This post will outline the two meetings that we (Claire and Rory) had with our older teammate, Joanne. These meetings were the first crucial steps for our final project in Physical Computing. The prompt of this project is to create a custom electromechanical device that an older person would find useful. For our team, Joanne is the older person and Claire and Rory will be designing and making the device. Useful can be defined as lot of things in the scope of this project. The device could be something that assists in an everyday task or it could just be something that brings Joanne amusement. The purpose of these initial meetings were to first, get to know Joanne, and then more importantly, discuss areas of her life that she could use some help in or could be improved by a mechatronic mechanism that we would create. The first meeting took place on Tuesday from 9:30am to 10:15am in one of the meeting rooms on the basement floor of Hunt Library. Claire, Rory, and Joanne were all present.

Summary and major Takeaways

Joanne is a very engaged open spirit who is as excited to tell us her ideas as she is to hear ours. Her problems live mostly in the physical realm and rotate around mechanics. If we take the problems her suggestions solve we can get to the root of what she wants fixed and easily create a solution that not only helps her but fits in the parameters of the class in an arduino-like gadget-like kind of way.


We wanted a natural organic conversation so our agenda was extremely loose, that being said we are happy we didn’t stick to it. Joanne was sharing and came prepared, she mentioned to us she has been thinking about this meeting a lot and came with an assortment of ideas. The challenge was, while her ideas were interesting they were mostly mechanical and more robotics or electrician based instead of a sort of Arduino scope gadget. We have focused in on one of her ideas escalator shoes, to help her climb the stairs. While it was sort of comedic it represents a larger problem many older people have. While Joanne’s mobility is currently full-ranged she is preparing for her decrease in mobility. So we came to stairs, going up and down stairs can have serious ramifications if there is technology failure so we decided to focus on decreasing instead of eliminating stair use. Joanne lives in a three-story house with her bedroom on the third floor and encounters stairs daily. We realized this potential for a project after our meeting and tried to visualize what would motivate her to go up and downs stairs and how we could decrease that. We came to the conclusion that we need to go to her house to evaluate on how we can help with this task, get to know Joanne more and possibly completely derail our idea.

Next time we would like more than an hour of time, or a open ended schedule at the end of the meeting so we can overflow if necessary. We were having great conversation when other commitments ended the meeting when it felt like we were just starting to get to know her.

We both agree that we wish the meeting could have gone longer but we are satisfied with the information we discovered.

Meeting 2

The goal of this meeting was to assess what we could to to help Joanne use the stairs less but when we spoke to her we found that she already didn’t use the stairs much and was interested in the solution for if she had a relapse of her previous injury, a torn meniscus. So we turned out attention elsewhere, we revisited her lamp post problem. The lamp outside of her home could only be triggered by a switch outside her front door and she also expressed concern about the lack of light for the overall front walkway. She told us about how she had previously walked guests out of the house with a flashlight to make sure they don’t trip. After looking at the layout of the house we realized that the lamp didn’t completely cover all the walkway so we decided that adding a few strips of LEDs triggered by the same thing as the lamp post would help solve the inconvenience of the lamp post switch and the low visibility. We are thinking about using a photo cell inside of the front porch light, the turning on of the  light will trigger the system. That way when Joanne turns on the porch light (from inside of her house) it will trigger a push/pull of the lamp post breaker outside of her home and tell the LEDS to turn on.

The breaker that triggers the lamp post

Front steps

Pathway and lamp post