A brief introduction

The project Team Yale was tasked with accomplishing was to design an one-of-a-kind assistive device for one of Carnegie Mellon’s OSHER students. The purpose of our meeting with our client, Yale, was to get an understanding of his interests and a problem that he had that we could design a solution for.  The members of Team Yale, Ola, Zoe, and Anishwar, met Yale for the first time during a video call on Saturday, March 28.

Meeting agenda

As we were brainstorming what to talk about during our meeting with Yale, we decided to start with an ice breaker to get a sense of his character, we then hope to transition into the project to give him an overview of what we would be working on this semester. After clarifying any doubts and answering questions he has, we hope to understand his daily routines by asking general questions. With the information we have gathered, we then hope to dig deeper into the specific activities he does to understand whether he has any difficulties completing them. Through these questions, we hope to get a better sense of what we are able to build for him and bounce these ideas off him. To end off the meeting, we plan to go through some logistic questions we have to make sure we establish how we are going to communicate with him and making sure he has the technology needed for smooth communication.

The following documents questions we wanted to ask Yale during the interview:

Ice Breakers/ Introduction

  • Name, where you are from, favorite and least favorite thing about CMU/ Pittsburgh

Transition into the project

  • Objective of this project (focuses more on solving a need than developing final product)

General Questions

  • Can you tell us about a typical day in your life?
  • What are some of the things you like doing during your free time?
  • What are some of the daily challenges you would like to solve? 

Specific questions        

  • What are some challenges/ problems when you are doing ____?
  • What are some things that you enjoyed doing when you were younger?
  • What do you like/dislike about living in Pittsburgh?


  • What are his expectations for the course
  • What is the best method of contacting him – phone call, text or email?
  • Does he have a computer – does it have a camera for zoom?
  • Does he know how to use google drive?

Meeting summary and major takeaways

From the ice breaker questions, we were able to learn a lot about Yale as a person. Three interesting facts we got was that:

  1. He spent his entire life in Pittsburgh (Greenfield and Squirrel Hill), other than the few years he was in Berkley for his PhD.
  2. He studied mathematics in college and went on to becoming a software engineer until 13 years ago
  3. He spends a lot of his time biking around Pittsburgh – sometimes on trails and sometimes just to run errands like grocery shopping.

By asking him the ‘General Questions’ we planned out, we were able to gather a few activities that Yale does on a daily basis that might be potentially things we can help him with. We learnt that Yale:

  1. Spends a lot of time biking
  2. Wants to improve his eating habits by eating at regular timings and reduce his snacking
  3. Would check the weather on his phone before heading out on his bike
  4. Had to eat his pills daily, some are before a meal and some are after
  5. Finds himself procrastinating when doing dishes
  6. Seems to be constantly running late
  7. Has a lot of time on his hands currently
  8. Loves logic and word puzzles

Eating habits are remnants of my life

When describing his eating habits, Yale explains that they are remnants of his life. When he was working as a software engineer, he would be rushing to work in the morning and hence not eating in the morning.

When you have all your time that is free, there is a pressure to fill the time up – Every second i have is my own

Yale describes his life as fun and adventurous when we would always make time to be outdoors. He sees his life as something he has full control and is constantly curious to explore to learn new things. When he is out in nature, he enjoys admiring wildflowers and bird watching.

I love to a good problem that requires some type of thinking!

Given his background in math and software engineering, Yale loves to solve problems. He has a “super passion” for etymology, the study of words and language and is fascinated by the interesting connection between words. During our meeting, he gave us an example as to how the name Pittsburgh came about and quizzed us on whether we knew where the word Pokemon meant. (We passed the quiz)

At this point of the conversation, some of us had a few ideas we had in mind and started bouncing ideas off Yale to get a sense of what he thinks and whether these devices would be useful for him. The following ideas and feedback are:

  1. Making biking as a reward if he does not procrastinate
    • One of our teammates noticed that biking seemed to be an escape for Yale from his chores. We thought it would be interesting to convert that into a reward system where he would only be able to bike if he complete the tasks he wants to
    • Feedback: “I started shaking when you said that”. Yale views biking as his routine and less of an escape. He does not think that taking biking away from him would be nice as it would be taking away his independence. However, he does agree that he lacks discipline.
  2. Visualizing the weather data in the region in a way that is both accurate and easy to understand
    • Feedback: Yale does think that evaluating weather is sometimes tricky as it is sometimes ambiguous whether the specific location he wants to go to has good weather.
  3. A device to help him with his pills consumption
    • Feedback: Though there are many pills to consume, Yale has been very used to the routine and does not need much help in this area.
  4. A companion that would nudge Yale to do different activities
    • Feedback: Yale thinks that it would be interesting to have a sense of nudging occasionally in his life.

Thoughts and Discussion

The meeting was successful, better than what we imagined. Yale is a very lively and fun-to-be-with person. We noticed this right from the very first email we sent to him, the energy in his response really showed he is ready to work with us. For example, he even gave us an acronym from our names ” A….tO…..Z”. We found this interesting from someone that we haven’t met yet.

During the meeting, we realized that Yale is an open-minded and flexible person, he answered every of our questions and also provided some suggestions on how we can make the project work. He is really an amazing person. We were able to follow our agenda and there was a smooth transitioning from one question to another. It was not difficult to start the conversation during the meeting because we already have a starting point from the emails exchanged, so it easier to pick up from there.

The question we wished we had asked him was whether he would like a puzzle that is a multiple choice format or a fun-fact related puzzle. Also, none of the members had a different opinion about how the meeting went, we all think it was really a great meeting!