SJSUHFES Newsletter, Vol 4, Issue 1

Volume 4, Issue 1



From the Editor

by Roger Santos

So here we are at the start of a new year and many things have changed – new classes, Professors, and babies…babies? That’s right, congratulations to Sophie and Fritz on their new additions. Also, congratulations to the chapter for winning the Gold level Student Chapter Award for HFES for 2007. See page 5 of the HFES bulletin to see professor Andre receiving the award.

The bulletin will now be sent out in html form so people can read it directly from their inbox. This way we might actually garner some readers – “might” being the operative word. Check out the new quick tips, reminders and links section of the bulletin for some useful info. But if you want to visit the chapter website all articles will also be available there. In this issue of the newsletter we have some really cool articles so be sure to check them out. Check out the new quick tips, reminders and links section for some useful info. In this issue of the newsletter we have some really cool articles so be sure to check them out.

I’d like to take a moment to say a word about the recent loss of Kevin Corker. After taking ISE 212 with him I was really looking forward to working with him this coming spring semester for the project class. From 212, I knew there was so much to learn from him. The promise of working with and learning from him was something that I eagerly awaited. I can only imagine what I could have gained by working with him.

When I first met Kevin, I was sitting with Freund talking about entering the program. I remember Kevin walked in wearing a Hawaiian shirt, a thick beard and just seemed full of energy as he welcomed me to the program. He stayed a short time because he was busy, but as he left he was excited to have me there and said he looked forward to working with all of us new students. I think that was the defining moment where I knew I was in the right program and with the right teachers. I’ll never forget this moment in my career and I’ll always remember Kevin that way – full of life and always sharing his positive energy. Needless to say, the program has indeed lost a great teacher and it will be hard to think of the program being the same without him.


One Complicated Button

by Jamie Miller

As of July 1, 2008, Californians must use a hands-free device to talk on their cell phones while driving. I recently purchased a Bluetooth headset to make sure that I was prepared for this new law. The Plantronics 520 headset was highly rated so I thought it would be a good choice. After I charged the headset, I immediately started to familiarize myself with it. Although the headset only had one button, I didn’t think anything of it at first. I didn’t have a clue how to use the headset, so I started reading the manual.

I turned to the page that listed the headset controls. I quickly realized that a single button was supposed to perform the following nine different tasks: turn on the headset, turn off the headset, answer a call, reject a call, end a call, make a call, adjust the volume (the button moves back and forth), transfer a call from the headset to the phone, and transfer a call from the phone to headset. Even after reading the list, I figured this was normal for all headsets. After all, how else would a manufacturer be able to provide customers with the functionality they desire and keep the size to a minimum?

Unfortunately, the answer is to reduce the number of buttons. Plantronics crams nine functions into one button by pairing the functions with different tones, and making the user press the button three different ways (short, long, and left and right). After using this headset for awhile, I now know that even performing simple tasks can be difficult.

For example, I was trying to make a call by using voice dial. I pressed the button, a beep signaled in my ear, I spoke the name, but nothing happened. I repeated this two more times to no avail – all while driving. Finally, I realized I needed to hold the button down longer to hear a lower tone, which signaled voice dial. I’ve also had issues with trying to turn off the headset and figuring out how much charge is left on the battery. (The light indicator is also supposed to indicate 11 different states of the headset!)

Overall, I like the headset; however, there is definitely room for improvement. Even for someone who is technically inclined like me, the complexity is a bit much. The headset is compact, but there is definitely room for more than one button. Ideally, I would like to have one button for on/off and second button for calling functionality. For now, I’ve learned the essential functions I need to use the headset, and I will probably not use it to its full potential. As for the light indicator, there is no way I will be able to remember all of the 11 states, and quite frankly I don’t know that I want to learn them all. The different light patterns will just have to remain a mystery.


The Score So Far

by Kirsten Peters

I entered the project class in my fourth semester knowing I was interested in exploring the Nintendo Wii’s new game controller method. Due to the irregular nature of my project I was given Dr. Freund as an advisor. Over the course of the first month I talked with him about different aspects of this idea and with his help was able to narrow the project down a bit.

I then started an in-depth literature review. Once I knew more about the background research and theories, I started to form the ideas of a rough experimental design. From there, I continued an iterative process of research and experimental design as the ideas and design grew into something solid and feasible. Also, since I chose to use motion capture as one of my measurement techniques, I took extra time to work with Dr. Jim Kao of the Kinesiology department to learn the constraints and requirements of the equipment he was allowing me to use. The last couple of weeks of the semester were focused on polishing up my report and preparing my proposal for Dr. Freund. In the end I chose to investigate the influences of bowling proficiency on performance and upper extremity movement characteristics during first-time Wii-bowling.

Over the summer I took a full time internship so I wasn’t able to start on the next phase until I was back in school. Once I was back I got straight to work. I met with Dr. Kao to review the measurement equipment and met with Dr. Freund to regroup and revise some minor changes to my experimental design. Once I applied for IRB approval, I drafted up my exact test protocol and script, bought supplies, and investigated recruiting options. Once I had IRB approval, I started recruiting via the Psych 1 pool, Craig’s list, the SJSU HFES Yahoo! Group, a network of friends, and posters and signs posted on campus and at local game stores. I chose to use 30 participants (three groups of 10) so I needed to find more people than usual.

While recruiting and scheduling participant appointments, I ran multiple levels of a pilot study. It was during this period that I made a couple of changes to my protocol based on some unforeseen complications due to the motion capture system. However, once the bugs were ironed out I started running participants like crazy. It took about 2 months to finish recruiting and running 24 participants – which was much longer than I expected. Since, by this time, it was early November, I decided to give up finding the last 6 participants and move on to the next phase of my project.

Because I chose to use motion capture data, I was forced to complete an extra step before moving on to the data analysis phase. Without boring you with the details, I needed to ‘digitize’ the video data before I could find out the dependant variable I was interested in knowing. That process has taken me the longest and I have only just completed digitizing the first group of data, which is actually only 1/3 of the simple data.

My plan is to use this first group of data to complete an initial statistical analysis of my data. If I find no significant results, I will need to digitize the remaining 2/3 of the simple data before I can use it for additional statistical analysis. Once I have finished my data analysis, I will be ready to report my findings in my final report. Right now, the plan is to finish this semester.

My advice to any student reading this is to pick an interesting topic you are passionate about and find a simple question you want to answer with your project. You do not need to reinvent the wheel with this project. This project has taught me the importance of good research with a scientific design. I have also learned patience, restraint, perseverance, discipline and the importance of a good network.

If you have any questions about my project or experience, I encourage you to attend a Thesis/Project Café meeting which is usually held every other week. Regardless of your stage in the program or project, we welcome your input and interest. Or feel free to email me at engineerkirsten@yahoo.com


The Quest for the Perfect Mouse

by Susann Kress

“Which one of these is the best one-I don’t care how much it costs” a patient with wrist tendonitis asks after being sent to me for physical therapy, as he pulls out a stack of papers with pictures of objects that only vaguely resemble what most people would recognize as a computer mouse.

Like a parade of exotic animals I gaze upon what lays before me: “the J-mouse”, “the joystick mouse”, “the wheel mouse”, even a specimen called the “the foot mouse”…

Although some people can benefit greatly from substituting poorly adjusted computer equipment, this will not be the focus of this article. A great new mouse is not some kind of magic bullet against repetitive strain injury or RSI. I have seen too many patients that started out with wrist tendonitis, only to develop a new onset of finger joint and tendon problems after being switched to a new mouse that substitutes the repetitive wrist motion with a track ball that requires continues use of their fingers. Another common scenario is a patient that was advised to switch sides for their mouse use only to end up with bilateral hand/wrist problems.

I work at an orthopedic clinic in Cupertino right around the corner from Apple Computer, the same company that creates new and shiny gadgets on a daily basis. It is often people from this same industry that seek our services for a RSI after years of spending 8-12 hours/day behind the computer and are searching for the perfect tool that will keep their body functioning at the same high level that they have demanded from it. When suggesting to them regularly scheduled times each day to stretch and exercise, they often look at me as if I had just asked them to give up their first borne child to me. The words “break” and “exercise” is enough to trigger a fight or flight response in them.

However, the cause of Repetitive Strain Injury boils down to a simple equation and within it also lays the answer for a potential cure:

Repetition + Force + Lack of Rest = RSI (tendonitis, tenosynovitis, nerve compression)

Ergonomics are important at avoiding injury but so is people’s willingness to take frequent breaks to stretch as well as exercise regularly. From my experience, there are no shortcuts although people will continue to look for them, since taking time out of their busy work day to stretch or limit their computer use requires them to change on a deeper level. It means putting their health and body first, not their work although in the long run this approach will benefit their working careers.

One of my favorite tools to aid people on the road to avoiding/recovering from RSI is a piece of software such as “Stretch Break Pro” that actually blocks the user from further performing any tasks on the computer until a series of timed stretches are performed. The frequency and breaks are determined by the user and so is the stretch duration. It may not be as cool as a brand new and shiny “joystick mouse” but it is defiantly a step in the right direction.