Thank an engineer: Kitchen Aid Blender

I am starting a blog series called: Thank an engineer. It is an effort for me to draw awareness to some of the cool, and often basic things we take for granted, for which engineers are responsible. Earlier this month I wrote about some of my pioneer woman efforts living here in Puerto Rico, about how I am trying to live simply without clutter. I also marveled at the design of simple mop and questioned the design principles of yore. Here I am yet again, questioning design.

Three and a half months ago, just a couple of weeks into my time here, I bought a blender. I thought something simple and basic was all I needed. All I had planned to do was make some fruit and protein smoothies after all. Well, the Oster blender from Walmart was a hassle from day 1. It wouldn’t even blend ice, so I never even tried that past the first effort. Then, it barely could blend frozen fruit. It wouldn’t stir itself, so I had to help it with a spoon, and shake the blender like a maniac. The gears stripped, motor burned, container broke, and it leaked terribly. It was ridiculously difficult to wash the pitcher. Since it leaked, my protein goo seaped into the buttons. Not to mention it took about 5 minutes to make the smoothie mostly smooth. It’s 3.5 months old, and I have only made an estimated 60 smoothies. Today, it died in a splattering mess all over the kitchen counter. It was as if it knew it was dying and it wanted to punish me further.

Lucky for me, I saw this coming, and ordered a new blender a few days ago. But this time, I was upgrading. Since I have decided to stay in PR for a while, I didn’t want to be shaking blenders daily. I can leave my workouts to more productive endeavors at the gym! My blender of choice was a KitchenAid. The brand’s reputation generally speaks for itself, and it had some marvelous reviews. Miraculously, the blender arrived today so I was able make another smoothie to make up for the one that leaked all over the counter in the Oster’s final showdown.

After my workout, I came in and started adding in my ingredients: frozen strawberries, frozen banana slices, fresh mango, fresh coconut water, yogurt, and a scoop of chocolate protein powder.  I was fully expecting the blend to take 5 minutes and some aerobics like I was accustomed. In a matter of a few seconds, my smoothie was perfectly smooth, and poured quickly into my glass. I couldn’t believe it. This is what I have been missing? My smoothie was delicious AND fast. I cleaned the impeccably designed pitcher with ease, and the mango mess I made on the buttons wiped off clean. What an incredible design! Lots of detailed design features that could only have involved lots of customer feedback was impressing me and making me happy.

While this blog post isn’t meant to be a review of the Kitchen Aid, it is meant to toast to good quality user designed engineering. I am the user, and it seems they had me in mind! So today, I thank an engineer. Thank you for all the time you are going to save me from wrestling with a bad blender, and thank you for giving me a fast and smooth smoothie!

Engineering is essential to our happiness, and engineers make a world of difference.

Try this in the classroom:

Have your students research and learn what user-centered design is, and why it matters. Have your students compare and contrast an Oster and a Kitchen Aid blender. Challenge them to list all of the design components identified with the user in mind.   Invite your students to devise a testing scheme and rubric to help different kind of users to determine which blender is the best for their needs. Good luck! Post your experiences below.

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