Pioneer Woman vs. the Mop: Rethinking Old Designs
I mopped on New Year’s Eve. A long overdue task that I am ashamed to admit I have procrastinated for months. (Gross, I know!) I am living in Puerto Rico in a furnished apartment, and this mop and bucket (pictured) was provided as I am guessing the means of cleaning the floors. But every so often, I would pick up the mop and stare at it and ask myself, how is this effective? Do I just push it around the floor? Does it actually clean anything? Obviously, I had convinced myself it was a useless tool as I didn’t use it for (gasp!) 3 months. When I went to the store, I would look at other mopping solutions, but grunted at the costs and therefore came home empty handed with no better solution. I miss my Swiffer Wet Jet that is stored in Texas! Finally, something had to be done with these filthly floors, and New Year’s Eve was the day I finally tackled this beast called a mop.
First I washed out the bucket, filled it half full with water, poured in some cheap lavender cleaner that was provided, and got to work. I suppose I know HOW to mop, I just don’t believe that this mop and bucket are really effective at cleaning the floor. Am I not just pushing a dirty mop full of dirty water around, and then expecting it to be clean? I have a ~1000 square foot of space, and started with fresh water and suds 4 times. Did the floor feel better afterwards? I guess so, but I think it is all in my head. I am not convinced the sweat was worth the effort.
Now, I have taken to several Pioneer Woman tasks while living here in Maunabo. As if living without my espresso machine, Calphalon pots, KitchenAid, and Reidel wine glasses, weren’t enough like the 19th century, I do bake my own whole wheat bread, make my own yogurt, and hang clothes on the line. I’ve had to be creative with these tasks, all in an effort to avoid buying unnecessary equipment, pans, devices, etc. And I don’t mind these tasks. I am able to get the job done simply, and that is pleasing to me! However, I am deeply concerned about the mop.
As an engineer, I marvel at how this solution has been around for so long. Has this design lingered for centuries because it actually works, because it is cheap to manufacture, or is it simply good enough – a mixture of the two – both moderate functionality and a good price? Or does the next generation use it because the person in charge of cleaning floors in their home used it? This sort of predicament reminds me of the story of the granddaughter cutting off of the ends of the roast. When her husband asks why, she explains that is how her mother did it. When the husband asked the mother, she explained that is how HER mother did it. Upon inquiring with the grandmother, she explains that she cut the ends of the roast off in order to fit it in her pan! Therefore, do we just keep pushing dirty water around our floors because that is how our grandmother’s did it?
Engaging Students in Design Thinking
How can we as educators challenge our students to think outside the box? To not be fixated on a design because it has merely existed for so long? How can we help students to really think about and understand the problem, and then deeply consider the user in the design? But on the other side, like the Pioneer Woman I am trying to be, not be consumed and enamored by gadgetry and complexity? After all, I did have to empty the bucket four times. So, I guess I can be comforted that at least some muck was being mopped up. Thus is this simple design, no matter how much of a pain it may be, really the simplest and most effective solution? Perhaps. But I suppose I am still waiting for my Jetson Robot to come do it all for me. Ah well, off to sweep now.