

The last part our team focused on was prototype creation & user testing of our prototypes. Utilizing Meshmixer and Autodesk Fusion, we were able to design, create, and 3d print out all of our prototypes. Our prototypes included a bracket that universally fit on a steering wheel of any size, a flat surface with a strap, and a sphere attachment. For testing, we utilized an SUV and Camry. We created a short video documenting the process and made sure to only test our prototypes in parking lots for safety reasons. After testing, we noted a lot of changes we wanted to make. Although we were not able to get to it this semester, we noted that more testing needed to occur. Not only did we want to create more prototypes and conduct more testing with motor vehicles, we also wanted to test or prototypes with individuals who have physical impairments. This type of testing would allow us to get valuable user feedback and better understand how we can customize our products to match our target consumer’s needs.

 Overall, our group found this entire product design and reaction process very iterative. We learned to focus less on planning and more on action. Working with each other and our classmates taught us to dare to fail, and to continue to push forward even when we do fail. It has been a wonderful experience taking this class! Thank you for a great semester!

–       Team Animakers

Link to Instructables Post:

Link to Final Presentation:

3 thoughts on “Team Animaker Final Reflection”

  1. Hey Animakers!

    I really enjoyed your engaging presentation and how well thought out a seemingly simple product has to be. It’s amazing to me to see the design process from start to finish since we have been sharing updates about our projects each week. To see how everyone’s turned out and to hear about your experience actually testing the product. I loved the video you showed during the presentation, the dialogue gave everyone a good laugh but it was neat to see your product in use! Overall, wonderful presentation and great explanation of the steps your team took to get to the final prototype and your learnings from it. Wishing you and the team all the best in your future endeavors!

  2. Hey Jason & Animakers –
    I LOVED your presentation! I admire how you really focused on serving a need group – not necessarily a want group (if that makes sense?). Your presentation was informative, humorous, and I appreciate how well-spoken you were.

    I think that testing your product was the best part – none of the other groups were able to get such a real test in. My group wasn’t really even able to test ours at all in the environment it was intended for.

    Congrats on the second place win – it’s well deserved!

  3. Hi Team Animakers,

    Wanted to congratulate you all on creating a very neat prototype and also a very engaging presentation. I really enjoyed watching the video that you included in your presentation because it really brought your prototype to life. I think that the audience was much more engaged when they could see your creation being put to use in the real world. Your team had taught me that utilizing humor and different presentation tactics truly stand out and can lead to a greater percentage of audience buy-in. Wishing your team all the best!

    -Scott Provenzano

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