My Hopper...Hops?

Hi prospie/Oliner/Mom! I’m Anupama (aka Ana), and I’m a first year at Olin. I’m super (super super super) excited to be writing for the OLINsider this semester! I feel like we’re already super close so I’m going to be honest with you—I had a very hard time deciding what I wanted to write about this week. There are so many exciting and unique things at Olin that I have experienced, and so many more things that I haven’t even touched yet. Since I am still learning the ropes here, today I’m just going to tell you about what I know so far.

One of the many unique things about Olin are its classes. One of the 4 classes that all first years are required to take in first semester is Design Nature. In Design Nature, we (you guessed it) design nature—the class helps you learn and experience the design process by modelling characteristics in nature. There are two major projects in the semester, the first being individually designing a “hopper”. We’re just being introduced to the second one, and I can’t wait to get started! It involves working in a team to create an interactive, bio-inspired game/experience for 4th graders. But, since I’m gonna stick to what I know, back to the hoppers…

For the past 7 weeks we sketched ideas, modelled them, and modified them in the hope of creating something that will be able to actually jump by itself. Design Nature felt entirely different from high school, where I would sit and take notes for hours on end to learn new things. In DesNat, we hopped (ha) right into the design process. We were given a list of materials with which we could build our hoppers, in addition to a list of specifications. Our hoppers had to have a trigger, which meant that we couldn’t set them off with our hands (there had to be a gap of .5 seconds between when you let go of the hopper and when it hopped). We sketched out many ideas, narrowed them down to a few good ones, and then modelled them using cheaper versions of the kit materials to see if they were actually feasible. My own design goal was to create a hopper that looked like a human leg. Initially, I created something that was totally unfeasible, but I clung to it with a ridiculous amount of blind hope. The amount of time that it would take for me to create a functional hopper with that design was nonexistent in my schedule, and I knew that I would eventually have to redesign the whole thing, if not a large part of it.

The night before my experimental prototype was due, I was speaking to a wonderful, extremely helpful upperclassman who I work with on Baja, a super cool project team where we build an ATV for competition (I know that’s a bit unrelated to hoppers and DesNat but it’s too awesome to not mention. Also, shoutout to Harris for the help). He gave me a ton of fresh ideas, and I ended up scrapping and redesigning my hopper and creating a new, fully functional one in about 4 hours. Scrapping multiple weeks of work hurt (real bad), but I had learned a lot from simply tinkering with my pieces, and this allowed me to quickly build my final design.

My Hopper

Here’s my experimental prototype. His name is Ben “the Leg” Linder. Isn’t he cute?

Deep meaningful connection and what I have learned halfway through the semester time: If your ideas aren’t working, sometimes they need a little more love and attention. Otherwise, as our fair and wise professor, Ben Linder (whom I modelled my hopper after), tells us, you will have to kill your darlings. Sticking steadfastly to one idea (particularly your first iteration of it) can be harmful to your development. Whether you are writing countless drafts of an essay or working on a major project, sometimes starting fresh is your best option if you are getting nowhere, and other times, sticking with your idea will help you go far. There is absolutely no shame in going back to the drawing board (in fact, it is encouraged! It’s all a part of the design process. Gotta love the design process). Talking to people about your designs and getting help from others is extremely helpful. Never lose your hop(e). And most importantly, stay creative, have fun, and don’t stop believin’. Your hopper will probably, maybe, sorta-kinda hop.

Ana out.


…Oh wait, here’s some bonus footage of one of my friends, Matt, and his super awesome hopper. Be sure to watch it until the end!

Matt's Hopper

Ana out. For real this time.

Posted in: Ana '20