Three weeks ago, I packed up my Subaru and left Minneapolis in one heck of a hurry. It was Monday, we had just been socked by a winter storm over the weekend, and another one was forecasted to hit on Tuesday. Thus, making it back to Bloomington in a timely fashion required that I gracefully duck between competing storm systems. Just as when I drove to Minneapolis for winter break. Just as when we drove to Madison for Thanksgiving.

My plans in Bloomington were about as time-sensitive as they were ambitious. As soon as I arrived home I placed myself under house arrest and spent the next two days writing and typing. Indeed, twelve hours a day I did nothing but write, drink green tea, and draw down the already-vanquished stores of our refrigerator.

Today we learned that all our hard work finally paid off. Our extended abstract paper for the CHI 2009 Student Design Competition got accepted, and we will be presenting at the CHI conference in Boston this April. We spent the bulk of last semester working on this project, and after a series of fits and starts and upsets came upon the idea for WattBot, an energy usage feedback monitor for the home. Enormous thank yous and shout outs to everyone who helped make this possible.

Meanwhile, this semester is off to a strong start. In one class we’re working on designing a new wayfinding/wayshowing system for downtown Bloomington, and in another class we’re getting all philosophical about what “experience” actually means in the context of HCI. I’m also taking a typography class in the School of Fine Arts that continues to blow my mind every day. We sketch letter forms and talk about counters and tittles and finials, and bask in the glow of 46 new Gothams. Tomorrow we will start working in the type shop with real mechanical type, and I will probably pee my pants the first time I open a California Job Case.

On the weekend Kate and I have gotten out hiking at McCormick’s Creek State Park and Brown County State Park, and we are duly impressed with the quality of outdoors available in Indiana. There is some beautiful country tucked into this state, and kudos to Indiana for doing such a wonderful job maintaining their parks and trails. Indeed, we will vehemently defend this bluff country from any west coast douche bag who wants to talk smack.

UPDATE: Yup, it is just a coincidence. Our proposed WattBot system is by no means affiliated with Wattbot, a home energy advisor that is available for realz!


  1. January 29, 2009 – 12:12 am

    Congratulations on your team’s acceptance!

    It was a pleasure seeing you guys progress. From completely scrapping your old ideas to having the courage to start something new in such a small time frame. You guys have come a long way. See you in Boston!

  2. January 29, 2009 – 12:45 pm

    Thanks, Jason! It has indeed been a long and winding road, and we would never have been able to navigate it without the help of an incredible group of supporters. Thank you for all of your advice over the last few months.

    Here’s hoping that the greatest is yet to come!

  3. Danny
    February 12, 2009 – 5:20 am

    WattBot. I like it. And your market analysis is spot on. My partner and I have been working on almost the exact same concept for about a year. We call it ECOP – Energy Consumption Observation Panel (or Platform depending on our mood). Rather than HMI my background is MMI, which I’ve been doing for 10 years or so now, so our data acquisition is fairly well baked. I’m moving into the visualization part of the product now. I realize you’re probably busy with school and all but I’d like to chat with you about it if you’re interested.

  4. February 15, 2009 – 11:05 pm

    Thanks for the kind words, Danny. Your project sounds interesting! My team is composed of three HCI design grads, so while we’re solid on the human-centered element we’re a bit shaky on the technical, installation, and data-collection sides of things.

    We did much of our collaboration using Google Groups, and we’re convinced that Google was eavesdropping on our conversations. Where else would they have gotten the idea for their PowerMeter?