Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Taking a closer look

Matthew S. Hall
History Of I.D.
Final Essay

It takes a lot of people many years to figure out who they really are and what they want to be. I have always been young at heart, and still am at almost thirty. I’m happy to say I still know how to play and do so often. We are all told in various ways to “grow up”- maybe not directly but by societal norms or expectations. But all of my life I have found or made some special time to play. In part, that may be because I am a bit of a country boy, born and raised in Vermont. From childhood I always enjoyed venturing off into the woods to explore. And in a way- feel a connection with nature and myself. Born and raised in central Vermont, I was a country boy. I hiked, I biked, hunted and fished. I had lots of animals and with them came lots of chores. But all of it was just part of life, being close to nature.
My grandfather used to work for G.E. making parts for jet engines back during the war. He had a metal lathe in his basement with a nine foot bed. Just like my grandfather, I always like to understand how things work and how to make something if you had to or wanted to. My grandfather would make all kinds of parts for whatever he needed. He was a big inspiration to me growing up. For example, I remember as a small child being frustrated that toys were typically made out of plastics and lacked a certain detail so I would modify them to have more detail and or function using “real” materials. I would come home from elementary school wanting to make something and not wanting to wait to ask my parents if I could use the power tools with a most likely reply of “No”. So I dug in and taught myself. I would just be really careful and taught myself how to use them all. I would get my hands on band saws, grinders, a table saw and torches as well as many hand tools. Never getting hurt I would work with wood, metal and plastic to make whatever I wanted if we had the tool technology. My parents probably got some of those grey hairs from me telling them what tools I had used to make whatever I had and presented to them when they came home from work.
Now living in Rhode Island for almost ten years I’m studying Industrial Design at the school of my dreams- R.I.S.D. I worked in various fields that struck interest to me from arboriculture and landscaping to automotive and equine culture. I have finally realized something I’ve always sort of known, that I want to design/invent or improve toys, physical rehabilitation products and perhaps other things too. I’ve always had a hard time in school being more of a “hands on” and audio learner than book learner. But I always tried my best. Shop classes and projects came rather easy to me. I love to work with my imagination and my hands!
I moved to Rhode Island back in January of 1999 with plans to find a way into the Rhode Island School of Design. I started taking classes in RISD’s Continuing Ed. department for jewelry with the “Lost Wax Casting” process followed with wire construction. I really enjoyed this but realized I didn’t want to be limited to just jewelry so I went off to New England Tech for mechanical engineering and drafting technology. I could have done really well but algebra took too much time out of my other subjects study time. Feeling very discouraged I decided to transfer to the Community College of Rhode Island. I studied multiple areas from psychology, sociology, business, art, and computer courses. School worked out well going part time and working one or almost two full time jobs at a time. I finished at C.C.R.I. six and a half years later. I wanted to have the freedom to design anything I could think of at the top design school in the country. Never having applied to a college before and knowing this place was serious- I brought a collection of things I had made growing up in my backpack and spoke to almost everyone I ran into from students to professors. I would ask what it was like, projects, teachers, opportunities and whatever else they could tell me. I grew more excited about the place and sat in on a couple of classes and asking advice on applying. Everyone I met I told them I wanted to go here! I found I could take a course under “special student status” so I took Metals shape and form with the English wheel. Then I finally applied to R.I.S.D. for Industrial design. I got in! I was speechless.
I’ll be graduating in 2010. Right now I’m finishing up an independent study with a prototype chassis for the radio-controlled scene. I found a company out of California that produces high quality/scale parts and r.c. kits. I contacted the company and have an arrangement for them to critique my designs. Next I will be applying for an internship with the company perhaps for the summer if not before. When my R.I.S.D. education is completed I hope to start working in the design of high quality radio-controlled car and truck parts. At the same time I will work on producing some products for physical therapy to present to various companies. I would like to bring more of a sense of ethics where necessary and environmentally friendly production methods wherever possible.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Better World by DESIGN

Matthew S. Hall
Gecko grip…Gecko Tape…Spiderman …Nice New Bandage Adhesion…
You don’t have to be in to comics to wonder if it could ever be possible to climb like Spiderman. Electrical engineer and Professor Ronald Fearing must have wondered something similar if not the same question. Fearing has studied the adhesion of the infamous gecko’s feet and taken a step closer at bringing this characteristic to our fingertips. The undersides of a gecko’s toes have millions of microscopic hairs which cling to surfaces when slid together. With a polyester sheet like that of milk jugs Fearing laid a sheet of fabric across it and melted it into the plastic. And after pulling the fabric off of the plastic sheet found that millions of microscopic polyester hairs sticking up similar to the geckos toes.
Professor Fearing is now experimenting with this in use of special tape. With a piece of this tape approximately the size of a postage stamp, slid onto a smooth surface he can hang a one pound weight- shown in the picture above. Unlike conventional adhesive tapes, this type of adhesion doesn’t stick when simply pressed against another surface. With a little sliding of the tape onto a surface the tiny little hairs grip and hold.
Imagine the potential for this new advancement- They’re thinking of bandages that don’t hurt to remove to start but the possibilities go on and on! And hey, perhaps we could put some of those plastic milk jugs to another use after they’re emptied. Recycle your milk jugs and contribute to better Band-Aids that don’t hurt to remove, maybe make Spidy- Suits for special force teams… I wonder if they were take a sheet of this polyester and stretch it in all directions and melt the fabric onto it, then remove the fabric and relax the polyester if it would multiply the number of hairs thus increasing the number of hairs per square inch. Would this then multiply the adhesion capabilities? I’ve been thinking about what I hope to areas I would like to design in after I finish my schooling and feel confident that at least one direction I will study/experiment and design in will be medical technologies. Hurray for gecko grip! I don’t like to use Band Aids because of how they pull your hairs when removed or how if you leave one on for more than a day they leave a sticky residue on you which doesn’t like to wash off quickly. We won’t have these problems if we can harness this nature inspired advancement in new designing.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Matthew S. Hall
History of I.D.
11-9-2008 Making a Difference

Too many people think that they (one person) can’t make a difference! Dr. Bruce Becker told us a great little story about a little boy throwing starfish that had been washed up onto the beach back into the ocean. The beach was covered with starfish and the boy would throw one back in the water every other step or so. Then an old man approaches the boy asking what he’s doing. And asked the boy if he really thought it would make any difference. Then the boy held up a starfish and said “It matters to this one!” I have to admit- I got a lump in my throat with that reply.
The class discussion was to inform us of the problems with providing adequate humanitarian relief after major disasters, war, civil unrest and famine. Internally displaced people (IDP’s) flee from area’s of conflict to find minimal to no shelter, clean water, food or sanitary means of waste control. They run with their children and only what they can carry to provide for shelter and food implements. Confined to heavily over populated groups with only the privacy of blanket or plastic bag made walls held up by bamboo sticks. The local water supply could be contaminated with anything from human and or animal waste from up-stream or other toxins. The containers used to transport water consist of any sort of product capable of carrying the water. Often these are reused oil, gas or detergent jugs which they have found. Food is extremely limited to the barren environment and what little is brought by the refugees. And bodily waste facilities are stricken with disease because they aren’t much more than a hole in the ground. These of course fill rapidly and overflow and without cover, the stench spews around the area attracting flies which spread the fecal bacteria’s about the community and food.
To help with the contaminated water situation there already are some different products out there which could be used. One organization- Potters for Peace- Ron Rivera, a sociologist and potter redesigned and develops the ceramic water filtering containers which utilize the filtration of the ceramic with anti-bacteriological qualities of colloidal silver to cleanse the water. Ron redesigned the filter to standardize mass production in sixteen small facilities in fourteen countries. The original design Ceramic Water Filter came from Dr. Fernando Mazareigos, a Guatemalan chemist.
Another method to help assist in providing safe drinking water could be the “LifeStraw”. The LifeStraw is a personal, hand held portable water-purification devise clamed to turn any water into drinkable water. It has been proven to be effective against many diseases like cholera, dysentery , diarrhea and typhoid. LifeStraw was designed by Torben Vestergaard Frandsen and is manufactured by Vestergaard Frandsen. If we could have this devise distributed to the IDP’s along with the ceramic water filtering containers I believe it would help to stop the spread of water-born illnesses. The people whom go to collect the water for the community could quench their thirst once they arrive at the waters location with their LifeStraw then bring large quantities of water back to be used with the Ceramic water filtering containers. Followed with individuals using the LifeStraws to drink the water they dispense providing two methods of filtration.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Matthew S. Hall
History of I.D.
Genders and Design
How do products get their meaning? To what extent do you believe a designer is able to “design” meaning into a product and determine a user’s behavior? I believe designers have a small ability to design meaning into a product as far as what the product is intended for. However this has limitation to what the product is- for example: a shovel is designed for digging, yet some people use it for prying, lifting, pounding steaks etc. A knife is one of mankind’s first tools. A knife is intended for cutting food, materials and shaping materials. Yet some people misuse them for prying, turning a screw, digging or violence. A spatula is intended for flipping over food while cooking or serving food, but could also be used as a fly-swatter if one was so inclined.
Do you believe design has the power to effect or even control how a person can or cannot act? Tough question- I would have to say yes in some ways. For example with how I was raised, a firearm is intended to be respected as an essential tool used for providing meat at the table. Treated with great respect and care a firearm can last a lifetime and more providing discipline, food, and enjoyment with target shooting. On the contrary television and some contemporary music portrays the gun as a weapon of violence with gangs, terrorists, and many other crimes. I find this very unfortunate for those of us who take pride and responsibility with our guns to be used for recreation because some legislators are trying to eliminate our right to bear arms. They forget that if they take them away= only the “bad guys” will still have them.
In the gender specific designing I would have to say that it’s not that a product has to be used by a man or a woman but that societies and cultures design the expectations among us to make products gender specific by gender roles. Men have been portrayed as the provider of food and money in many cultures and women as one who cooks, cleans and takes care of the children. Therefore implying that a gun is designed for a man and a kitchen and its implements are designed for a woman. Yet all of the above can be used just as effectively by both sexes.
The vibrator was designed by men as a medical instrument to relieve women of hysteria. Today vibrators are used as sex toys by both women and men for self pleasure and or foreplay. I on the other hand am not one among the user group so I cannot contest to how they affect or control ones behavior.
How do you understand the user’s “agency”? Even tougher question, perhaps because the meaning or purpose a product is used for is determined by the user’s intentions and idea’s of how it can be used. For example, I’ve seen a coffee mug used as a flower pot.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Essay of Timelines

Matthew S. Hall
History of I.D.

My designing philosophy most commonly consists of whatever I make being functional! I have made many miniatures since the mid 80’s starting around the first grade- all of which were functional. I like using “real” materials which are used on full-scale versions of the items I replicate. I have made several kinds of hand tools ranging from mini hammers, hatchets, piece-pipe tomahawks, knives and anvils to custom parts for realistic radio controlled trucks. It always bothered me how toy makers would use plastic for everything! Real tools and other things I replicate are usually made from metals and wood with only some parts being plastic. I want things to last! No more disposable junk that just breaks when you play hard! I still design parts for the radio controlled trucks and am currently working on a chassis design in collaboration with a company out of California who specializes in the hobby. My designs incorporate the effects of physics, nature and playing hard to come up with the most reliable working parts.
In my first timeline I researched the Ford Motor Company because of a long interest in the nostalgic Ford Mustang. Knowing that Ford started back during the Industrial Revolution with the Model T I thought it would be interesting to cover some of the popular styles Ford produced over the century. Looking back I wish I had developed more points to talk about in the timeline such as great design advancements in the automobile company’s history, with safety, reliability, style and performance.
For my second timeline I chose the history of the flashlight. I have always had an admiration of good flashlights. Good being that that they were made to last and preferably had longer run times with the battery and ultimately the brighter= the better. I think this was my best timeline so far with how I covered some of the advancements in technology over the century of flashlight history from simple functionality to style/fashion and reliability to building some current outstanding/ long-lasting batteries and incredible light power.
My third timeline was a research of chairs. Functionality and style were of the main focus here. The timeline started with the famous “Morris” chairs. I found the Morris chairs to have many which incorporated good functionality with adjustable back rests and good high quality woods and jointery. I love how they would expose the joints of the chairs construction being of the high quality mortise and tennon types. I like the simplicity and sheer function of a design.
The Bauhaus chairs were the next subject to cover in this timeline. I only found a few of the Bauhaus chairs appealing being that most of the ones I saw were merely a form of style derived from the Industrial Revolution and new manufacturing techniques at the time. I found the Bauhaus chairs to be more of a certain style more so than of much functionality so I wasn’t as appealed by their styles of design. The latter half of my timeline consisted of a new concept chair were you purchase a steel cube and a sledge hammer to form your own chair by beating the cube into a chair of some sort. I don’t really like this because it doesn’t really have any fitting style to contemporary styling of my taste. It’s not adjustable in any sort unless you beat it into it and then you can’t really put it back in any previous position. It’s simply a form of expression where I think it portrays frustration in order to form a chair by beating the steel cube with a sledge hammer into some sort of sitting utensil.