Human Factors Engineering

Machines in a World of Humans

Human Factors in Electric Skateboards

by enJINGneering

Living on a campus that sits on a giant hill, getting to class can be a struggle sometimes. My name is Pan and backwards, that spells “nap”. So obviously, I have to love naps. But napping can sometimes make me late and while I’m huffing and puffing up the hill to class, all I want in those few minutes is the ability to teleport. In this technology-savvy generation, we still are not able to teleport (sadly) but we do have some modes of transportation that come pretty darn close.

If you ever see someone speeding uphill on a skateboard without ever taking a foot off to propel themselves forward, there’s a great possibility that it’s an electric skateboard. Battery powered and remote controlled, these skateboards are a new but potentially unsafe trend on the roads.

An electric skateboard with the battery and motor stored under.

These board themselves look similar to nonelectric skateboards but sport a space under that board to store the motor. Designers need to find the right motor that is small enough to fit but big enough that it still allows the user to accelerate at relatively high speeds. Speed is sacrificed for a cooler and lighter design because motors that can go faster are usually bigger and give the board a clunkier look. In addition, these boards need to be light enough to carry around. If more energy is spent lugging a board around once the destination is reached than energy spent just walking there, the electric skateboard might not be worth it.

Not only is the design of the board important but the design of the hand-held remote control is just as so. These need to be comfortable and easy to grip because the user might be needing to hold on to it for a little bit. The remote control is important for starting, stopping and controlling the speed, it’s important that it can’t be dropped. This can be in the form of a wristlet similar to the one on Wii remote controls or a band that secures around the hand to ensure it doesn’t slip. And if the remote does slip, the bluetooth connection between the remote and the skateboard is lost and the skateboard slows down. This is a smart safety precaution so that the user always has the ability to stop the skateboard when needed.

The buttons on the remote need to be easy to understand and easier to reach. Unlike the brake and gas pedal in a car, there isn’t much room on a remote control. This means that it’s easier for the user to press the wrong button. Taking this into consideration, the buttons need to be differentiated in a clear way without being hard to reach in order to make driving the skateboard safe. LED lights are used to show the battery percentage of the remote and skateboard but can also be used to make important buttons more salient. For most remotes, there’s a trigger that controls the speed of the skateboard. This trigger needs to be easy enough to squeeze when you want to speed up but also not so sensitive that the tiniest movement can propel you  forward too fast.

A remote with a trigger and underhand band.

A remote with a wristlet and LED lights.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All these factors come together to create a fast, safe and stylish skateboard that requires little energy from the user. These electric skateboards would be the perfect way to get around campus or places that are too far to walk but too close to drive to and call an Uber for. This expensive purchase might be cost-effective and worth the time and energy saved in the end. If I had the money, I would totally buy it and give myself more of an excuse to take longer naps.

Sources:

Ricknell, V., & Jonsson, A. (2017). Electric Skateboard. Project in Electrical Engineering. doi:10.18411/a-2017-023

Pasternack, A. (2018, January 29). A Skateboard Startup’s Radical Ambition: Disrupting Urban Transit. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://www.fastcompany.com/3066832/inboard-electric-skateboard-disrupting-urban-transportation

INBOARD RFLX Remote Control

MELLOW Skateboard Remote Control

 

 

2 Comments

  1. Yeah sure I guess you can use my photo

    • Hi Mike!

      I’m guessing the first picture is yours? It looks super cool and was used for education purposes but if you would like me to take it down, I’d be happy to!

      Pan

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