Art 483 | Fundamentals of Interface Design | Winter 2007

The Mindstorms Project

For this project, we move from exploring the capabilities of the Mindstorms robotic systems to a more conceptual design challenge. The idea is for you to take what you have absorbed about the technology and apply it in a new context. You will be designing a system of robotic behaviors.

Here are the structural ground rules for this project:

  • Must be a team project, with 2–4 people
  • Must be a multi-disciplinary team
  • Designed behavior must be a cooperative action among 2 or more robots

And some notes about the process:

  1. At least 22 initial ideas, "pitched" to everyone
  2. Teams are formed around shared interests and common themes
  3. Design process includes multi-disciplinary research phase
  4. Maximum of 6 project teams proceed to implementation

All team members, regardless of their background, will be active participants in all phases of the project. The schedule will be flexible and adaptable, so you will need to be in good communication and present for all team sessions.

Beyond these few constraints and conditions, the project concepts are left intentionally wide open and unconstrained. We want you to be adventurous, crazy, and speculative in your ideas; don't limit yourself to what you think is possible. Dream large, certainly in the concept development stage; then we'll bring things back within practical limits, if necessary.

The Pitch

The first step in the process is to come up with at least one idea for the final project. (More than one is great, too.) We want at least 22 ideas out there; it doesn't matter how they are hatched.

Write a one page summary of each idea, and bring a printed copy of it to class. The summary should describe the concept clearly in a paragraph or two, explaining the behavior that the robot system will exhibit. Include sketches, illustrations, charts, photos, or whatever else you think is necessary to communicate the concept.

We'll put all the proposals up on the wall, and each person will "pitch" the idea to the group in a minute or two. And we'll discuss them.

Remember that you should be really adventurous in your thinking, especially at this point in the design process!

The Proposal

After having made some choices about projects and teams in the pitch session, the next step in the process is for each project team to prepare a project proposal. Get together with your team to get organized and refine the project concept you will design and implement.

Create a project proposal document (max 2-3 pages) that summarizes your ideas and plans. It should include the following elements:

  • TITLE: project name
  • TAG LINE: one phrase summary of the project
  • DESCRIPTION: one paragraph explanation of the project
  • BACKGROUND: sketch of your research plan about the relevant aspects of robotics, technology, and cultural issues related to the concept
  • MOTIVATION: explain the value, purpose, reason, or motivation for the idea—why is it interesting?
  • METHODOLOGY: a brief explanation of how it will work: the hardware, software architecture, sketches, scenarios, etc.
  • INVENTORY: list of things the project will require to implement: NXT kits, sensors and motors, LEGO parts, other equipment, software, etc.
  • TEAM: who will work on the project, including each person's expertise and roles or tasks

Bring copies of this document to class and plan to make a 10-minute presentation to the group of the proposal. We'll discuss and critique the proposals. The goal is to get feedback and approval from Axel and me for the concepts so you can move on to implementation.

The Project Document

Part of the final project involves creating a nicely designed document that functions as a project summary–to communicate your concept, design, implementation, process, and results. This document will serve as a portfolio for you, as a record for the school of the course results, and a way to publicize the project. The audience should be considered the general public who might be interested, not a specialist in any of your own disciplines.

Here is a general table of contents for the document; this is not a prescription but just an inventory of what should be contained in the document. Feel free to create your own format, as long as you clearly and logically communicate everything in the list.

    • TITLE: project name
    • TAG LINE: one phrase summary of the project
    • SUMMARY: one paragraph explanation of the project
    • TEAM: participants who worked on the project, including each person's department and background
    • RESEARCH: explain the relevant aspects of robotics, technology, and cultural issues related to the concept; also discuss prior work in the field that inspired, motivated, or informed your research
    • MOTIVATION: explain the value, purpose, reason, or motivation for the idea—why is it interesting?
    • SUMMARY: explain in a few paragraphs what your system does and how it works; what are the behaviors you have created?
    • DESCRIPTION: a fairly detailed explanation of how it all works: the hardware, software, algorithms, etc.
    • SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE: a clear visual depiction of the components of your design - robot configurations, other devices, data flow and communication paths
    • SOFTWARE DESIGN: a schematic explanation of the software design and brief summaries of the algorithms in the programs -- pictures of the programs, too!
    • HARDWARE DESIGN: description of the design of your robots, sensors, other "stuff" used and functions, and photos of them!
    • PROCESS: describe your design and implementation process–how did you develop the concept and the implementation? relate evolutions in the concepts as your design and testing proceeded
    • SUMMARY: what happened? did it work as you planned? how effective was your design? include some photos, perhaps a sequence to illustrate the behavior, or even a short video clip.
    • EVALUATION: what did you learn from the course and the project? what was the value for you and the team of the exploration? where would you take this project if you were to continue working on it?

Please create a PDF file that can be printed easily (max tabloid: 11x17). We'll want to display these along with the projects at the final show.