We started with an introduction in the musty old church building which has been repurposed as a classroom. We split into two groups walked out into the trails around the produce garden, which is surrounded by wildflowers. We made our way over to a small patch of wild flowers. Our guide began talking about the bees and other pollinators we are likely to find in this group of wildflowers. I stood there looking intently at the various flowers and saw nothing but ‘plants’. I continued to look as the guides voice faded into the back of my mind.
“A BEE!” exclaimed a classmate.
We all quickly shift our gaze to a wing stem flower, and gently floating above the flower is a bumble bee. Our guide begins to talk about how calm and focused the bee is on the nectar as he pulls the flower closer to the group. The bee doesn’t seem to care. As the group is marveling at the first bee the ‘bees class’ has seen, another smaller native bee joins the wildflowers. We made our way down the trail to another group of wildflowers, while specifically looking at the jewel weeds. The jewel weeds have a bright yellow and orange flower with a unique shape. Our guide breaks off a flower to explain the anatomy of the flower. Flowers have the nectar deeper in the flower than the pollen, therefore pollinators have to move through the pollen to get to the good stuff. While holding the jewel weed flower, a small beetle crawls out. This is where I came to the realization that pollination is all around. It’s not just honey bees, or bumble bees, but all sorts of animals are pollinators. The cucumber beetle gently crawled to the end of the guide’s finder and flew into the group of jewel weeds to find the next flower.
I noticed as we made our way through the trails that all I have to do is look more intently at what is around me and I’ll find what I’m looking for. Since Green Acres I’ve been focusing heavily on seeing, and not just looking. It is the simplest way to appreciate the smaller and finer things.
Livewell Collaborative & 1819 Innovation Hub
The livewell collaborative was a great way to showcase how multiple industries are relying on design-thinking-doing to solve some of their most critical problems. Drawing the connection between art-engineering is just as important as the connection between academia-industry. I felt connected to the way that they approached the problems by dealing directly with the end users. I think that is a vital part of solution implementation that gets missed when your belief in a solution is more valuable to you than to the people affected by your solution. I drew that distinction in my 3rd coop rotation where I was trying to implement process improvements in a machine shop. The belief in my solution couldn’t overshadow the value of the solution, or it was destined to fail. The value of my solution increased when the end users of the solution were willing to buy into the solution.
The second part of the morning was spent touring the maker space on the first floor of the 1819 innovation hub. I was instantly intrigued since there are so many shiny new machines that an engineer would love to tinker with. The availability to students is what stood out to me the most since I love combining art and engineering as a form of self-expression. Below are two pictures showing one of my previous projects, where I started with a picture of my dog, and turned the picture into a low-poly wooden image of him.
Ideal Bee Project
The ideal bee project was a subtle way to break down the barriers our brains automatically establish with respect to any given problem. The first few weeks of the as we brainstormed different solutions to the problems that bees face, we put up boundaries, which we know are boundaries since we have an understanding of what is fantasy and what is real. For example, in those brainstorming sessions we never suggested adding a new type of bee, which might be robotic, or might be some mutation, to take care of the rest of the hive. In our realistic sense that isn’t possible, at least not yet with the current limitations of technology.
The ideal bee project broke down those barriers by asking, “If any mutation or evolution of the bee is possible, what would it look like?” The proposition allowed our minds to think beyond reality. The tactile nature of making a bee also helped us not focus on what’s possible, but how to make the impossible, possible. The framing of the problem in a fantasy world is helping me approach problems in my senior design project as well. The approach to a problem from the fantasy world as opposed to the real world is a powerful way to come up with innovative solutions.
Now on to the concept of the perfect bee. We decided to tackle three of the issues bees face in regards to their survival and longevity. One is the veroa mite, the second is the bacterial and viral infections, and third is their imminent death after using their stinger. To combat the veroa mite, we added ridges to the thorax, which added another level of separation between the mite, and the bee’s vital organs. The second modification is a system of pores on the front legs of the bees which is connected to the stomach that stores the honey. These pores allow the bee to secrete honey to clean itself with. We decided on this modification due to honey’s antiviral and antibacterial properties to help the bee’s hygiene. The third modification is a retractable stinger. The retractable stinger will help the bees fight off predators as they have the capability to sting multiple times, and the ability to keep living after delivering a sting.
Reading is such a powerful form of research. I enjoyed the book I read which made the process of reading as research positive. Since I was using reading as research I spent a lot of time reflecting on what I had read, and spent additional time looking into the various topics I read about. The book feels significantly more substantive when I spent more time trying to understand the topics that were discussed. The fish bowl discussion was interesting to be a part of. I personally enjoy being in debates and discussions so my favorite part was where I got to be a part of the discussion. I thought that watching other people discuss was interesting but I had a hard time not chiming in. I felt like I could have added to both the conversations by giving my input and I never got the chance to. I would have liked if the class got a chance after the discussion to be able to give their thoughts and opinions on what transpired during the discussion.
The presentation for the book we read can be found below.
The lessons and reading’s throughout the class combined with the ideal bee project leads to the final project in a subtle way. The readings contribute to the research needed to back the ideas for the projects. The ideal bee project keys in on the craftsmanship needed to properly execute on prototypes for the final project. What stood out the most to me throughout the project was the difficulty associated with making the project a floating ship. The missing components or possible problems with initial concepts are like holes in a hull, and they are difficult to plug. Some holes you simply can’t plug and they remain an imperfection in the project, but the rest of the idea has to be buoyant enough to keep the ship afloat. The major key in coming up with the idea was creating something which is sustainable, and not just novel. Part of sustainability is profitability. The idea needs to be able to make enough money to sustain itself. The identification of target markets and available markets was also a challenge in creating the idea. With our project, bee box, I believe we created a new market. Currently there aren’t affordable market options for affordable amateur bee keeping. The bee box subscription opens up the possibility of amateur keeping bees in an affordable way, something which was previously out of question. The major challenges if we were to progress forwards is the legality of keeping bees in different states, and the level of research needed to make backyard beekeeping more robust. The cost is reduced since the cost of keeping the bees is spread out, but developing a bee keeping procedure that will be able to work in various regions with a high success rate is a significant challenge that would require various experts.