ideaPortals were a prototyping project grant-funded by the Mesa Arts Center for the first-ever Main St. Prototyping Festival
My original vision and product idea was to measure how city-goers felt in various parts of downtown, and to encourage them to share ideas for making it better:
Over time, the concept evolved into a more tech-enabled design:
The term “idea portal” was intended to capture the fact that they were physical portals into “user ideas” or feedback from local city-goers. The portals were designed for city-goers to submit an idea and vote their emotion within that space.
Once we won the grant, I started refining the design and realized two things:
- It was likely that few people would take the time to write their thoughts down. We’d need to reduce friction if we wanted higher engagement rates.
- By using electronic buttons, we could report the data on a public dashboard!
From there, we created the five ideaPortals with a product team of seven:
- Dave Hattendorf - metalsmith
- Philippe Chevallier - IoT engineer
- Chris Jannenga - software engineer
- Jake Toepel - software engineer
- Elizabeth Nelson - photography & building assistance
- Kyle Thomas - grant strategy, business strategy, building assistance
- Me! - invention, design, grant writing, business strategy, product management, building assistance
And placed them throughout the city, among the other prototypes:
Each ideaPortal contained question prompts in two languages (Mesa has a large population of Spanish-speakers that I wanted to include), five “emoji buttons,” a chalkboard to submit ideas, and—most importantly!—an IoT-connected hardware setup to relay the button data to our interactive web portal displaying the results:
We also built a website and marketed it to people across our social media networks:
One of the visitors during the 3-day Prototyping Festival was none other than the Assistant City Manager of Scottsdale, who contacted us to request that we deploy our ideaPortals at the upcoming Scottsdazzle festival!
Needless to say, we were absolutely thrilled and promptly submitted a proposal which won us not one, but TWO opportunities to put the ideaPortals in action:
At the end of each event, I put together a detailed report of the data and ideas-based chalkboard results:
Overall, it was an incredible learning experience!
I learned to write a proposal for a competitive grant. I honed my 3-D design skills and formed relationships with local business owners willing to help me in my vision. I discovered a new way to connect with my father. I got to collaborate with some of my best friends and my then-girlfriend-now-wife 😊. I cut my teeth on GovTech / having a government agency as a client. And I had a blast doing it all!
Thanks to all who participated & perhaps one day ideaPortals will live again. 🙌
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