WTA31 – “Context-driven Robots”

WTA31 – “Context-driven Robots”

Date: August 4th, 2012 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. PDT

Facilitators: Michael Larsen, Albert Gareev

Attendees: Albert Gareev, Imam Hasan, Thomas Htwe, Michael Larsen, Gabriel Loo,  Jasminka Puskar, Linda Rehme, Justin Rohrman,  Abhinav Sejpal, Timothy Western


Project:  This is a module that is being included in the curriculum for SummerQAmp, a program that is in place to help provide internships for 16-24 year olds in software testing and quality assurance.  the goal is to teach about decisions made in context, and how those decisions can affect the project. There will be three teams:

Purpose of Session:  Context matters. We cannot effectively test a product unless we know how it is intended to be used and what about the product is important to the customer and stakeholders. Context doesn’t just matter for different products, but it matters when dealing with the same product being used by different people with different needs.

Mission: Select a team to participate with, and read through the requirements for each section. Brainstorm and decide what areas would be important to test. Try to consider as many aspects of the product as you can. Make a list of approaches and techniques that you would use and share them with your group.  You have 20 minutes to discuss and make a plan as to how to test. At the end of each 20 minute block, check back and see what the next phase is. At the end, discuss your findings, your challenges and your solutions with everyone on all teams.

Special Thanks:  Henrik Andersson and House of Test donated this module to be part of the SummerQAmp curriculum, so I want to make sure to thank them for developing such a cool project to work with.

Team Green 

Lead: Justin Rohrman

Team Members: Thomas Htwe, Linda Rehme, Jasminka Puskar

Round 1

You are a contracting company, hired to test a product that will remotely explore new territory. The product must be able to ascend and descend steep slopes. The product will be used for a science project, funded by the Smithsonian Institute. The product will be used in the exploration of hidden chambers in pyramids.

Your organization is a traditional waterfall company. Fortunately, the project is well-funded: you get all the money you need, and you can have as many test devices as you need. You have at least a year to prepare.

Round 2

The customer forwarded more information about the project. The users for the product are 8 year olds on a science project (“Science over Fear”) to be internationally televised live on Dec 12, 2012. The product will be used only during this televised show.

Round 3

The customer is now informed that the Discovery Channel will be taping and editing their own show at the pyramids six months earlier, with celebrities controlling the devices. A pre-taped show allows them to do-and-redo, thereby achieving a better show. The Smithsonian is concerned. They have moved the televised show to Dec 12, 2012. Everything must be ready for the show by Nov 12, 2012, when the team travels to Giza. You have only 3 months to prepare and test.

Team Red

Lead: Albert Gareev

Members: Imam Hasan, Gabriel Loo,  Abhinav Sejpal, Timothy Western


Round 1

You are a contracting company in the testing business. Your test projects tend to be (but not always) devices highly regulated by law, standards, and government. Your new customer is the Psychology department of the University of Mental Studies, known for its many past contributions to the field. They will use the product in research in motor skills and cognitive functions.

You currently have two builds of the product though you expect those may be doubled or tripled in a week.  You have a new CEO. Your company has several layers of management, and limited resources due to the bad economy. The CEO has made it perfectly clear from day 1 that all regulations must be followed.


Round 2

Your team has asked the Psychology Dept of University of Mental Studies how exactly they will use the device. They said they will use this product in geriatric research. The experiments will run at several geriatric facilities as well as at a mental hospital.

Experiments start in six weeks and will last one week. Your customer needs to qualify the product at their lab, something that requires at least one week.


Round 3

It’s two weeks into the six weeks (see Round 2). The media has just scorned the University of Mental Studies over two studies also ran by the Psychology Dept. which the scientists didn’t halt even though participants developed minor bruises. The head of the Psychology Dept. resigned.

The University blamed the contracting company for the incidents. The University is now conducting audits of all open projects and has requested that all project documentation, including test documentation and results, be provided within a week to the University.


This whole session has been about understanding context. When we talk about software testing, it is tempting to think that a solution that works in one environment will be just as effective in another. Once you learn a few basic testing techniques, then you are ready to take on any testing challenge. The truth is, it’s not that simple. Everything that we deal with has a context, and when we try to fit software, hardware or applications to a different context, we have to think of both the way they are used and the way they are tested in a different light.  This session used effectively the same item in two totally different ways, and had radically different expectations, requirements, and needs. Each team addressed these needs as they learned new information.

Team Green’s chat can be seen here.

Team Red’s chat can be seen here.

The full session chat can be seen here.


About the Author

I’m a software tester working with Socialtext in Palo Alto, CA. I have worked in a number of different fields and in a number of different capacities. I started my testing career in March of 1991. I am co-founder and primary facilitator for Weekend Testing Americas. I am a black-belt in the Miagi-do School of Software Testing, a member and Teacher in the Association for Software Testing, and the producer of Software Test Professionals' "This Week in Software Testing" podcast (now on hiatus).