Critical Reflection

This final year has come and gone just as fast as Bolt in the 100m finals, it’s a crazy feeling that all 4 years of university to attain a degree are now over. I must admit this final year really has been something else, ups and downs round and rounds with never a moment to stop. It’s good in a sense as I feel that I have learned so much not just with regards to the course but also how I can expand and push myself the career path I wish to follow.

When we first returned in September I honestly had no clue about what/where I was planning to go for my project, I seriously hadn’t given it much thought over the summer which I do regret and highly recommend to anyone reading this to do. I returned very much so in holiday mode and it instantly hit me; this is my final year, this is where I actually work to attain my Degree. The direction I would move in, came from a small chat with my younger brother Luke. At an early age he was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis, lung disease that currently has a life expectancy of 40, and I have been around to see the struggle it puts on not only him but the family surrounding as well.

After our chat I had two separate pathways that I was going to be looking at within the Cystic Fibrosis spectrum, physiotherapy and the different techniques that people do to battle Cystic Fibrosis. With this being something so close to heart, I have been extremely passionate about the research through the course of this year. This has been both good and bad as the positives to take from it is the fact that I have a reason to push forward, some motivation. However at the same time there has been some extremely negative moments specifically in the research, finding out about the severities of the disease were pretty tough to take and at times held me back from researching further. Pushing on however I was extremely pleased at the reaction from people within the industry were having at my research and the ideas that were starting to circulate in my head.

A lot of my user research was helped by social media allowing me to get a better reach of people to speak to and find out valuable information across the spectrum. Trying to find people specifically with Cystic Fibrosis is a difficult task but by posting on different forms of media such as Facebook/Twitter I was able to expand my reach through likes and shares. I was gaining a reach across the globe with people from Los Angeles to Sydney helping me with my initial user research. This was a great learning curve for me and helped me progress with a lot of depth in my project research. After the research stage I was able to filter through and contain relevant pieces of information into one path that I was aiming to progress with my project. One of the key moments in the research part of my year was definitely at Guru’s day when speaking with specialists from a range of industries, these were key chats that helped me go in the right path. A chat with Jon Rodgers expanded my project even more as it gave me an insight into the world of data and what the right data can be used to acheive.

I stand by what I say in that this year as a whole has been the biggest learning curve in my life, specifically in the design aspects of it. I have seen produced so much work that I am extremely proud of and constantly getting better and learning new things. It really has been a great experience. When talking about learning new things, the prototyping stage played a key part in this. Before then I was never a “coder”, I could barely work an arduino never mind build an app in Xcode or Azure. Over the Christmas period after my research and alongside my dissertation, I took the liberty of doing some research into different ways that I could make my final product. Specifically learning the basics of Arduino again and frequently going through tutorials on CodeAcademy regarding Java/PHP/CSS. When we started back I still wasn’t 100% in the correct route that I was taking with regards to the final product and it was quite late on after several chats with lecturers that I decided where I was going. I felt I was looking at a narrow field at one point and I really had to take a step back and reassess where I was planning to go with the project. 

In the prototyping stage I was inundated with different options and views of what I should do as I kept in contact with specific specialists as I felt this would be extremely beneficial when narrowing down. Having these contacts was a learning curve in its own as it gave me experience with working with specialists who already know certain aspects and giving valuable feedback on my project. When I eventually set my sights on what I wanted to achieve I was able to mark out what would need to be done for each prototype section, for example my Mark I prototype was going to show how the peak flow meter would work and take a digital reading with Mark II being about the design and application aspect. I quite enjoyed learning new things however it was extremely difficult at times trying to find different ways that I could perform the specific thing I wanted. At one point I had spent copious amounts of hours researching what form of sensor I would use to read the peak flow with no great outcome, I decided to pop down and speak to Ali Napier who instantly said Ultrasonic Distance Sensor. At first I was like what? How? then a quick explanation made me think “Why didn’t I think of that?”. As much of an annoyance as it was that I had spent so much time researching only to be told an easier route within seconds, I learned a lot about different products I could use so not all was lost.

I quite enjoyed creating the application aspect of my project as it was a chance for me to use skills that I have learned out with university, Graphic Design. It has always been a passion and it was one of the key drives for me to the take the step into this form of project, being able to add that little incentive to take the idea forward with it. This was also the reason that I decided to do my dissertation in magazine/booklet form instead of a standard essay/writing piece. I suppose it gave me a better sense of direction where I felt confident in what I could do with it. Especially since I want to take the project further than university, being able to see my own designs not just physically but screen based swell is quite a comforting feeling and one of the many reasons I do it. Deciding to learn and code my application in Swift however is a decision that I regret slightly, it’s not an application/code format that is for the faint hearted let that be said. People had told me previously that I shouldn’t use it and sadly my stubbornness arose and I continued on in a downwards spiral for a while. I have managed to pull through however and I am proud of myself for what I have achieved. 

With my plan to take the project forward after university I constantly kept on the lookout for avenues that I could move towards in regards to getting funding and applying for competitions. With a few weeks before the end of this project I was able to apply to two forms of funding; SIE Young Innovators Challenge and Virgin Media Business Pitch To Rich and successfully progressing in the YIC to the next round and currently sitting in a good position to progress in the Pitch To Rich competition. Having the opportunity to apply for these public events has been a fantastic experience and also an unreal feeling seeing people interact with my product has been overwhelming, especially when you receive extremely kind words regarding the project on social media. This  definitely gave me a boost as I began to tie up loose ends with my project and gave me the belief that I really could further the project after I graduate.

On reflection of my year overall, I feel that I could have perhaps done a broader range of user interaction in the final stages but at the same time I don’t think I would have been able to achieve the correct endings due to the timescale. In regards to timescale I feel as though time management has improved substantially over the year and has certainly played a large part in my learning curve with the project as a whole. As i have constantly explained, this year has saw a range of ups and downs for me but overall I have battled on and I am extremely happy in the path that I have chosen and the product I have finished with. With this project being so close to heart it has constantly provided that little bit of support and motivation to continue on and push the project as much as I can.

With my project being based upon the child user but able to adapt for an older generation I am extremely proud of not only the outcome but also the reaction I have received with the idea. If this can perhaps one day help people suffering from not only Cystic Fibrosis but any other lung related diseases then I really have achieved my goal. My emotional involvement with the project has been a key motivation in the progression which I feel has been beneficial to the creation of my project. I am happy to say that I am extremely proud of the work I have put in and the rewards that I can take away from it all.