Wait. This thing actually works?

We have completed our first prototype and have begun testing it with our users in the Middle School. Let me just say that this thing is ugly. It’s functional but its not the cleanest looking thing. For this iteration we weren’t focused on making it look pretty yet because we wanted to make sure it worked. So when we put it into one of the Middle School classrooms to test it last week, I was concerned that we would get a lot of feed back about the aesthetics. But, what we got was feedback and results we never would have anticipated.

Let me begin by explaining what and how we are testing with our users. We wanted to gain both quantitative as well as qualitative data for experiment. To get quantitative data, I set up a Makey-Makey system that counts each time the recycling bin was opened. We figured that since there wasn’t a recycling bin in the first place, any opening would be a win and did not set a goal. The Makey- Makey system uses an electric current on a circuit that connects to a computer. When the door of the bin is closed, the circuit remains open and the current can’t flow, but when the door is open, it closes the circuit, allowing the current to flow. When the circuit closes, it sends a signal to a computer telling it to “click”. Each click adds one to a counter, thus counting the amount of times the bin is opened. For our qualitative data, we chose to interview students, the teacher of the classroom, as well as custodial staff on their opinions about the new system.

So flash forward. The bin has been in there for two days and we go to collect the counter. The bin had been opened 30 times! But that data didn’t tell us much. The interviews on the other hand gave us much more than we expected.

We asked students if they noticed the bin and their thoughts on it. Many of them said they were intrigued by it and it made them want to use it, while others still didn’t care. The teacher of that classroom told us that the bin made him feel more responsible himself to insure that waste was going into the proper bin. He said that when he saw students throwing something away he would try to correct them if they weren’t doing it properly. Often times students were curious to learn more about recycling. These are all good results for our test, but no one mentioned anything about the way it looked. The only thing students had to say about the design was that it might have been too big. When we interviewed the custodial staff, we got something even more valuable than feedback on the design. We got results on the way it changes the room as a whole. They told us how when they went to clean the classrooms at the end of the day, the one with our prototype was the cleanest one there. It appeared that students were more likely to throw things away now with the new bin. Students weren’t just recycling more, but they were keeping the room cleaner by just throwing things away more!

We wanted to test this interesting hypothesis more. So we moved it to another classroom to see if that room becomes cleaner too. We kept the prototype in that room for two and a half days and got 63 openings! It was nice to see that it was used even more. We have yet to conduct interviews with that teacher or find out if the room was cleaner.

We got amazing feedback from this test so far, with some we didn’t expect to get. But the result that means the most to us is that yesterday morning, a teacher on the other campus requested our prototype! We had considered that having other teachers be interested would be a good result, but figured it wasn’t likely yet. We were all so excited about the overwhelming excitement we’ve gotten from the Middle School teachers.

We ended up moving the prototype to the new campus yesterday and we can’t wait to see what results we get there as well!

Our next steps are to begin making our second iteration prototype and prepare to pitch our plan for the recycling system to the Middle, Upper, and Lower school!


One thought on “Wait. This thing actually works?

  1. Margaret, great reflection here – I love that you take your readers through your thought process on what you and your team have gone through with this prototype. I also can sense a higher level of connection that you have for this particular design challenge than in the past. What made that happen, do you think? That would be a great reflective post!


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