There is a clear rise in the popularity of hobbyist electronics projects as electronics becomes more prominent in the world around us, especially those with a child focus. There is also a decline in the teaching of valuable practical skills for our modern society in UK schools. During an engineering design group project we wanted to use our design knowledge and our engineering background to create something that could encourage the development of these practical skills and potentially engage with a set of new users.

To achieve this, we developed spot-on!

in collaboration with Felix Murray, Max Stevensen and Mark Ridge

Phase 1: Research

We needed to find out what skills were on the decline but extremely valuable to learn in today's society. From this initial research we thought soldering was the most intriguing, it is underrated in its usefulness for repairing and prototyping and scary for parents due to safety concerns.

We then conducted human centered design research into this specific skill.

The board below shows some of our detailed research into ergonomics.

Some intriguing insights from all of our research:
- The perceived danger of soldering is purely psychological (the most common injury is a first degree burn - surprisingly to the hand holding the solder, not the iron, second/third degree burns are extremely rare) the large exposed area of hot metal on a traditional soldering iron contributes to this.
- For children to get something parents usually have to approve it, giving the parents something to relate to could improve accessibility
- We can learn from industrial hand soldering practices, simplifying the task could make it more appealing, especially for children, where motor control for precise movement hasn't fully developed yet.
- 3D Printer Pens and Hot Glue Guns are extremely popular with children, however they both can cause the same injuries as soldering.

Phase 2: Concept Development

After conducting our research, we began our concept development. Using our insights from the previous phase and we conducted broad ideation, narrowed into a range of concepts for an assistive soldering tool.

Below is just one of our concept ideas (for a tool to be used with the existing iron)

However, we came to the conclusion that the best proposal that encapsulated all of our findings was to create a pen that could extrude the solder, and melt it at the joint, and could be used with one hand, freeing up the second. It would also reduce the size of the exposed hot area and reduce the risk of injury. It's pen shape would make it intuitive to use.

Phase 3: Prototyping, Testing, Final Proposal

From the conceptual stage, we then began prototyping and testing, to ensure the idea was viable, and then iterating and developing the products various features to create a final proposal and prototype.

This stage involved a lot of iteration and testing, check out some photos from this stage below!

This lead to our product! Spot-On, changing soldering!

Phase x: The Future

We have big aspirations for the future of this product. There were some teething issues with the 'final' prototype, design is an iterative process, and so in the immediate future we aim to solve these issues, and create another slightly higher fidelity working prototype by improving the quality of some electronic components (no more handmade PCB's!).  We aim to continue to develop the product to a production level and then test its market potential. We have a long way to go, and many more prototypes to make, but we're prepared to get stuck in and have fun!

My Role

As this is a collaborative project most of the tasks and decisions on the project are done and made as a group, however during the production of the final proposal we had to allocate more specific roles to suit our capabilities, it was my role to develop much on side of the product itself, design the aesthetics and ergonomics of the product to promote safety and ease of use, assist with the testing of the electronics and production of the hot-end, design the fixtures and fittings for the internals and ensure they fitted and inform material selection choices, aid in manufacturing our prototype and development of the product through iterating in CAD (Solidworks). To be a part of the design and development of this product has been amazing and I am looking forward to the next stages of the project!

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