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Designing a Smart Watch at Harvard's Makeathon: Lessons Learned

Publications (We made it!) :

As the sun lazily ascended on a Saturday morning, my friend David and I found ourselves in a familiar setting - the MADE studio within Brown University's Engineering School. Despite our promises to avoid late-night project sessions after last semester's gruelling work load demands, here we were, waiting for our teammate Katie, ready to embark on our voluntary midnight oil burning adventure for the weekend!

Upon arriving to Harvard's SEC, with no predefined theme or teams, David, Katie, and I decided to join forces to tackle the challenge ahead. As the designated AI specialist, I delved into the intricacies of implementation, coding, and electronics, fueled by sheer determination and Dunkin Donut caffeine.

The culmination of our efforts (Katie on ID, David on storytelling and research and myself on hardware implementation) was mAi, a groundbreaking project that caught the attention of the judges. Our screenless smartwatch, designed to foster imaginative play and physical activity in children, impressed not only with its innovation but also with its potential to make a tangible impact on young minds. Winning the "Best Use of AI" award, sponsored by Infosys, was validation of our hard work and dedication.

Reflecting on our experience at MakexHarvard, several key lessons emerged:
  1. The Power of Storytelling: In the rush to innovate, it's easy to overlook the importance of storytelling. MADE's emphasis on narrative and impact set us apart in a sea of technology-driven projects.

  2. Persistence Pays Off: From integrating AI APIs to troubleshooting errors, all within 15 hours, MakexHarvard taught me that where there's a will, there's a way. Embracing challenges and seeking solutions propelled us forward, even in the face of adversity.

  3. Adaptability is Key: Despite facing constraints and resource shortages, we learned to leverage what we had, transforming limitations into opportunities for creativity. While Raspberry Pi would have facilitated voice recognition and AI integration, it was snatched even before the event even began. However, driven by our shared vision, I navigated alternative paths, utilizing the Arduino IDE to implement AI APIs.

  4. Effective Planning is Crucial: Starting with a shared vision on the whiteboard and allowing ample time for technology development proved invaluable. Anticipating setbacks and preparing contingency plans ensured we stayed on track amidst the chaos. Moreover, although David, Katie, and I had never collaborated on a project before, we discussed about our passions, and quickly landed on a target user we were all excited to design for: kids. Then, through identifying our strengths, role clarity within the team emerged. Through what author Danny Warshay terms "creative abrasion," we harnessed our collective strengths, engaging in debates and discussions to bring our concept to life with a considerable depth within just 24 hours.

As we say our goodbyes to MakexHarvard, we take with us more than just memories of the FireTV stick, internship fast-track, and merchandise we earned. We also cherish the shared moments of triumph and setback, recognizing the importance of enjoying the creative journey and infusing it with passion. With valuable lessons learned and a renewed confidence in our abilities, I eagerly anticipate tackling future challenges and seizing opportunities to innovate and make a meaningful impact.

mAI Presentation Pitch Deck


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