Pitching from student rooms for machine builders


"Is everyone online?" For seven weeks, 28 fourth-year computer science students worked on their design skills in the minor User Experience Design (UXD). In the last four weeks, three of the seven groups focused on the user interface of advanced, smart machines.

"Is everyone online?" For seven weeks, 28 fourth-year computer science students worked on their design skills in the minor User Experience Design (UXD). In the last four weeks, three of the seven groups focused on the user interface of advanced, smart machines. These assignments were submitted by companies HGG, JASA and JOZ, three machine builders in North Holland who are affiliated with the Smart Industry project TechValley. During the kick-off on 2 March, who would have thought that the students would present their results from their own student rooms, because of the corona outbreak?
All three of these TechValley's projects are about helping (end)users deal with (more) complex machinery by unlocking information, providing overview and insight and lowering the learning curve on operating these machines. Users should primarily be concerned with their tasks, not their 'tools'. After a number of small tasks, it is time for the big work. "The students work on assignments from real clients," says Nymphaea Notschaele, one of the teachers who supervised the minor. Initially from the Citylab Haarlem, located in the Waarderpolder in Haarlem. "When that was no longer allowed, the students started working with each other from their own locations. I am proud that they were able to adapt quickly and completed the projects professionally".

Safe operation

The students follow a fixed working method. From data collection and naming the main and sub questions to an experience map and defining personas. Subsequently, the various ideas are worked out in the ideation phase and processed into a prototype. "We have had a lot of contact with our client. The day after the kick-off we visited the plant", says student Lennart who, together with Rohan, Bob and Mats, took a close look at HGG's cutting machine. "Our assignment was to adapt the user interface of the RPC1200 so that the operators were given more support in making decisions and carrying out actions, and so that they could operate the machine safely and faultlessly".

More contrast

Joey Beukema of HGG is satisfied with the end result. "It is very professional and of high quality. In between they have presented clear proposals. They have processed our feedback well. In fact, where possible they came up with alternatives. Yes, these men were very communicative and proactive." His colleague Mike Jongejan can only confirm that. "The whole user interface has become simpler. The steps the operators have to follow are very clear. What also appeals to me is that they have increased the contrast with the use of colour. And by using our house style, this design resembles our other products".

Common sense

The priority of the director of JOZ, producer of mest robots, has been business since the corona outbreak. "Therefore, with his permission, we made direct contact with the dealer and one of the farmers using the straw bedding." A smart move by students Djordi, Marco, Thijs and Thomas. Just as smart as the prototype they present online, because that looks good according to teacher Eef Stavenuiter: "An important objective was to translate the data produced by the mest robots into a user interface in which cattle farmers and dealers have clearer insight into the status of the robots they use or supply. With your proposal, the farmer can now decide for himself to make certain minor repairs to his robot. In this way, the robot will quickly be productive again. Under the heading predictive maintanance, the dealer can now also indicate in advance to the customer that certain parts of the robot are in need of replacement. The design of your app also supports the logic of the user interface. Well done."

Equal use

From cutting machines via mest robots to packaging machines. The third group, consisting of René, Job, Wilmar and Silvan, has to deal with multiple users: operator, chef and technician. "The operators are often inexperienced, less educated or seasonal workers. They have to learn to operate a complex machine adequately in a short period of time". Joost Breed of JASA, the manufacturer of the packaging machine, is pleasantly surprised that the students - with colours, symbols and warnings - managed to get everyone to operate the machine. "Many of our operators do not speak the language. By choosing icons, we don't have to translate any texts. What I also like is that if there is a problem somewhere, for example packaging material that needs to be refilled, it will be at the top of your screen. That way you know where your priority lies." His colleague Marleen Bakker-Snoek also finds it useful that these error messages are displayed in a different colour. "Also how to solve the problem is mentioned step by step. Despite the fact that many parameters are involved, it is clear, well-organised". If it is up to Joost and Marleen, this user interface will be used immediately. As a student you can't get a bigger compliment than that.

EU Flagge

Co-funded by the
Erasmus+ Programme
of the European Union