The Invisibility of Good Design
Electrical and Computer Engineering student Sepehr Fourouzan Yazdani explains the design behind the all-terrain walking cane to Design for America instructional coordinator Rob Calvey

The Invisibility of Good Design

Design for America NYU showcases human-centered design projects tackling social issues

From a board game that merges community engagement with STEM education, to reimagined assistive devices for older individuals, the projects on display at the Design for America NYU Spring Showcase embodied the universal ideal that good design should be invisible.

Faculty adviser Anne-Laure Fayard (third from right) celebrates with student members of DFA NYU. Photo credit Kathleen Chao

Design for America (DFA) NYU focuses on human-centered design to create social impact and innovative solutions to local and global issues — providing Tandon students, as well as students from across the university, an opportunity to put technology in service to society. The student chapter is part of Design for America’s national network that fosters community-based projects to tackle challenges in healthcare, education, economy and the environment.

Electrical and Computer Engineering student Sepehr Fourouzan Yazdani explains the design behind the all-terrain walking cane to Design for America instructional coordinator Rob Calvey

At this year’s Spring Showcase, five multidisciplinary teams, with NYU Tandon students well represented on each one, shared their ongoing work towards bettering the New York community. In addition to celebrating their recent honor with the 2017 NYU President’s Service Award, DFA NYU also received support from New York State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who recognized the chapter’s community work within Brooklyn and New York.

Rob Calvey, Instructional Coordinator at Design for America, joined the festivities and shared his impressions of each project’s focus on small-scale solutions. “The designs are simple, clean and have strong partnerships — all of those things together are what DFA is about: what is the smallest change that can make the biggest impact with the community,” Calvey said.

DFA NYU faculty adviser and associate professor of technology management and innovation Anne-Laure Fayard shared her excitement about each projects’ evolution over the semester. “DFA NYU projects require a lot of work from our members,” Fayard said. “I’m always impressed by their passion in tackling complex social issues, and by how transformative the learning experience can be for many of them.”


Mobility Devices for the Elderly

The students behind Mobility Devices for the Elderly set out to determine a better, safer, and more comfortable assistive device for the elderly. After their research revealed that many individuals use shopping carts rather than canes or walkers, the team developed a shopping cart walker equipped with adjustable handles, a brake system, and an LED-grid that detects changes in the floor’s surface, as well as an all-terrain walking cane. Their design was recently selected by the OpenIDEO challenge on fall prevention to advance to the refinement phase, and team member Dawn Feltdhouse shared the positive feedback received by older individuals at the Weinberg Center for Balanced Living.

Team members include project leader Rodney Lobo (M.S. Industrial Engineering), project co-leader Eunha ‘Grace’ Park (B.S. Mechanical Engineering), Cesar Augusto Sindoni Jr. (B.S Mechanical Engineering), Sepehr Fourouzan Yazdani (B.S. Electrical and Computer Engineering), and Dawn Feltdhouse (M.S. Healthcare Informatics).


Since debuting the NYU FREEdge at last fall’s Prototyping Showcase, NYU Tandon’s first smart community refrigerator has undergone a few improvements. With its see-through refrigerator door and touchscreen display, the project aims to combat food insecurity by offering access to free food. Students can now take a picture of the food item they’re sharing, include a description and a date and time stamp. “This information and picture will be posted anonymously through the NYU FREEdge Facebook page, offering real-time visibility,” project leader Tuba Naziruddin said. Currently the NYU FREEdge is located in the 6 MetroTech basement, but the team hopes it will move to a more conspicuous location for easy access.

Team members include: Tuba Naziruddin (M.S. Management of Technology), Michael Niamehr (B.S. Electrical Engineering), Rodney Lobo (M.S. Industrial Engineering), Simon Chen (B.S. Computer Science), Emma Hoffman (B.A. Gallatin), and Vandit Chandrakantbhai Maheshwari (M.S. management of technology).

Build Your Business

Build Your Business focuses on building financial relationships between local credit unions and people over 50 who are interested in starting their own business or securing a freelancing position. The team aims to provide credit unions with resource toolkits that offer financial and business support and mentorship to the local community. Build Your Business received the Co-Op Financial Services’ THINK prize for their financial longevity service, and will pitch their idea to dozens of credit unions at the 2017 THINK conference on May 9.

Team Members include: Adhish Patel (M.S. Management of Technology), Chun-fang Huang (M.S. Integrated Digital Media), Flora Richter, Kathleen Chao (M.S. Integrated Digital  Media), and Lillian Warner (M.S. in Integrated  Digital  Media).

NYS Court Signage

DFA NYU collaborated with the New York State Unified Court System to determine how to create a more user-friendly navigation system and signage within each New York State courthouse. Working alongside mentors and sponsors, the students have been developing a report for the NYS Court System to identify various improvements upon wayfinding in their system, and are creating style guides to generate signage that is more digestible and inclusive.

Team members include: Jasmine Chabra (M.S. Integrated Digital Media), Sameehan Patel (M.S. Integrated Digital Media), Gabriella Cammarata (M.S. Integrated Digital Media), Sara Camnasio (M.S. Integrated Digital Media), Lillian Warner (M.S. Integrated Digital Media), and Shuling Chen (M.A. Social and Consumer Psychology).

S.S. Columbia Project

The S.S. Columbia Project is restoring the National Historic Landmark S.S. Columbia to be a floating education center on history and STEM. The team created the S.S. Columbia STEAM board game based on the steamship history and encourages collaboration and learning among fourth to sixth-grade students. With the eventual goal of having interactive activities and games on the steamship once it arrives at the Hudson River in the next two years, the experience will immerse young students in the wonders of STEM. Currently, the team is focused on testing the board game with students this summer.

Team members include: Elana Blinder (M.A. in digital media design for learning), Rhonda Lee Davis (B.A. Civil Engineering), Tanvi Sinha (M.S. Electrical Engineering), Tracy Zhao (M.S. Industrial Engineering), Peter Argaugh (alumna, M.A. in digital media design for learning) and Tianyi Chen (alumnus, M.S. Integrated Digital Media).
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