ATLAS’ Team Labyrinth has come a long way, read on to see how this first semester project made it to the largest design expo in the Netherlands. You can go see them all week, in Eindhoven, along with many other interesting exhibits.
In September 2015, the first year ATLAS students were given a project, with quite a broad restriction. It had to help improve elderly people’s health. This was how the original idea for the “Labyrinth” was thought up. It wasn’t their first idea, but after giving it some thought, they realised that it would be a really good one to work with. The process wasn’t straightforward, initial concepts looked much different to how it turned out. Originally it was a single player game, but their research showed multiplayer helped with motivation, so they pivoted towards that, making it a two player game.
None of the participants had a real specialty in terms of the project, but they all had their own interests. Some wanted to learn about mechanics, some wanted to learn about the electronics and programming side, others wanted to focus more on the human side. But they muddled through, and ended up with a prototype for the electronics.
This was still a barebones version of what they needed, but it was exciting. It came from nothing, but their own work. Eventually they would expand on it, and create something closer to the product that made it to the Dutch Design Week. It would go on to win a prize for having the most innovative game for people between 50 and 60 from the GGD medical centre in Twente.
That would be it for a couple of months, until Suhaib found a brochure from Design United, a research centre. He saw that, after writing a research proposal, they could have a study funded. He didn’t expect to get it, and the team he and the other original labyrinth members would form didn’t think so either. Why would they give €6,000 to first year students? They just thought it would be good practice, learning to write a research proposal. Maybe the hope was there, but it was dim.
The process was difficult. To write a proposal, it needs to be persuasive, but objective. It can’t be a sales pitch, but you still have to sell it. All on the team were new to this. But they got it! There were weeks of congratulations, celebrations, but eventually that settled down, and reality hit, the responsibility was realised. They put their heads down, and got to work.
Even initially, they recognised time was an issue. They had the deadline set by Design United, but then they were put forward for the Dutch Design Week by MindTheStep, an exhibit that is formed by four technical universities in the Netherlands. This cut away two months of their time.
They had to speed up considerably, no time to sit and think about problems, as soon as an issue appeared, they would approach people from around the university, get different perspectives, and deal with it as soon as possible.
They learned to test often, as well. Sometimes, Suhaib tells me, they would even just turn the gears on the table with their hands to make sure they were correctly formatted. Every aspect is worth testing, as far as you can.
Over the project, given the time constraints, and the complexity, there were many pitfalls. This project took a lot of stamina, and at certain points, they would have to drag each other along. Suhaib says it probably helped that they were ATLAS students, as there was a high level of motivation, and people in ATLAS often have a different view, “a different sort of common sense… a quirkiness”. It was easier to communicate with each other, as they were all used to getting and receiving feedback. Issues didn’t have to be repressed. The dynamic between them was pretty good, throughout.
Now that Design Week is taking place, and their project is actually on display, there’s some weight lifted, or at least enough excitement to make it seem so. The product is on display in the MindTheStep section, and open to be tested by the public, and the public seems to be having fun with it.
The event is massive, with nearly three hundred exhibitions, it’s easy to see where the team’s motivation came from in the last months. Talking about it to Suhaib, you can hear the excitement in his voice, the only negative point he can make is he can’t see enough, but there seems to be a good deal of enjoyment coming from seeing their creation work, as well.
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