Stephanie Tang on the Heart Sounds Bench

24 Jun, 2019

Stephanie Tang on the Heart Sounds Bench

The BCNM is pleased to offer several undergraduate research fellowships each year. Undergraduates are paired with our graduate students, who mentor them in research methodology. This year, Stephanie Tang worked on Noura Howell's Speculating the Smart City. Read more about her experience below.

The “Speculating the Smart City” project is an investigation in human interactions with technology in public space. While smart city technologies in urban environments are often used for surveillance and data collection to improve efficiency of daily city life, the Heart Sounds Bench is a means of challenging the ability of these technologies to capture all qualities of urban life. By incorporating biosensing technology that amplifies the sounds of the heart, the Heart Sounds Bench invites people in public space to pause, sit, and momentarily encounter affective experiences through a recognition of self and connection to others in the larger urban population around them.

As an undergraduate studying Architecture in the College of Environmental Design, my role in this project primarily focused on further developing the interactive experiences of the Heart Sounds Bench in public space as well as construction of a prototype. Noura Howell and I investigated various ways to integrate human interaction and networking with the Heart Sounds Bench in public space, and iterated on the form of the bench through brainstorming sessions, rapid prototyping, and digital 3D modeling.

Collaboration with Noura on the Heart Sounds Bench project has given me the rewarding opportunity to explore the intersection of disciplines of engineering, architecture, urban design, and art. Early in the semester, Noura and I had the opportunity to participate in the Vision + Light: Processing Perception exhibition of Art & Science at the Worth Ryder Art Gallery on UC Berkeley’s campus, in which we installed a version of the Heart Sounds project in the form of hand-held buckets. Through this exhibition we were able to gain a better understanding of public response and engagement with the heart sounds technology in a gallery setting, which later informed some of our design decisions in the bench prototype. This project allowed me to explore how my architecture education could be applied to other areas of study; it challenged me to use design thinking processes that I’ve learned in designing occupiable space in the context of urban furniture. Working with Noura also provided me with the opportunity to learn more about fabrication of prototypes using woodworking techniques and 3D printing, as we were able to get access to various resources and facilities on campus across departments.

While this project allowed me to further develop physical design skills of making and iteration, an equally valuable part of this fellowship was the opportunity to learn more about Noura’s work as a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Information. Learning about the conceptual and theoretical backing for the Heart Sounds Bench at the beginning of the semester and later expanding upon and making changes to the project with Noura also pushed me to ask critical questions about my own senior thesis project from different perspectives.