Because this project encompasses a broad, important issue, we expected other groups on campus to be working on a similar issue. As we began our research during Immerse, we came across multiple examples of solutions other universities had designed. For example, some had begun to unlock the menstrual product cabinets already in the bathrooms, while others distributed period products in all binary bathrooms. During this stage, we also uncovered the Student Association at Rice had made significant strides in this area. They are planning to unlock cabinets already installed on-campus and already made arrangements with the previous supplier to keep them fully stocked. Additionally, they had already gained funding from the Dean of Undergraduates.
While this development is certainly exciting and important for accessibility to period products at Rice, initially, it felt like our project had already been solved. Our assumptions about our solution perhaps utilized stocking bathrooms with menstrual products, and now, it seemed like we were competing with another group. Although it was initially a little disorienting, as we started to evaluate our user insights and ask further questions about the Student Association’s solution, we realized several problem spaces still exist. For example, in our survey, several responses mentioned low-quality would prevent them from taking a free menstrual product. Additionally, user interviews emphasized the importance of quality for day-to-day use. While the cardboard tampons typically found in restrooms provide a short-term solution, access to long-term solutions on-campus certainly still exist, among other problem spaces in this area.
Uncovering our user insights has been one very exciting aspect of our project. We received almost 150 responses to our survey, and several people volunteered to interview. It is not only clear that many Rice students care about this issue, but also that many students are affected by this problem in several different ways. From this information, we were able to create a couple distinct user profiles to capture different problem spaces. We narrowed in on situational vs. financial accessibility, and we began to discuss the similarities and distinct differences between these two users.
Overall, although we have hit a couple bumps in our project so far, we uncovered interesting distinctions between solutions that already exist on campus and pain points still present for users. We hope to use the data we collected in Immerse to re-evaluate the focus of our project during Reframe, especially given the recent information we learned about the Student Association’s project. We are excited to keep moving forward with our insights and create an impactful and effective solution!