Thesis I

Week 2

Make Something

I started looking into using light to communicate and I remembered something I read about in my Design in Safaris class from last semester; firefly communication. Fireflies have different flying and lighting patterns that lets them communicate with their species and attract females. They flash a specific pattern that lets the female fireflies know that they are from the same species. Here is what that looks like:


I was interested to see if people could use this same idea to identify each other, so I plugged an LED into an arduino and wrote some code that would light it up in different patterns. I had an image with the patterns and I asked some of my friends to identify the colors based on what pattern the LED was flashing.


Some of the patterns were easier to identify, but everyone was able to identify each color correctly. I believe this needs more testing, I somehow need to create a situation where people need to identify this while in a rush and under pressure, to see how easy it is when in a situation like that.

Secondary Research Plan

My research plan is to look into these 3 areas:

  1. Emergency vehicle transit.

  2. Evacuation plans and tools.

  3. Keeping groups of people together/finding people who got separated.

I plan to look into what is already being done, why, and if it is effective. For example:

  • Why do ambulances use lights and sounds?

  • Is it a specific frequency and length?

  • How do people react to it?

  • Does it actually save time?

I also want to do market research and look at products that have been designed for this. For example:

  • Flashlights

  • Emergency Kits

  • Fire Blankets/Extinguishers

  • Masks

  • Radios

  • Whistles

Lastly, I want to look into who is in charge of making all these plans and protocols, who decides what equipment must be found in every building, etc.

This Week:

This week I looked into an ambulance’s light and sound and its effectiveness, which is usually referred to as L&S. Use of L&S during patient transport by ambulances is in average 43.5 seconds faster than transports in ambulances without L&S.

I found out that the reason we use light together with sound is because with sound on its own, people cannot figure out where the ambulance is coming from. A visual cue is required because the sound alone does not give a clue as to which direction the vehicle is coming from. Many accidents occur when ambulances are crossing road junctions, because vehicles cannot determine where the ambulance is. In New York state, 1,412 ambulance crashes occurred between January 1, 1984 and December 31, 1987, resulting in 1,894 injured ambulance occupants and six fatalities. In “On Difficulties in Localizing Ambulance Sirens,” they found that 9 out of the 12 drivers would not respond to the siren until the ambulance was within a rear distance of 100 m, or an approach distance of 200 m.

After reading this, I can see that there is room for improvement in this area; any change that enables road users to take earlier evading action, will make the journey time shorter, but also make it safer emergency vehicle drivers, pedestrians and other drivers.


Weekly Reflection

This was a fun week, secondary research is one of my favorite parts in the design process. I already found a gap that could be an interesting entry point, but I still think there might be something else worth looking at. I also decided to start defining what I call “Design Challenges” which are characteristics I would like my end product to have. They evolve throughout my process, but I like to start putting them down because they help me by creating a set of constraints.

Design Challenges:

  • Use what already exists (Don’t try to redesign a building)

  • Make it as portable and unintrusive as possible

  • Intuitive and easy to use

Sofia Von Hauske