Dear diary,For the very first Design Club of April, we decided to work on a small project - a cat wheelchair. We also invited 2 friends to join us!

One of the club members is Becky, whose cat (Mao Mao) is disabled. By “disabled”, I mean she can barely move her back legs. So we splitted into 2 teams and figure out how to design an equipment  that can solve Mao’s problem. During the process, we were told to apply design thinking. One team will win a grand price of x00.000 if they work out the best solution for the cat.

On that very first day of the game, we got to work on the 1st step of Design thinking – Empathizing.

First, the cat was brought to the studio so all of us can observe her. (She was slightly afraid and trembling, but as soon as I explained to her that she was the client of the competition, she gradually felt more relaxed).

“What is your problem?” -I asked

A moment of silence before Mao slightly replied with “Meow.”

Oh wait. She cannot speak.

“She has had weak spine since she was born ”- Becky claimed. “Her back legs were easily injured in a small incident. But 6 months after that, I can see some positive changes. She can move her back legs a little while moving around, but most of the time, her front legs are the ones that handle her weight. I still help her when it comes to urinating”

Knowing what causes her inconvenience, we easily put ourselves in her paws, did some researches, and discussed with our team to sketch out some basic models. We called this process  Define and Ideation.

The first team’s idea covered 3 main aspects: Cheap, Clean, and Easy to make. They called it the CCE equipment. There were 2 - 3 abandoned ideas before they come to their officially first design. They slowly explain the idea to everyone.

“We decide to use a plastic box as a platform for her to rest her belly on, with 4 wheels attached on 4 pieces of steel at 4 corners of the box like a trolley. The idea is simple but quite stable. We plan to cut the box to where Mao can move her front legs freely. The edges will be cut out so she can easily look at her 2 sides. The size will be a smidge bigger than her so that rotating won’t be a problem. Mao sits most of her time, so put her in a normal crawling position can cause her pain. We will lower the back wheels to fix that. We will finalize it by placing the belt at the upper and lower spots of Mao’s back – to make sure she can stay on the equipment while moving ”

The design was not absolutely perfect, however, we all knew that, according to design thinking,  we would test it out and consider iteration if necessary.

The other team, however, designed an equipment called EW (easy way) that can solve 6 of Mao’s problems. Yes! You heard me right. They planned to help Map run, walk, lie down, sit, freely control the upper part of her body, and evacuate/urinate.

They also went through several versions before coming to the last model. It consisted of 4 parts. The first part was a leather or fabric belt they’ll put around Mao’s neck. The next one was the wheels attached accordingly to the levers, which is fixed to the frames put on each side of Mao’s body. They allow her to sit, or lie down easily. They also added a tray below for Mao to put her back legs on. Finally, they use fabric made of cotton to gently hold on to Mao’s belly. We can replace that if it gets dirty.

The design was rather complicated, yet worth to try because it aids Mao in many aspects. They really looked through Mao’s problems, and found a way to solve her problems as many as possible.

Okay! That’s it! Our first day of the competition! I hope we all learn how to empathize, define, and ideate!

Next week 2 teams will test out their design. I hope you can come and join us!