Essay: Research, design and create a model of an affordable adjustable table

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  • Research, design and create a model of an affordable adjustable table
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A: INVESTIGATING

Goal

My goal is ‘To research, design and create a model of an affordable adjustable table , targeting employees in the corporate sector and teenagers working on their laptops/computers for long hours to improve their posture ‘. My rationale for selecting this goal can be attributed to the insight I developed viewing my family and friends, most of whom are either working in corporates or students. I noticed that they spent extensive time on their laptops/computers which was adversely affecting their posture. On further research, I garnered that extensive usage of devices such as laptops and computers and its adverse impact on the users posture was a global trend. I will be using identity and relationship. The exploration used in the global context is health, well-being and lifestyle choices.

The global context that I have used is identity and relationships, this is connected to my goal which aims at improving people’s posture by designing an adjustable table. My research will help me demonstrate and gain an in depth understanding of the positive impact ergonomic furniture has on posture and leading a healthy lifestyle. The exploration health, well-being and lifestyle choices has an inherent connection to my product as poor posture directly impacts one’s health and well-being. It can damage ones spine and organs in the long as well as short-term.

I have always enjoyed creative problem solving. Hence, problem solving along with my interest in carpentry were the primary influences that led to the selection of my goal. I have been pursuing Product Design for the last 2-3 year and have had experience working with different materials like wood, plastic and metal. Further, I have used these materials in a gamut of applications form making custom ice trays to making a nameplate and multifunctional tools. My experience of using various techniques enabled me to be able to plan the design of the ergonomic table. I have always been curious about using 3D design softwires, hence I see this as an opportunity to execute my plan and design into a tangible reality. For this project, I will be using my knowledge of product and design sensibilities in using the 3D design software. I will also use access FM learned during my PD lessons to analyse the current adjustable tables. Lastly, my understanding of the human body attributed to the biology class will further aid my research on how the spine is adversely affected form a bad posture. The idea of being able to address a problem such as severe neck and back pain by altering the design of something as basic as a table in a creative yet affordable manner is very appealing to me.

I have grown up being constantly surrounded by working professionals and students and it has been evident that over the years the usage of laptops/desktops has increased multiple folds. However what is often ignored is the impact this can have on one’s health. Being a student, I tend to spend hours sitting on my desk and often only get up when my back or neck begins to hurt. Recently, my father suffered from severe backache and was informed by his doctor that it was due to poor posture essentially caused by sitting in office or on a desk for hours at a stretch. Witnessing several accounts such as this, made me realise the that all these problems had something in common, the time spent on a desk using ones laptop or computer. It got me thinking that due to the nature of the lives we are leading today it is difficult and rather impractical to think we can become less dependent on technology, however what one can do is alter the way in which we use this technology.

Hence I decided to try and spread awareness about the health repercussions of spending countless hours on a desktop with a bad posture by speaking to my classmates and family members. However, I found this was of little use alone. When I began researching and reading articles pertaining to bad posture I garnered that doctors and leading corporations are increasingly realising the negative impact sitting in one place and working for hours has, the former have become prominent advocates of ergonomically suited furniture while the latter are arguably avoiding it due to high costs.

Therefore, I decided to design an adjustable table as my personal project. This table is one that is affordable hence working professionals, students and companies can purchase it to help people work long hours without compromising their health and posture. Since it can be argued that corporations are avoiding using this kind of furniture due to high cost, this may make it particularly attractive to them.

My goal is a smart goal as it’s a very simple yet creative solution to a problem faced worldwide. It is specific and clear that I am making a table for people who work in the corporate sector and students working long hours to help them improve their posture. Since adjustable tables are very expensive, I am working on designing one that is more affordable. My goal is measurable as the table needs to improve a person’s posture while costing less than other adjustable tables on the market. This goal is attainable as I can design the table with the help of my product design teacher and can find cheaper alternatives while not compromising on the quality of the table. This goal is relevant as most people not just in my immediate surrounding but worldwide are suffering from posture-related problems . This goal is also time-bound as I need to finish the design of the adjustable desk before the second week of November to get feedback and make any changes to the design.

It is highly challenging goal as the outcome of this project cannot be decided immediately after the design is completed, it will then have to be tried and tested to see if it effectively helps people improve their posture, which will be a time consuming process. Further, it will be hard to quantify and measure results, as experiencing aches and pains cannot solely be attributed to the chair or table one is using; it is the function of one’s posture, the furniture, the time one spends at their desk or it can even be genetic. Hence a potential drawback of my project is attributing aches and pains to bad posture and solely focusing on ergonomic furniture as the solution. Bad posture and the health repercussions caused by it are subjective and cannot be rectified in one go. Hence, given the time constraint of this project, it may be challenging to effectively measure the results. However, using ergonomic furniture should exhibit some positive results in the users posture and using it in the long term will definitely have positive outcomes in ameliorating bad posture and the subsequent health problems caused by it.

Global Context

The appropriate global context for my project was ‘Identity and relationships’. The strand under this context that relates with my topic is health, well-being and lifestyle choices. This was related to my goal because by the adjustable table aims to benefit the users by improving their posture which in turn improves the users health and well-being .The adjustable table is a very unconventional lifestyle choice which greatly improves the users posture. Since it is not widely available and popular most offices do not provide it.

The research that I will be doing aims to prove that this product will aid the users physical development along positively improving their health wellbeing and lifestyle choices. I will also demonstrate how a incorporating a standing desk to ones work environment can have a positive impact on their lifestyle even if it’s used for meagre one hour. The exploration health, wellbeing and lifestyle choices has an underlying link the users posture and health in the short and long term. I believe once the positive impact on using a standing table/desk is shared with the users, they too will begin to see its importance.

I was inspired by a series of YouTube videos on physiotherapy and consequently stumbled upon a video of a man’s review of an adjustable table, wherein I first discovered how adjustable tables can be useful in ameliorating posture related problems. I have also made use of subject knowledge from the subject of Product design which taught me how to design and create a product. Further, the subject knowledge helped me understand the more specific things that I will have to take into account while designing my product like dimensions and the floor space the product would occupy. Subject knowledge gained from biology class at school helped me with understand terms used in research papers done by professionals in medicine.

Research

I have used a mix of both primary and secondary research. In my primary research, I conducted a survey and an interview with Dr. Dxxxxxxx who is an ergonomist. In my secondary research, I have researched the benefits of a standing table .

Lastly, I also researched the process of making a 3D design of the table. I have done a research on the most suitable materials, which are cheap yet sturdy. I also tried to find the most cost-efficient ones.

Primary Research
As mentioned above, a survey and an interview were conducted as part of the primary research. The sample size of the survey was 40. The population of the survey is free from all biases such as gender, age, profession etc.

In the interview with Dr. Dxxxxxxxx, we discussed how a standing table is far more superior than an ergonomic chair and can provide several benefits to the user.

We discussed the cost of a standing table and how it would benefit the society if it was more readily available to the public. I also discussed with him some design options that I had in mind for my standing table.

A concern that Dr. Dxxxxxxxx shared with me was how doctors are now calling ‘sitting the new smoking’ . I found the phrase particularly interesting as it made me realise the seriousness of the matter. He went on to explain that homo sapiens aren’t meant to sit for the number of hours that we currently do.

My primary research will help me get first-hand information that I can analyse and understand without any bias. Speaking to Dr. Dxxxxxxxx is an example of my primary research, I intend on surveying more professionals and students to get more data and have a lot of responses to facilitate establishing a pattern. Further, the secondary research would help corroborate the analysis I make based on my primary research. It is also pivotal in gaining an in-depth insight into the existing research in the sphere of ergonomic furniture and how it ameliorates bad posture and other health related problems. It will complement my primary research and will enable me to analyse the topic in a more wholesome manner with a wider perspective. I aim to do secondary research utilising academic articles by researchers in the health sphere more specifically focused on posture. Further, I will also utilize credible sources for gathering information on the negative impact of spending endless hours sitting in the same place. I will look into the various stages involved in constructing the agronomical table and the materials used. The ultimate aim and purpose of my research is to develop and analyse the nature of the relationship between bad posture and ergonomic furniture and develop a strong case for using ergonomic furniture in workspaces. Lastly, based on all my research I will construct an affordable prototype.

Secondary Research

Using ergonomic furniture has several physical and health advantages such as lower blood sugar levels, weight loss, lower risk of heart disease, reduced back pain. Further it also improves mood energy and productivity, making a strong case for employers to use it in office spaces. Appendix 2 provides examples from medical studies of each benefit along with statistics to corroborate the findings and strengthen the case of standing tables. As seen in Appendix 3 , I researched different materials such as plywood, mild steel, galvanised iron and aluminium MDF and stainless steel. However, I found the following materials to be most efficient and cost effective MDF and stainless steel

Conclusion of Research
The research will help in the attainment of my goal as I have first found out the problems faced by working individuals with their posture. The most common problems that came up in the survey were lower back pain and strain on the neck resulting in severe pain and in these area for a long term. I then discussed these problems with Doctor Dxxxxxxx and tried to find the best solution. He then suggested that prevention is better than cure. He also told me that there are a large number of people facing similar issues.

We later discussed that we as home sapiens aren’t meant to sit the amount of time that we do in our daily lives and a new saying has come about due to this which is that sitting is the new smoking. We also discussed that ergonomic chairs are not the solution to posture related problem rather start using a standing workstation. To prevent and mitigate posture related issues.

My primary goals aided my understanding of the problems faced by working individuals and students in regard to their posture. The most recurring problems that I discovered while analysing the responses to the survey were lower back pain and strain on the neck resulting in overall severe pain in the long term. After the problem identification, I sought answers to why this was occurring in my conversation with Doctor Dxxxxxxxx.

Historically, home sapiens have always been on the move and engaged in a lot of physical activity, however it is no longer the same. With the onset of everything being a click away, the level of physical activity has arguably reduced. Researchers have coined the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” as it is done so excessively effectively leading no little physical activity and bad posture. Dr. Dxxxxxxxx and I also discussed that ergonomic chairs are not a wholesome solution to posture related problems, rather they need to be accompanied if not substituted by standing workstations in order to ameliorate posture related issues.

B: PLANNING

Success Criteria

The product will have a minimalistic look in order to ensure that it can be used in all kinds of office/residential spaces. The size would be 60 x 30 x 30 inches (W x D x H) which is the standard size for such tables. It will be priced around 6000-7000 INR approximately, which is lower than the current market rate for standing tables. The materials used will be environmentally friendly in order to ensure that it is a sustainable product and does not have any negative repercussions when bought in large quantities. The table will be adjustable on different heights in order to improve the users posture.

Timeline

I began working on my personal project in February last year, I thought about many potential ideas and products before finalising on this. Till March 2018, I had begun the secondary research for my project this was later corroborated by my primary research. Throughout the year I worked on researching and articulately presenting the information on my project. Constructive feedback from my supervisor helped me make my project more coherent. After receiving the final round of feedback, I presented my project in January 2019, wherein I received immense support from my teachers and peer group. A detailed timeline can be found in appendix 8.

ATL – Self Management Skills

I faced difficulty in being able to efficiently allocate time to work on this project and methodically plan in order to finish in time. I would get tempted to surf the internet or play video games on weekends sometimes instead of working on this project, hence I decided to place all my gaming materials aside when working in order to ensure that I had no distractions.

Another issue I faced was that I was losing interest in doing the groundwork as I was very eager to start building the product, however meetings with my supervisor helped me understand the importance of the ground work and research to support building the actual product.

C: TAKING ACTION

Developing Product

As planned, the product is minimalistic and would fit in well in an office space. The product cost is likely to be the same as decided (6000-7000 INR). The user/target audience has been expanded from just working individuals at corporates to include students as well. In line with the target of making the product environmentally friendly, it has been made out of MDF (sawdust). The function of the product remains the same. While the impact of the product remains exactly the same as discussed in the sections above its size would vary since the current product is only a prototype.

Thinking Skills

While working on this project, I had to ponder over various design options, in order to ensure the product is aesthetically pleasing and well as environmentally friendly. I had to think about different machines that could be helpful in building the prototype. Lastly, I had to think about the various individuals in my parents or my friend circle who may be able to help assist me in building the prototype.

Communication/Social Skill

During the course of my research, I used appropriate forms of communication for different audiences such as the doctor and the individuals for the survey. Various modes of communication were used such as emails, social media and in person interviews. Every mode of communication requires the message to be adapted accordingly for instance messages on social media have to be shorter and consist of an interesting visual whereas emails are longer and more in depth. Lastly, in person interviews were more informal and conversational. Working on this product helped me improve my conversational skills as during the course of this project I had to interact with different individuals.

D: REFLECTING

Evaluate Product Quality

As pre decided, the look of the prototype is exactly how I had planned, it is very minimalistic. The cost of the product is yet to be determined since I have only built a prototype. The target audience has expanded from just corporates to include students. As planned, I have used environmentally friendly material such as MDF. While the function of the product remains the same as mentioned on the sections above, the size will vary since the prototype is much smaller than the actual product. The product works similarly to other adjustable tables, therefore, the impact of the product on its user would not be affected.

Inquiry & Global Context

The global context used for the purpose of this research project is identities and relationships. Further, the topic of exploration in the aforementioned is health, well-being and lifestyle choices. This research has extended my knowledge and understanding of the topic as previously I had preconceived notions about health and had assumed that it was solely impacted by factors such as diet, genetics and exercise. However, my research aided my understanding on the fact that even actions that may appear trivial or appear to have little or no consequence can in fact impact our health negatively. For instance, sitting for hours at length or having a bad posture have numerous consequences for one’s health and well-being. It also drew my attention to a change in the inherent lifestyle of my generation wherein more and more young individuals are spending countless hours at a desk. I discovered interesting facts about prioritising and human nature, wherein a lot of individuals chose to ignore the negative consequences of a bad posture or spend countless hours at a desk in exchange for comfort, monetary gains or under work pressure. A common trend that emerged was that we tended to ignore the work life balance and prioritise work over health. I also noticed that largely, posture was not associated with health.

Reflection IB Learner

This project has enhanced my learning and provided me with a well-rounded view and sound understanding of my research topic. While conducting an in depth interview with Dr. Dxxxxxxxx and surveys for data, I have been an enquirer. A good survey requires a synergistic mix of closed and open ended questions and a sound understanding of what one is hoping to achieve i.e. defining the research problem and formulating hypothesis. The aforementioned required me to exhibit good communication and analytical skills. This project is caring since it has a heart and has been chosen in order to improve the health and well-being of others hence I have . Further, my learning and communication skills both written and verbal have improved, it has made me appreciate the importance of sound search and analytical skills. Lastly, since I am an introvert and often reluctant to approach people, this project was a risk for me as initially I was unsure if I would be able to interview several people. However, after this project I can confidently say that I have been able to push my boundaries and approach new people. I now feel comfortable conversing with new people.

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