Welcome to the final reflection of my project! This has been one journey and I have learned a lot. I faced and overcame many challenges that I did not think I would encounter. Being a computer science major and only have dealt with software, I remember thinking to myself how well I would handle the hardware side of my project. There are many physical mechanisms that we don’t think how difficult they are until you need to work with the design. One design I remember vividly from my project that made me realize how challenging designing hardware is the hopper component. I had initially started with a water bottle for my hopper but I then designed a cleaner version on TinkerCad. Creating this design was difficult to perfect because I realized that it took a lot of time for engineers to come up with a great design for even a single water bottle. As you can see there were many small bumps in the road that showed me a different perspective of the mechanisms in my project. I remember at first when I said I wanted to create a voice-controlled dispenser, but I had no clue what materials or any details would be entailed. The first week we were told to make a list of materials and budget, this did not come so easy to me as I couldn’t think of what I wanted to use. The opportunities were endless with all the resources in the Innovation and Creativity Lab (ICL). I was glad that we had many chances to practice our elevator pitch because it pushed me to think of possible obstacles and solving my problem from different perspectives. I initially had not even thought about using a voice-controlled method, I thought about a button approach.
This project was very important to me and close to home because I was inspired by my father and uncle who are both visually impaired. Living with my father, I have seen the struggles of just doing basic everyday things like cooking. It can get quite messy at times when measuring everything out. That is why I decided I wanted to work on an impactful project where it can serve as an everyday application. My project is a kitchen tool that can be vocally prompted to measure the desired measurement.
During this project, there were many lows and highs. The first obstacle I encountered was choosing an already existing voice assistant and programming a skill with it. There are many voice assistants out there, I ended up using an Amazon Alexa. I was worried about how much I would be able to implement due to this being my first time. However, it was quite easy to program my skill because there were so many fantastic tutorials out there. I will say there were small technical things to be on the look for when setting the settings for the skill because that is what caused me to not be able to test locally or publish my skill to use on my actual device. But it didn’t take long for me to quickly scratch this implementation. I ran into the issue of connecting the Alexa to an Arduino. I needed an Arduino in order to connect to a driver and stepper motor, which was necessary to actually have the physical parts moving. There was an already existing skill connect these two, but it was taking me too long to comprehend how to integrate the Alexa-to-Arduino skill with my own Voice Measure skill. Therefore, I was fortunate that another peer of mine was also working with a voice assistant. I was able to smoothly transfer to use the Google Speech-to-Text API on a Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi overall was more convenient because I was able to program directly to the pins to control the motor and have faster processing. After this challenge, I really faced problems with sizing my 3D prints to fit nicely. I also had some problems with the motor acting up over time because the motor would be out of sync with the commands coming from the Raspberry Pi. I had to reset the Pi multiple times for this reason. I would have liked to have attached a hat to the Raspberry Pi, but it was coming down to the last few days and I was unsure how many changes and how long it would take to integrate.
Overall, I am very proud of my project and happy that we had the liberty to choose our own projects. I learned not only about technologies but about project management as well. It is a very much needed skill especially because I will be having my senior CS capstone in two years. I will definitely take my managing and budgeting skills for the future. I also built my presentations skills, which is something we all need to practice. During the weekly presentation updates and elevator pitches, I grew much more comfortable in owning what I am working on and learning. I also learned a lot of hardware troubleshooting and use some technologies that I was not initially exposed to. I will be taking all I have learned this summer to stretch my abilities to help in the ICL as the assistant once again.
My future plans for this project are to continue this during the time I work at the ICL this coming year. I hope to implement a Text-to-Speech feature where my dispenser assistant can speak back to the user. I also hope to be able to support liquids. I was successful in calibrating some solids and adding conversion tables to go between units. There is still more I would like to do and I hope I can have the time to continue and talk to more people to see what other useful features I could implement.
Lastly, I just want to say that I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of DTSF this summer. I want to thank Eric and Josh, our supervisors for challenging and helping us along the way. Alongside, a big thank you to my DTSF peers who made this summer one of the best yet and always were so willing to help at any given time. That being said, thank you for following along with the progress of my summer project.