Monday, June 18, 2012

Student Exchange, Adelaide Australia

Hello everyone! Heather here, I thought that now I have time to blog I should write to let everyone know how awesome student exchange has been and what I have been up to. I started studying at the University of South Australia in Adelaide on February 27th and today was my last day of the semester! (June 18th) My experience here has been amazing, and it was totally worth it. It really makes you see things in a different light and gives you experience with different cultures.

This semester I was enrolled in Furniture Design for Manufacture and User Design Studio 5. I was so thankful to have only two courses, it gave me plenty of time to finish projects and there was a bunch of spare time for me to just have fun while I was here. I am sure you guys are a bit curious to what I was up to here, so I will start with Studio :)

This semester, our projects were to Re-design a Stud Finder hand tool and to re design a portable projector unit that the lecturers use at the university. The portable projector unit started out as a group project where we had to research and analyze different areas of use of the projector unit. We had to create a use scenario where we would set it up and use it and observe difficulties we had and such. We also had to observe it using different techniques.. one was called 'master apprentice' where we had to watch an experienced user and learn from them. Another one was an interview, the 'fly on the wall' technique and one group even had to get the users to write love letters to the portable projector unit (which I thought was weird). This class was actually really similar to Lina's 3rd Year User Design course. There was a lot of repetitive observations and scenario analysis. Basically, this is going to sound bad but I didn't learn much from the studio here because I had already learnt it in Canada. We even did the whole post it note mind mapping thing... but they call it affinity diagrams here. I think that Carleton is slightly ahead of UniSA, but I suppose this could also be because of how their school year starts in February where ours starts in September.

For our final submission for the projector unit we had to make a website showing the development of the design from the very beginning to the very end. We had to use a free website making website called Yola, which is actually really super useful and customizable... I would definitely recommend it for a portfolio site. Anyways, here is the Link to my website if you guys wanted to see it...

So basically, that website will explain the project in more depth if you are interested. :) and the picture below is what my final design looked like..

(Video made with help of Dewar :))

While the projector project was going on, the stud finder project was going on at the same time. The stud finder project was just like any other project basically.. but one difference was that we learned about electronics! I learned how to make a circuit using a circuit board, L.E.D's, buzzers, vibration Motors, and switches. I did learn a lot about that actually, so that was neat. We had to do a bunch of user testing with this project as well. And Also tons of foam models. The thing about foam here in Australia is that they don't have the foam Canada has. Now that I have experienced Australia's foam, I really really miss Canada's Foam and I never thought I would say that. Here, they use the white low low density foam, like the kind of foam that is used in packaging. It is so hard to work with! and if you do happen to get ahold of blue foam (which is our pink foam) it is rare and everyone will want to touch it... 
So with the stud finder, we had to focus on ease of use and the interace. The point of it was to make it as clear as possible and as simple as possible, so it was a good project for interface design. For the final submission, our Prof (which they call lecturer) asked us to make our final model out of foam .. weird. I was expecting to rapid prototype it or something, but he told me they use foam for a lot of their final models.
Here is the first page of my final submission, 

Finally, there was the Furniture Design course. WOW.. all I have to say is wow, that Prof is crazy. But she was great, I have never had a Prof so true to herself. She just said what she wanted to and never held back to give her opinion. I remember one morning she came into class with a hangover (our class was monday mornings at 10 am) and she just said, "Okay, sorry guys.. I just need to take another 10 minutes, you guys just relax for a few, I will be outside taking a quick smoke break". I thought that was just so odd. She is "far out" as the Aussies would often say. But the way she interacted with the students and supported their ideas really turned out to be successful, and for all of the final Stool projects everyone's designs were absolutely amazing.
In Furniture design we had 3 projects and they were all fairly simple. First, we had to make a video about a piece of furniture, it's designer, their history and different pieces that they have created. I was in Linette's group as well as a guy named Rhys. We studied Hans Wegner's Papa Bear Chair even though our video turned out to be almost twice as long as the required time, it still turned out well.

Secondly, we had to create a wood joint but use two different materials to make it. Then we had to destroy the joint and analyze where it broke and talk about how it can be avoided in the future. I used laser cut acrylic and pine to make my joint, and I used dovetail type joinery but it was a bit different. (here is the picture below)

Finally, the last project was the stool. Which was pretty open, all we had to do was pick a piece of furniture that inspired us and then create a stool based off of that inspiration. We also had to discuss how we made our stool and how it can be made for mass production. My stool was made out of mailing tubes and left over tubes taken from a fabric shop. I painted it all white and then put graphics on the top... as seen below. 

Well, I guess that basically sums it up!. Australia has been great, I have traveled to New Zealand, Melbourne, a small town called Port Augusta, I have been to horse races and a zoo, a few Harbours and tons and tons of beaches. There is plenty more that I have done here, but if I were to say anything to future exchange students coming to Australia, I would say:
1. The weather here is actually pretty chilly in the end of May, June and July because its their winter (I didn't bring a good jacket so I have had to layer up a bunch)
2. Adelaide is a pretty quiet city, and Colder than almost all of the others. If you are interested in warmer weather and more up beat towns where shops don't close at 6 or 7 I would say try out Melbourne, Brisbane or Queensland. (Thats where I will be going next time I come to Australia)
3. Try to get a job (if you think you will need a job) right at the beginning of your travels because they pay a lot of money for minimum wage. 
4. Get involved in as much things as possible. I have kind of missed out on some things and 5 months goes by really fast! so make as much fun as you can. 

Anyways, I have also been writing a personal blog about my travels so if anyone is interested in what else Australia has to offer and especially Adelaide, here is the Link to my blog. 

See you all in September :)