Buzz Stop

The Future of Human-Bee Interaction

Mock-up of bee shelters and floral beds on the Buzz Stop tower

How might we facilitate harmonious co-habitation between bees and humans?

With urbanization and increased human activities, bees face unprecedented dangers in terms of population size and species diversity. With bees being major pollinators of domesticated crops, humans are also at risk of food scarcity. Our team used design thinking and ideated ways to tackle this problem.

Outcome

In just five days, our team designed a tower to be set up in urban areas that provides shelter and food for solitary bees, while also selling floral plants and bee hotels to humans who will bring them home and provide resources to solitary bees in their home areas.

Role

My teammates and I worked together on generative research, ideation, evaluative research and prototyping. Individually, I was responsible for sketching storyboards and rendering 3D mock-ups.

Teammates

Ann Lei, Dani Tuchman

Design Overview

Buzz Stop tower

The Buzz Stop is a tower-like architecture that will be set up in urban neighborhoods.

Bee shelters holes and flower as food

For bees

The upper levels are where the bees will call home, mainly for solitary bees who don’t live in clusters in traditional hives.

Across the tower are scattered flower beds as food sources. The species of these flowers are curated based on the diet of native bees so that minimal invasive species are attracted. There are also small holes where solitary bees can fly into and use as shelter.

There is an irrigation system embedded so little human effort is needed to care for the flowers. But when necessary, gardeners can access the flower beds via internal staircases.

Human purchasing flowers

For humans

On the street level, humans can shop for the floral plants that are on the tower, as well as plant installation kits and bee hotels to bring home. The revenue from shops is reapplied to tower maintenance.

Health kits are available for emergency, such as EpiPen for an allergic reaction induced by bee sting.

Back-home experience

After bringing the plants home, one can scan the barcode and access guides for caring for those plants such as watering cycles and sun exposure, as well as other education material for bee protection and how their actions are helping the bees. These home flowers and bee hotels will act as food and shelter for solitary bees away from the Buzz Stop.

Design Process

Generative research

To get more knowledge about bees and bee conservation, we conducted secondary research through literature reviews on blog posts, news articles and academic papers, as well as competitive analysis by looking at existing green urban architecture. We synthesized our findings as followed:

Ideation

Using the knowledge and insights from research, we started the ideation process by rapid brainstorming.

For each round, all three members of our team spent two minutes forming and sketching an idea. We then each took one minute to share our ideas. This round is repeated for ten times in total. At the end, we formed 30 sketches of ideas, with topics including education, emotional attachment, consumer products, etc. There’s also a variety of medium, ranging from digital apps and websites to tangible objects and environmental spaces.

Sketches of ideas

For down-selection, we used a two-by-two matrix to rank the desirability and feasibility of each idea.

Down-selection matrix

After combining some of the ideas in the upper-right quadrant, which are the more desirable and more feasible ones, we narrowed down to three refined ideas. Because we are free from limitation when it comes to feasibility for this design sprint, we also formed a fourth refined idea by combining ideas in the lower-right quadrant. For each of the four refined ideas, I drew a concept sketch to be used later during evaluative research.

Evaluative research

For evaluating the ideas, we first presented the ideas to other students in our class with a design question about interest:

Will people actually use the system?

Participants expressed great interest in the pop-up shop idea and the bee tower idea, and also provided feedback such as safety concerns of bee sting or the potential disruption of bee activity when beehives are being transported.

We also presented the idea to a bee garden staff Lauren, who is a subject-matter expert, to ask design questions about the effectiveness of our ideas:

Will the system actually benefit the bees and maintain the size of bee population?

We gained great insights from our conversations with Lauren. For instance, there is no shortage of honey bee hives, and it is the solitary bees, like mason bees, who are in danger of decreased population. We also learnt about challenges of keeping bee gardens, such as the need to water floral plants.

These research findings led us to combine our pop-up shop idea and the bee tower idea together to form a final solution. We refined the system by addressing problems discussed during the evaluative research, such as adding health kits, irrigation system, and changing the bee shelter from hives to holes that fit the lifestyle of solitary bees better. Ultimately, we created a video prototype for our final solution.

Final solution

Video prototype of Buzz Stop

For bees, mainly for solitary bees, they gain food and shelter not only on site at the Buzz Stop, but also away near people’s homes. For humans, they get more knowledge about pollinators and their conservation. The floral plants themselves also benefit mental health and alleviate pollution in the environment people live in. The harmonious co-habitation between bees and human is thus achieved.

Reflection

Future steps for Buzz Stop

We would love to conduct more interviews with people to see their interest level and thoughts on how they would interact with the Buzz Stop.

We would like to talk with gardeners or botanists to select flower species for Buzz Stops. Ideally, these flowers will fit the diet of local solitary bee species, and also the season and weather at the Buzz Stop locations.

We would want to research best locations for Buzz Stops. These locations should scatter to cover areas in the cities where food and shelter resources are scarce for bees. Locations accessible to large population of people can also be beneficial as this would mean more customers at the ground-level shops.

It might also be helpful to inquire about grants to subsidize flower sold at the shops and employees who maintain the towers or sell the flowers.

Lessons learnt

  1. Interviews with subject matter experts can be very helpful. With their rich domain knowledge, they can give really constructive feedback on the ideas.
  2. During ideation phase, when possible, don’t be afraid to think outside the box with “crazy” or “futuristic” ideas. These can enable us to break from assumptions and form great insights.
  3. However creative and futuristic these ideas are, we need to make sure these ideas really tie back to solving problems or answering questions.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to check my other work at: mike-dong.com

Experience designer in healthcare · mike-dong.com