Ready, Set, Design!

Article by Melinda Pandiangan (Q19)

Each new cohort in QUEST undergoes the computer design challenge in their 190 class. Even though the entire cohort works hard on their designs, only two designs are ultimately chosen to be built. An inside look on this semester’s winning teams, BestQUESTern and Team U.P., reveals the important lessons Cohort 19 will use in their three years at QUEST and future careers.

Computer Design Challenge computers in the QUEST lab

Computer Design Challenge winning designs are used in the QUEST lab

BestQUESTern

Interviewed: Danny Laurence, computer science major; Tom Oeste, computer science major

Additional Members: Savannah Vogel, Nick Kennitz, Benita Poon

Mentor: Angela Wu

With two computer science majors on the team, it looked like BestQUESTern had this challenge in the bag. In the brainstorming process, Danny Laurence and Tom Oeste flew with ideas, listing features that weren’t currently in the QUEST lab. “In the beginning we got wound up with outlandish ideas, from webcams to liquid cooling,” said Tom.

But the interdisciplinary nature of QUEST grounded the two computer-savvy students. Explaining their design recommendations to the rest of the team forced Danny and Tom to rethink their strategy. “We had to build a computer that made sense for the space,” said Danny, who realized the point of the challenge was not to build a feature-packed computer, but to satisfy the unique needs of QUEST students.

Their final design, dubbed “P.E.A.C.E. of MIND,” was built around appeal and accessibility. Placing a mini ITX computer case on top of the desk addressed concerns about leg room and USB port accessibility. Staying true to the team’s creative nature, BestQUESTern introduced a portable scanner in the package, a tool not present in the lab.

BestQUESTern constructed a physical model to communicate their unique computer design. “Dr. Bailey said he loved the model. It sold the presentation,” said Danny.

Team U.P.

Interviewed: Anne Gladding, business and psychology double major

Additional Members: Max Cooper, Melinda Pandiangan, Bryan Prince, Justin Winslow

Mentor: Sophia Wu

Team U.P. felt additional pressure with the announcement of the computer design challenge. None of the team members had built a computer before. But after entering the design process, the team gained confidence in their ability to complete the challenge. As long as the team kept researching and listening to the “voice of the customer,” their design would stay on the right track.

Quickly, the team chose appropriate components to fulfill the desired qualities of high performance, aesthetics, and speed, gleaned from a QUEST program-wide survey. But Team U.P. still felt unsatisfied. “We had a fast and reliable computer, but that wasn’t enough. We wanted our computer to stand out from the rest,” said Anne.

Team U.P. conducted additional market research, trying find a unique problem still unsolved in the lab. The team struck gold when observing a BMGT490 team conducting a meeting. The four seniors were crowded around a single QUEST lab computer. “That’s when we realized the QUEST lab is a team workspace, an important function overlooked in the survey,” said Anne.

The inspired result was a team-oriented computer, named the “Strata 360.” A mounted monitor and wireless, touchpad keyboard allowed for better visibility and easier collaboration in team meetings.

“They were risky choices, but we were enthusiastic about them. In the end, it paid off,”  Anne reflected.

Summary

The computer design challenge required teams not only to understand the workings of a computer, but to also master the design process. The winning teams committed to the voice of the customer without neglecting innovation.

Teams QUESTasaurus Rex and SWAG vision were also chosen to be built for personal use by Quality Guild members Nicole Coomber and Melanie Ashton.  Across the board, Cohort 19 delivered highly creative presentations. We look forward to following their future work.

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