Story from NYU Tandon: Student Leaders Brainstorm Ideas for an Accessible Future

Story from NYU Tandon: Student Leaders Brainstorm Ideas for an Accessible Future

Image: DFA e-board member participated in the Design for America (DFA) national leadership conference
From the left: Tuba Naziruddin, Kathleen Chao, Michael Niamehr, and Emma Hoffman. 

At the recent Design for America (DFA) Leadership Studio, 106 students from DFA university chapters across the U.S. — including four student leaders from the DFA NYU studio — converged to brainstorm ideas and develop design solutions to expanding accessibility within urban areas.

Held at Northwestern University in August, the annual conference invites DFA student leaders to work together towards growing and improving their design studios and increasing the impact of their projects. Students participated in panels, discussions, and workshops with innovators and experts in designing for social impact. This year featured a two-day design ‘sprint’ where teams of DFA students, mentors, and local community members partnered on rapid prototyping projects centered around accessibility.

“Accessible design has been a theme at our DFA NYU studio, with our continuing project NYU Freedge aimed at making food accessible to the community, and our project I Am Your Protector, which centers on inclusiveness and empowerment around minorities and refugees,” explained Tuba Naziruddin, DFA NYU leader and Management of Technology student.

With past projects, including improved mobility devices for the elderly living in NYC, to redesigned and easily navigable signage in the New York State Courts, DFA NYU impacts both local and global communities through multidisciplinary, human-centered design.

Niamehr, Hoffman, and Naziruddin brainstormed how to expand accessibility in urban areas.

Niamehr, Hoffman, and Naziruddin brainstormed how to expand accessibility in urban areas.

“During the Leadership Studio, we recognized that all DFA studios share the same passion for social innovation and design, and how this common thread can bring so many like-minded people together to work towards a common cause,” said Kathleen Chao, a graduate student in Integrated Digital Media and DFA NYU leader. Naziruddin, Chao, and their fellow DFA NYU leaders Michael Niamehr, an electrical engineering undergraduate, and Emma Hoffman, an undergraduate student at NYU Gallatin, were recognized by the DFA national organization for the DFA NYU studio’s inclusive culture, where graduate and undergraduate students collaborate seamlessly.

“At the Leadership Studio, the student leaders realize they’re all facing similar challenges and hurdles when managing the studio, and this awareness helps them feel more confident in solving issues,” shared Anne-Laure Fayard, faculty advisor and associate professor in the Department of Technology Management and Innovation. “They have the opportunity to hone their design-thinking skills and learn new tools, and it also gives them a sense of belonging to a larger community.”

Camila Ryder
Graduate School of Arts and Science
Master of Arts in English Literature, Class of 2018

Originally posted at:

The invisibility of good design: beneficial design thinking projects

The invisibility of good design: beneficial design thinking projects

The Spring 2017 prototyping fund showcase happened on April 25th 2017. Three DFA NYU projects were funded this time: The SS Columbia and Mobility Devices for the Elderly projects received the Phase 1 of prototyping fund: up to $500 each. The NYU FREEdge received up to $2000 and was one of the winners of Phase 2.

The Spring 2017 Design for America Projects Showcase was in the evening of April 28th. All 5 project teams which had worked hard during the semester showcased the fruits of their hard work and research. The 5 projects were: The Financial Longevity Project, the New York State Courts Signage Project, the SS Columbia project, the NYU FREEdge project and the Mobility Devices for the Elderly project.

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The complete stories can be found at NYU Tandon press:

Design Thinking Projects at the NYU Tandon Research Expo 2017

Design Thinking Projects at the NYU Tandon Research Expo 2017

On April 21st, three DFA NYU projects demonstrated their research at the NYU Tandon Research Expo 2017. Those projects were the SS Columbia Project, The NYU FREEdge, and Mobility Devices for the Elderly.

The expo showcased the cutting edge research and innovative  projects from undergraduates, graduates, and faculty of every academic department at NYU Tandon.

Original articles can be found at the NYU Tandon press and NYU twitter:

Design thinking helps drowsy drivers to remain alert while driving

Design thinking helps drowsy drivers to remain alert while driving

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates that tired drivers contribute to one in five serious motor vehicle accidents, and in a recent survey of police officers conducted by the group, nine of 10 reported stopping a driver who they believed was drunk but who turned out simply to be fatigued instead.

NYU’s new DFA studio — comprised of members of what was formerly known as the Design Tinkering Club and advised by Professor Anne-Laure Fayard, their faculty mentor—eagerly stepped up for the challenge, whose overall theme is “Improving Driver Safety through Monitoring and Automation.

In September, Krishna Namita Simha and the rest of her teammates (a mixture of students from NYU Tandon School of Engineering and psychology majors from the College of Arts and Sciences) began interviewing shift workers, whom they found by approaching the staff at 24-hour bodegas and other establishments and with the help of their professional mentor, Jay Grider, of Cummins, a manufacturing company based in the Midwest. (Namita had met the executive while interning at the company this summer, and he was happy to sign on to the project, calling in regularly to give the team advice and guidance.)

Decreasing the Dangers of Distracted or Drowsy Driving with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

At the FCA headquarters, the team was able to share their innovative idea with top executives of FCA during the expo, with ideas ranging from aromatherapy to cellphone charging plates! Check out the photos of all the teams below and on the Design for America facebook album.

Original stories appeared in NYU Tandon news and publication, and Design for America blog:

Impact of empowering women in rural areas through the Bindi Project

Impact of empowering women in rural areas through the Bindi Project

In January 2016, a DFA NYU  went for a research and prototyping trip to Tripureshwar (Kathmandu, Nepal) in the context of a winning idea that we were piloting with WHR. During that trip, we used a card sorting activity around safety and light (or lack of light) emerged as a major issue. We discussed with the women the options they currently had and while they were electrical poles nearby the slum, they could not have access to electricity because of their status as a slum. Some of them were trying to work on this but this was a very long-term issue.

In January, wanting to test their ideas in the field, master’s student Rajni Chada, sophomore Noah Geib, and master’s student Leslie Martinez set out for a 10-day trip to Nepal, accompanied by advisor Anne-Laure Fayard. Hosted by WHR, they worked with 36 women participating in the program in a slum of Kathmandu. The main aim of the trip was to develop a richer understanding of the context and women’s actual needs and, through light prototyping, test some of the assumptions underlying their ideas. The insights and feedback would help designing the next phases of the pilot as well as refine the toolkit for NGOs.

In 2015, Amplify designers conducted a prototyping workshop in New York with the Design for America team, who incorporated those learnings into two weeks of live prototyping with Women for Human Rights Nepal and other community organizations in the slum of Tripureshwar. Their prototypes, which they deployed in early 2016, included various forms of sexual and reproductive health workshops led by women, a video pen-pal system, and livelihood-generating activities. They found that women in Tripureshwar were excited to learn more and share what they knew with their communities.

Original stories appeared in OpenIDEO,, and NYU Tandon Press

DFA National Leadership 2016 and making voting easy and accessible to Americans

DFA National Leadership 2016 and making voting easy and accessible to Americans


The 6th annual national conference for all the Design for America studios in the United States, had more than 100 participants in the year 2016 in the month of August. 5 Participants from NYU were Felicitas Sánchez, Rajni Chada, Shannon Holloway, Tatiana Pilon, and Rodney Lobo.

During the 5 day experience, all participants from 6 different studios were divided into teams of 5. The DFAers engaged in an design innovation sprint answering the question, “How can we improve the voting experience?” With election of 2016 only 3 months away, students came up with creative and innovative solutions to make the experience better for the voters.

All teams used their research and use interviews to focus on a more specific challenge within the complex issue of voting and civic engagement. Community members with varying perspectives participated and shared their voting experiences with the teams, both through one-on-one conversations and an expert panel with members from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, the Cook County Bureau of Technology, the Cook County Clerk’s Office, Chicago Votes, and the NU Center for Civic Engagement. After narrowing their project’s scope, the teams brainstormed thousands of ideas and prototyped and tested a multitude of varying designs.

After going through all the phases of the HCD process, all teams presented their prototypes at the Expo.

The original story appeared in the Design for America blog:

Increasing affordability through eliminating food waste and food insecurity at NYU

Increasing affordability through eliminating food waste and food insecurity at NYU

Given that nearly 40% of food waste in the U.S. occurs at the consumer level, we called on participants to track their waste, measuring all the scraps they threw away. It was an enlightening experience — many said they were shocked by how much they wasted, began actively taking steps to toss less, and started to rethink the way they cooked at home.

With the rise of college tuition and the high cost of expenses such as housing, books, and transportation, food insecurity ­­­­­­­­has become a concern for some college students. A recent survey at University of Californiaunveiled that 40% of UC students do not have a stable source of high-quality, nutritious food. Yet, every year, 22 million pounds of food go to waste on college campuses according to estimates by the Food Recovery Network. Passionate and socially minded students at US colleges have developed several projects to reduce food waste by re-purposing uneaten food and donating it to people in need — within and beyond campus. At New York University, two student-led projects, Share Meals and NYU Freedge, aim to develop community-centered solutions to turn food waste into food opportunities for students.

A human-centered design project of Design for America-NYU, The NYU FREEdge is a  smart community refrigerator, where students, faculty and staff are invited to share and receive food. The aim of the project is to foster community engagement and trust and to create a movement around food sharing, reducing the environmental footprint from food wastage and provide food for those in need.

The NYU FREEdge provides the NYU community with an easy way to share food. With NYU’s high tuition and high cost of living in New York, there are many students who find it difficult to afford food. NYU, through its various initiatives makes available enough food to feed all of its students through events and workshops. However, so much of it goes to waste every single day. The NYU FREEdge team is committed to redirecting this food, whether it be from individuals, events, clubs, etc. to  members of the community that may be struggling with food insecurity.

The NYU FREEdge is a project that received the NYU Prototyping Fund Phase 1 ($500) in Fall 2016. It was also awarded the Phase 2 grant ($2000) in Spring 2017.

At the end of the Spring 2017 term, the team consisted of Simon Chen, Tandon ‘18; Emma Hoffman, Gallatin ‘18; Rodney Lobo, Tandon ‘17;  Vandit Maheshwari, Tandon ’18; Michael Niamehr, Tandon ‘19 and Tuba Naziruddin, Tandon ‘18.

Original stories can be found on NYU Entrepreneurs Blog,, OpenIDEO stories:

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Tandon students collaborate to design innovative financial solutions for baby boomers

Tandon students collaborate to design innovative financial solutions for baby boomers

Kathleen Chao, Adhish Patel, and Lillian Warner – graduate students who are active in the NYU chapter of Design for America (DFA) – are not yet out of their 20s, but when Professor Anne-Laure Fayard of Tandon’s Department of Technology Management and Innovation encouraged them to enter a recent OpenIDEO Challenge, they were forced to put themselves in the shoes of people at least three decades older.

OpenIDEO is an inclusive innovation community run by IDEO, an international design consultancy, which calls upon participants to collaborate on sponsored challenges and develop human-centered design solutions for a variety of societal problems. In previous semesters, Fayard’s students have tackled such issues as how best to reduce food waste and how to empower women in the developing world. During the Fall semester, her Design Thinking class participated in a new challenge — dubbed the Financial Longevity Challenge — sponsored by COOP Financial Services and MasterCard. Participants were invited to envision financial services that could support the dreams of those over 50, reflecting the recent recognition that this age demographic is the largest in the U.S. and owns 63% of all American assets.

Chao and Warner, master’s students in the Department of Integrated Digital Media (IDM), and Patel, a master’s student in Management of Technology (at the Department of Technology Management and Innovation), met as members of DFA NYU, a club of socially mindful students committed to using their knowledge of human-centered design to make a local and global impact. Steeped as they are in Tandon’s ethos of entrepreneurship and innovation, their thoughts immediately turned how they could help older would-be entrepreneurs who in past decades might not have had the benefit of an environment like Tandon. (They were joined by master’s candidate Flora Richter, who is currently on a leave of absence but remains a part of the team.)

They proposed an “incubator” at which older people either seeking to retire from their jobs or to supplement their income could find practical resources, including networking opportunities, financial advice, and technical instruction, that would enable them to launch a new enterprise. “We are hoping to attract users looking to start small, local businesses or services that would benefit their own communities,” the team explains. “Not everyone has the desire to create the next big tech start-up or the aspiration of changing the world, but everyone has the ability to change their own corner of the world.” Credit unions, they say, would be an ideal spot for small incubators, since they have always had as part of their mission to give back to their communities.

The challenge attracted some 500 participants from around the world, and the NYU Tandon team’s idea was selected as one of the top-5 finalists out of the many ideas posted; they will now work with support from OpenIDEO and COOP Financial Services to further their design process and encourage future collaboration.The team is in the process of refining their ideas but envision the incubators holding regular networking events and workshops, offering low-interest microloans through the credit unions, and hosting co-working space. In turn, members could pay nominal monthly dues and agree to bank a portion of any business profit at their credit union.

“This is a great example of the importance of providing a collaborative ecosystem for students to explore and grow their ideas. Indeed, the incubator club idea started as a class project and even before being selected as a top idea, several students from my Design Thinking class (who were DFA NYU members) joined forces with other DFA NYU members to refine and prototype the idea over the break, and to continue over the spring semester,” explained Fayard. “As they started doing research, both on finance and the 50-65 age group, they realized the potential impact of their ideas. Moreover, as I sometimes reminded them: ‘Just think of your parents! These are your users.’”


Original story appeared at NYU Tandon School of Engineering’s Website,