On March 25th,  Monday morning, Alton, Seema, and I (Vicky) went to Peter’s home to introduce ourselves and got to know more about him and his daily life. We also briefed him on our final project, which is creating an assistive device that will help aid an older person’s needs and/or desires. We chatted about how he typically goes about his week, briefly walked around his place, and  met his wife and two cats.

Meeting Agenda

Before meeting Peter, we constructed a loose agenda and a couple of starter questions, in anticipation of facilitating conversation.

Course of Action:

  • Introduce ourselves! 
  • Ice breaker by just talking about commonplace topics like our day
  • Ask about his typical schedule and hobbies
  • Brief him on the project 
  • Understand more about any daily problems, issues, and/or needs that he wants to be solved.
  • Start discussing ideas for the final project, and brainstorming together possible solutions and/or key features to be included.

Possible Questions

  1. What are some hobbies / interests that you have?
  2. What are some day-to-day activities that you go about that have become more difficult over time?
  3. Can you demonstrate (daily activity)? A morning routine? A nightly routine?
  4. Can you describe your favorite / most meaningful / most practical item? Why is this item important / helpful to you?
  5. Can you describe / sketch out an item that is annoying to use, but one you use daily? Why is this item annoying, and what aspects of it do you wish you could change? (Demonstrate the changes through drawing)
  6. Can you express your level of frustration on a scale of smileys when dealing with said frustration(s)?


We visited Peter at his penthouse apartment home. Before we began the formal interview, he showed us around and took us out to his balcony. It’s a nice porch area with a great view of the city, but Peter casually noted that they experience some really gusty winds up there and have to actually chain down all the furniture on the balcony.

His balcony with some furniture tied down

After walking around his living room area, we introduced ourselves, starting with basic background information and casual hobbies:

Background info

  • Retired 2 years ago
  • Has two 19 year old cats
  • PHD in ECE from CMU
  • Lives in a penthouse with balcony

Additional Hobbies

  • Stargazing
  • Camping with his telescope, enjoys setting it up for family events and the public  
  • Volunteers at the zoo with his wife

Then we walked through Peter’s typical week. Although retired, he keeps himself quite busy: 

Typical week for Peter

  • Osher classes (takes the bus or drives to CMU)
  • JCC 4x/week to work out
  • Helps son-in-law with his business by getting quotes and talking to potential clients
  • Plays bridge 2x/week
  • Lots of cycling to raise money for Multiple Sclerosis- they bike from pittsburgh to lake Erie so they need to train a ton
  • Babysits granddaughter (who isn’t allowed on the balcony because that may be dangerous)

Major Takeaways 

We talked about a lot of his daily activities to try to probe for something that could use an assistive device, but couldn’t find any leads. Peter seemed content with his current lifestyle, and had no blatantly obvious problem that could not be solved with a current on the market, technological solution. The only other problem he had was the AC didn’t reach the area near his couches, but that’s not something we can realistically fix without working in his house all the time.

Therefore, we came to the conclusion that we would create a more personalized solution for a problem that was on his mind for a while — the wind detection sensor. Instead of just purchasing a commercially viable wind sensor that would tell generic wind speed information, we brainstormed and explored possible ways that would be subtle, interesting, and tasteful, when determining the wind speed outside. With this possible solution, Peter would be able to determine whether or not the weather outside is optimal for him to go out on certain days, whether or not to tie down his furniture on other days, and/or be able to just have general knowledge of what the wind speeds are like. 


Later, we discussed and realized how he must have had a desire to have a wind-detecting sensor for a long time — as he had from the very beginning hinted at the strong wind speeds when taking us around his house and discussing more about his daily activities — but has not yet found one that accommodates all his needs for a sensible price point. We thought it would be something that would help with a hobby or daily task, and also weren’t expecting our solution being able to survive extreme weather as an extra challenge. 

With Peter, we brainstormed that it would be more optimal to have one part inside and the other outside, so that we only need the sensor part to survive the weather conditions. We also realized that we would need to buy a sensor that can sense over 100 mph wind speeds.

Then, we began to explore how we could possibly have the sensor part communicate with a notification part that’s inside. Current ideas include: 

  • Raspberry pi
  • Wifi module
  • Bluetooth module

For getting the weather information on wind speed, we want to try and do something similar to what Zach did with the tide information. However, the trouble with predicting the weather for his balcony height from the predicted wind speeds from the height that weather stations take the measurements at.

Our meeting with him followed our agenda quite well, but the problem we needed to assist him with wasn’t what we expected. We thought it would be something that would help with a hobby or daily task as well as weren’t expecting it to need to survive extreme weather as an extra challenge. As a whole conversation went pretty smoothly and we were able to seamlessly go from one topic to another. Our biggest issue was just finding anything that he needed assistance with.