Blog #5 Mia

Most of my experience with the design process has been related to my engineering classes in high school. We followed the standard circular flowing engineering design process that has now been drilled into everyone’s minds. It starts with defining the problem, planning solutions, making a model, testing the model, then reflecting and redesigning. My experience designing houses and gadgets to solve simple obscure tasks using this process has been successful but boring and rigid. We were pushed hard to follow the staple engineering design process to the T. Going off of it, I would keep the main principles but keep it more open to address problems and make it better as ideas come. I tend to try to think of all problems in the beginning brainstorming phase which has stagnated the flow of many designs but I find it more efficient to address clear problems from the beginning. The possible lack of creativity versus function is a sacrifice I tend to make. But working in a group would help me keep moving and do rapid prototyping. Where I do not have restraint is cost, so my design process would tend to first design an expensive version which can then be redesigned down to be more affordable. I would also prefer to incorporate working with other people in the design process. For example, a common baby name selection process is for the two parents to each make a list and have a certain number of super likes and hard nos to narrow it down to one list to further analyze together. Then it most likely comes down to between two names and more outside opinions would be brought in to help make a final decision. My design process would probably be similar in terms of going through the steps of the design process with input from different levels of partners along the way.

In choosing people to oversee the design process and give input, it is important to keep in mind who you are designing for. A commonly female product shouldn’t be prominently designed by men. Recently I went into a modern movie theater bathroom where the sinks each had its own blow drier right next to it like a separate faucet nozzle. The boys bathroom had about three sinks to five stalls and two urinals and I was told that the design was inefficient because by combining the hand washing and drying into one station, people will have to occupy the space longer, backing up the lines. However, in the woman’s’ bathroom it was almost a 1:1 ratio for stalls to sinks which eliminated that possible hold up. The designers were most likely working with bathroom use statistics, making them choose to put more space and plumbing to the female bathroom because more females tend to use the bathroom more often. The sink was also cool because the blow driers blew the water right into the sink instead of on the ground.

I will validate my project concept, technology, usability, and operational/business model by doing lots of testing and getting feedback from many different users. By making a detailed usable prototype to be put into use it is an effective way for people to actually interact with the design instead of thinking about it in concept. It also allows possibilities for issues I would not have even thought of. Especially for widely used items, used by a diverse population, it must then be tested by diverse groups for diverse feedback. For validation, the people to be using the product must be the ones to validate it or else it is not doing it’s targeted purpose.

My philosophy of engagement with communities, partners and markets is to be open and communicate with others. I like working in teams to bounce ideas off of each other. It makes the design process go much faster by running through ideas with many different minds. Engagement with different cultures is also important in expanding design possibilities as well as being aware of issues to keep in mind.


Blog #4 Mia W

Three examples of how we can use nature as a model for our designs is through our wild mushrooms natural habitat by observing its substrate, growing “room,” and how the mushrooms interact with other organisms. Different mushrooms typically grow in different places. Some grow out of the ground, some in caves, some out of trees, etc. For oyster mushrooms, they tend to feed off of wood so they are found on trees and logs. To apply that to our grow method, we should focus on a sawdust/wood based substrate as opposed to one with manure. Secondly, we should observe the environment and growing conditions of the mushrooms to better our grow rooms to best/easily recreate it. Oyster mushrooms’ most ideal growing temperature is 55 to 65 degrees with fresh oxygen/airflow, high humidity, and dim lighting. Grow rooms should then recreate those conditions by keeping the space cool and wet, out of direct sunlight, with fresh airflow. At my farm, our most recent solution to mimicking the wild mushroom’s growing conditions was to build an concrete box/room (for dim light) and cover it with at least 6 ft of dirt around all sides (for the natural cooling effect) along with long piping structures tunneling around the dirt from the surface to the room (for the air to cool down and to have air flow) along with a humidifier. Lastly, we should keep in mind how animals interact with other lifeforms. For example, there is the wine glass mushroom and frogs like to sit in them. By knowing information like this, we can plan accordingly for how to address it.

One of Life’s Principles I find interesting is Optimizes rather than Maximizes. It relates heavily to sustainability and functional, ergonomic design so everything has a purpose and nothing is wasted. I found this clearly relevant when I designed a house and an apartment building for an engineering class. For the house we had restrictions and requirements to make a marketable house, not a dream house. I thought a lot about how to use the space and the concept of design to make the house as optimized as I can with what I could work with. However, I lost sight of this life principle when I was given free reign for my second design. I made a huge house that had to end up being an apartment building because it was too huge to be a reasonable sized house. I chose to make the building a U shape with large (wasted) spaces. My hallways were very long and not practicable to where I had to put in “raised moving sidewalks” to not make it ridiculous to get across the building. I also worked on designing a tiny house which more focused on modern furniture and fixtures which could move and fully optimize space. In these design stages I learned about the Life Principle of Optimizing rather than Maximizing through the extremes. I should take this to my work and life to focus on optimizing an efficient product/doing a task efficiently instead of taking a “simple” route of adding needless work or not spreading myself too thin with responsibility.

I envision integrating the Cradle to Cradle Design concept into our project by using materials that can be recycled or reused or simply, not thrown away. The mushroom process thrives on the use of agricultural waste which is perfect in relation to Cradle to Cradle Design. To further cut down on waste, a big waste producer in the mushroom process is the plastic grow bags. This could be cut down/out of the process by using slightly more expensive but reusable pouches for the substrate and spawn/grain. The pouch must be able to be sealed to protect from contamination and withstand high temperatures from a pressure cooker during the pasteurization process. Generally we cut holes in the bags we use to help the mushrooms grow from all sides of the block and not give it competition but possibly these bags could just be taken off for the sake of reusing them. In life, I can be more aware of products I use and focus on reusing and recycling items as well as avoiding items that can’t be reused or recycled. Simple solutions are reusable shopping bags and to buy in bulk.

I learned from a friend that when you eat pineapple, it eats you back because of the enzymes. I always knew I would get canker sores if I ate fresh pineapple but learning that explanation seemed so obvious and so simple but I did not know this “useless” fact until college. The fact that this seems so trivial and simple is what fascinates me about all the stuff I don’t know, even the seemingly obvious/simple stuff.

Secondly, I learned about Chinese culture. South Side Commons was giving out free green beanies to promote its opening which we all (of course) gladly took. Then my friend said that she can’t wear the hat home because her mom wouldn’t like it. In China, green hats holds the meaning of a woman who cheated on her partner. In old times, prostitutes were forced to wear green hats. If South Side Commons knew this maybe they would make the hat a different color.

Lastly, I learned about Fujianese culture of dowries. My fujianese friend was dating a fujianese male and I learned that his family would like that and not like that for certain reasons. They would be happy for him dating a girl of their culture and background but that also means that they are then expected to uphold fujianese traditions. The male’s family is to pay a dowry of thousands of dollars to the bride for them to start their married life, typically enough to buy a house. If he was not dating a fujianese girl they would not be expected to uphold this expensive tradition.

Blog #3 mia

Five major stakeholders for our project are The World Hope International, Lehigh University, Sierra Leone farmers, our project leader and us. The World Hope international works with us to pay Jawara and help with our connections. They want to support our cause of helping the unemployed in Sierra Leone and give them jobs and build a market. Lehigh wants its students to gain experiences and help others so they fund and support these projects to the school looks better and for their students to build their resumes. Sierra Leone farmers are relying on our Mushroom Production Systems to work if they purchase them and to accordingly receive help and guidance in beginning their new business. Our project leader, Khanjan, is inputting his time and effort to help build this market and try to solve world problems. Finally, we are putting in our time to try and meet these people’s expectations with this project and build a solid foundation for groups to come and continue to work on this. All of these stake holders have put in time, money, and expectations into this project which we must try our best to meet. Their motivations are collectively similar in being they want to see this project succeed. Our goal is to reliably grow mushrooms in Sierra Leone with materials easily found there and to build/sell mushroom production systems for new farmers as well as teach them the process to where they can be successful and sustainable. We are to not disappoint these stakeholders so we will validate our project and enhance our credibility.

Three ways we will validate our project are through wide ranges of testing, and repetitive trials as well as data from how the project does in Sierra Leone. And we will enhance our credibility by detailing reports of what we do to prove that through our testing, we found a recipe and production system that reliably works with the materials we designated as easily found in Sierra Leone. We plan to communicate with experts from universities as well as mushroom farmers from around the world to create the best recipe for the substrate as well as refine the entire process with making clear steps with specified materials to do so. We also want to work with Jawara to make sure that materials we are choosing actually are easily come by in Sierra Leone and that we are not just making assumptions. By going through a local we can more strongly validate the reliability of our resources. Testing different mushroom varieties will also help us to find the best mushroom to focus on. By testing many possible variables, we will decrease the questioning of “what if you used this instead?” or “would’t this be better?” because we should have already tried that if someone suggested it or have a reason for why we did not try that. We need to show how we already tried everything we could/should to better validate that our process is the best and most successful for our purpose. We will try our best also to recreate growing conditions here like they would be in Sierra Leone so when we go over there, the recreation will be more successful and difficulties can be accounted for. We do not have the leisure of keeping things as sanitary as possible there like we do here and testing may help us see how to address that. We also are going to be dealing with hot, not as controlled growing conditions so instead of looking for a perfect growing temperature and humidity, we should attempt to get the best results in the most extreme ranges so that the farmers can more reliably use our product with success. We need to be careful about what we say at presentations so we have accurate information delivered. That will aid in our credibility as well as mentioning our confirmations from the outside sources we are in contact with. If we make a mistake talking we cannot continue to roll with it for the sake of making our presentation look better without stumbles. In the end, clarifying mistakes and saying “I don’t know” instead of making material up will better our credibility. We should approach this project with the mindset of we are trying to make the world a better place through this research instead of focusing on the grade. That will put more passion and effort into success with the project rather than success that is just enough for the grade books.

Blog #2 Mia W

When going to a foreign country, common goals are to learn and experience a new culture and to teach others of yours. Going to Sierra Leone to grow mushrooms, we must take into consideration their cultural norms. Firstly, women mushroom farmers may run into problems with obtaining agricultural waste from other farmers in terms of discrimination against women. Secondly, we need to take into account their problem solving. Learning about the vast differences in how people in different countries approach problem solving, we do not know how Sierra Leone mushroom farmers would approach an issue. Will they keep quiet and try to figure it out by themselves? Turn to a manual? Ask around? In attempting to make it as easy as possible for the new farmers, we need to learn how to best help when needed. Lastly, mushrooms are not often part of their practices for both farming and consumption. We will need to do well in communicating with the people to get this foreign concept across to them. For example, a small percent of the population is allergic to the spores either through inhalation or consumption. However, cooking the mushrooms before eating cooks off the spores and gets rid of that risk.

From my experience selling mushrooms directly to customers at our local farmers market, many people are used to eating domestic button and portobello mushrooms raw. However, we sell varieties of wild mushrooms, some with more spores than others. And I have to take care to notice new or unknowledgeable customers and inform them of risks they may be taking eating certain wild mushrooms raw. But if someone with an allergy to the spores consumes them, they would only suffer a stomach ache.

While women are less discriminated against in the united states, it is still prevalent. For example, I had to deal with harassment from a gas station worker every time he was there. He would try to convince me to smile every time I went in to purchase gas with cash and it made me uncomfortable to the extent where I never visit that gas station anymore.

Lastly, I often do not want to turn to experts for help because I wish to find ways to figure the problem out myself. So to address that personal norm, detailed, clear instructions would be most helpful.

Cultural practices that can be leveraged to address community and market problems are their good views of Americans. Because they tend to look fondly upon Americans, by suggesting changes to their system they may take more care to listen and try to put the suggestions into practice. Secondly, we already plan to leverage Sierra Leone’s large unemployment rate to cater to those available to utilize our mushroom production systems to get them jobs add to the market. Lastly, we can leverage the absence of mushrooms in their culture to help the new farmers in terms of supply and demand to make a greater impact on the new farmers with pay. If mushroom are perceived as a delicacy and are sold at high rates that would be very good for the new farmers.

In regards to the African context presenting differing challenges from the American context, though there may be discrimination against women in both countries, it may be to a greater extent there. Men may not want to learn mushroom farming practices from a young female.

Also, the African context may view mushrooms in an entirely different way than American do. From my experience, the general first responses to wild mushrooms are either disgust or fear. The African context may be similar or it could be the complete opposite with most of them viewing strange mushrooms as a gourmet delicacy.

Lastly, the African context may have problems in terms of keeping mushroom production spaces clean, compared to the vast amounts of available American technologies. Certain aspects of the mushroom production process require very sterile rooms for the most success to keep competing bacteria out of the mushroom cultures.

Resource wise, Africa has different plants and farming products which will affect the mushroom substrate and grain for the spawn. In Kansas, where sunflowers are abundant and easy to grow, we use the ag-waste of dried sunflower seed shells in our substrate. We also use the wood chips from the trees often grown around us. While substrate is very lenient, mushrooms still like certain materials over others. So when growing mushrooms here we need to keep in mind if the resources we are using are available in Africa.

Secondly, which has been lightly touched upon, is the different access to technologies in Africa versus America. In our mushroom production system, we put a lot of electricity and technology to refine our mushroom growing process. Gigantic autoclaves, boilers, and sterile rooms are hard to obtain in Africa.

Lastly, items used in the mushroom production process must be kept in mind comparing availability in America to Africa. We may use mason jars to grow spawn but we can’t get mason jars in Africa easily. It is similar with special mushroom grow bags with filters. We have to test less conventional items to grow mushrooms in that are more available in Africa. For example, we plan on trying to replace the mason jars with beer bottles and have tried use regular plastic bags with a rubber banded filter on top.