Saturday, October 15, 2011

Week Four

For the second week in a row I was wrong about how I estimated our group dynamic. The week before, I thought our group was doomed, and then we did a 180 and quite well by my estimation. This week, I thought that our group had enormous potential for working really well together, and that it was going to be a good week. I was dead wrong. Thing went downhill from the start, and just kept going downhill at an exponential rate.

This week I had the team of Maria, Ted, Stephanie, Brian, and Justin. The project we got handed was the Heat, Sliding, and Annually project, and since this was the week before we would present to Mitch and Gina, pressure was on. The group before us had created a solar water-heating project that used half cylindrical shapes with reflective material inside that would redirect light toward a central black tube. Unfortunately for that group, their acrylic gears weren’t strong enough, and the structure was too heavy, so they burned out their servos and in class their model didn’t work. It had some other flaws, such as the bulky box that supported the central tubes, which, coupled with their location on top of the roof, would act as a snow collector. However, the main premise was a good one, and the form was efficient to my understanding. I wasn’t too worried about function; we just had to start by rethinking the gears or making them of a different material.

The professors, following the critiques, told us that thus far in the course groups were completely redoing projects every week instead of truly building upon the one we were given. They wanted us to knock that off, use what we were given, and improve upon it. Karl also made a point of stating that two of the projects needed to work on spectacle, while the other two needed to work on function. Since the light project and the wind project did not receive the critique of being unlike a spectacle, whereas the water and heat projects did, I thought our group would take that critique to heart and focus in on that portion. I thought we would maintain the current function and find a way to bolster the spectacle.

Yet again, I was dead wrong. The very first thing our group did in class was to attempt to change everything about our piece. I was among those who voiced the query as to whether or not the Powerhouse had a water heater yet, but after the professors told us to stick to it, we all dropped that topic.

So we then proceeded to argue for hours over the course of this first meeting and all following ones. I tried, futilely, to say that the darn thing was efficient enough and that we should focus more on spectacle. The form just fine, but couldn’t we stick it into the roofline perhaps? Or even indoors under a skylight? Or figure out a way to protect it without hindering its spin motion? If it were indoors then cleaning it would be easier, although, yes, we might lose efficiency. Yet since the pipes had to be covered by a clear panel anyways, what would that matter? Then I proposed that we focus more on using the combination of light and water; improving the light fixture idea the previous group admittedly failed to execute completely. Couldn’t it be a really awesome ceiling light? I also pitched that the half cylinder could be finished off into a full cylinder, allowing for the project to exist in the ceiling line instead of under or over, since a half cylinder would allow precipitation in.

Even in saying all this, I admitted that maybe there could be greater efficiency. Maybe I was dead wrong about how efficient it was, but since Garrett took point on presenting the efficiency and he was rather convincing, I didn’t see how the current efficiency was an issue. So in moving forward on my own, I brought forward some visual elements I found

To go on explaining the war that ensued for the following hours seems futile and disrespectful of my fellow classmates, which is something I don’t desire. So in moving forward, Maria did a marvelous job with an Eco diagnostic. She really stepped up to the course standard of learning new things by undertaking the entire program. What she generated was very professional looking, and great for seeing temperatures relative to the months of the year and for observing where the wind primarily comes from. Justin called his uncle and got information regarding water heating. We learned the dimensions of the installations his uncle works on, and how they function. We also learned the price point of $7,000 for that type of installation, and hoped that our being able to reduce cost to below $2,000 would be a selling point for us. With other facets, it was stated that the cylinders had to go because the form was disliked and because the sheer number of them needed was undesirable for mechanics sake. This left the form to become a flat panel. Since we no longer had the ease of rotation for protecting the piping (which was to be copper for the most efficiency), we needed something else. The something else then became a set of cabinet doors that would be reflective, which would inevitably take up far more of the roof than we could afford. It was decided to think more on how this protection would actually work, as well as ways to consider spectacle more greatly without losing any function.

But apparently I was wrong in thinking we decided on these two items. In stepping back, I came up with a way for the “doors” to work, pitched it in the next meeting with a quick cardboard demonstration, and without any protest at all it was accepted. No other ideas were brought the table.

I have never had one of my initial ideas readily accepted without debate or conversation even once in this class until this moment. I hated it.

While I like to argue my point, and if I think I’m correct I’ll stick to my guns, I prefer to debate things. I want to hear the pros and cons from another perspective and I want to hash things, pooling ideas and resources, until something good rises to the top. I know I don’t know everything. Many days I feel as if I don’t know anything at all. But never ever did I want this idea to be nonchalantly accepted and then executed (no matter how well rendered or calculated by Ted). I didn’t know how awful it was to have a first idea accepted until this occurred. It just doesn’t happen in art & design at all.

But since everyone else was finally sufficiently pleased with the efficiency of our piece, I thought that maybe NOW we could get to working on spectacle. Instead, I was unceremoniously told that if I wanted spectacle, I needed to figure it out and do it myself. Oh. And no touching the form. Oh. And the dimensions were to be delegated by efficiency as well, so no messing with that either. Blatantly stated: They did not care at all about spectacle.

It is to my shame that I confess my reaction following this time. I lost it. I have never lost it like this ever if my memory serves me right. I just exploded. After 6 hours of trying so hard to convince, debate, plead, and argue (repeat times ten, with the order of the various attempts sporadically rearranged), and after even appealing to their sense of respect for our professors by emailing the trio with the situation (written as unbiased as possible and approved by my group members) and reading aloud the responses…. I couldn’t take it. How can anyone disregard Karl’s perfectly clear answer? “Spectacle without function is meaningless. Function without spectacle is crap. If you make a project that is only about spectacle or only about function, you will get a C in this class.” And then to state that they believed our form was spectacle like? To ignore the truth so profoundly?

I should have walked away. I should have done something else. I shouldn’t have lost it. I did.

Deflated after losing it, I apologized meekly, and set to work making the model I did not respect with everything I possessed. It would be as good as I could make it. Brian and I went to work on the form and Justin worked to figure out the code.

It took us a while, but we made the thing work. The largest difficulty resulted from the fact that we had no good servos to work with, since they had been burnt out the previous week. We attempted to use two small ones, and they couldn’t handle the weight of the flaps. We did make it so they could move independently. So, holes were drilled, pieces painted, components glued, acrylic sandblasted, wiring arranged, screws tightened, light installed, and metal bent.

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