Starting Off the New Semester

DFA at Duke has returned from winter break, and we are really excited about getting back into our projects.  Last night, we had our first general body meeting of the semester. To get ourselves back in the creative mindset, we had a fun ideation workshop.  The problem given was texting and driving.  Research was provided and groups were walked through steps of brainstorming and ideating solutions to this problem. There were lots of crazy and innovative ideas, and LOTS of post-it notes used.  


Looking ahead, our teams are getting ready to use the research they conducted last semester to begin ideating on their own projects. We can’t wait to see what they’ll accomplish!


A Visit From Julian

This week Duke DFA had a very special guest!  Our national mentor, Julian Bongiorno, came to visit.  He met with each of our teams individually to hear about their progress and offer advice.  Julian suggested new ways to look at the problem, different methods of research, and changes in mindset that aided the teams in the development of a final “How Can We Statement” that will guide the rest of their design process.



At our weekly meeting, Julian ran a workshop on pitching.  He discussed the importance of telling a story, making it personal, and appealing to your audience in making a successful pitch.  Teams were given time to make their own pitches based on the research they’ve collected and the direction they’ve decided to take when approaching their problem.  Since our teams are all tackling problems on campus, it was easy to tell personal stories based on real experiences that illustrated the issues at hand.


The pitching advice from Julian will be very useful to our teams as they prepare to pitch their ideas to the Duke community next week.  For our final meeting of the semester, we will be hosting presentations to show faculty members and students what we’ve been working on.  If you’re interested in attending, find more information and RSVP here.

Entrepreneurship Workshop with Matt Nash

At this week’s meeting, we started off with an informational session with Matt Nash, our faculty advisor.  He spoke to us about his experience social entrepreneurship both in the US and abroad, and discussed the initiatives being taken here at Duke toward promoting innovation and entrepreneurship. Duke is working toward providing more opportunities and funding for students interested in pursuing their own ventures or exploring innovation in other ways.

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Teams then shared their working “How Can We…” statements, which they devised based on their preliminary research.  After hearing all these HCW’s , we split up into groups and continued to research and revise our statements. Groups were hard at work brainstorming about their respective problems and thinking of what the best way to approach a solution would be.


We are very excited for a visit from our DFA national mentor, Julian Bongiorno, at the end of this week.  He’ll be meeting with all our teams individually to guide them in the design process.  Also as the semester comes to a close we’re preparing to make presentations to the Duke community and anyone interested in what DFA at Duke has been up to.  We’d love to have everyone join us for this event! RSVP and get more information here. 

Slap Stats and Empathy Workshop

We started off this week’s meeting with each of the teams sharing five slap stats.  Each stat was shared with a story that made it relevant and important.  The Student Life team shared that on average, there are 2.6 lost and found related posts on all Duke Facebook groups, paired with a personal story about one of their members losing their camera.  The transportation team noted that although many students feel frustration that the buses don’t take them where they need to go, there are actually 113 bus stops on and around campus.  These slap stats will help teams narrow down the focus for their problems and gain perspective on the scope of their problem. 


Once the stats were shared, we had an empathy workshop to get team members thinking about Human Centered Design and designing with the consumer in mind.  We all paired up and through a process of interviews and getting to know our partners, we designed and prototyped a wallet that would best meet their needs, not our own. 


We also got a new design cart to hold our ideating supplies!


Over the next week, our teams will be working on conducting interviews to investigate their problems and make sure they have the consumers in mind when designing to solve those problems. 

DFA Projects Picking up Steam

With our teams officially formed, named, and dubbed with a mascot, they have now begun getting down to business with their respective projects.  Our first meeting dedicated to group work time was focused on the Identifying stages of design, recognizing the problems associated with each of the five teams: Student Health Care, Campus Safety, Student Life, Transportation, and Energy Conservation.  The members brainstormed issues they had personally experienced or heard other students complain about. 

After fall break, we reconvened and moved on to the Understanding phase.  Teams are in the process of using various outlets including social media, paper surveys, and in person interviews to gather information and student feedback pertaining to their problem.  All teams have also been keeping logs of observations related to their focus. 

Look out for some fun slap facts to be shared by the teams at our next meeting.  We’ll also be putting up team and member bios so check back here soon to get to know the DFAmily here at Duke.   

Let the Games Begin

Welcome new team and DFAmily members!  We are so thrilled and excited to be done with the application process and have the opportunity to officially welcome about 30 new students onto our project teams.

After notifying the new members of their acceptance over the weekend, we wasted no time and had our first full meeting on Tuesday October 1, in the Gross Hall space.  We played a name game to start things off and get to know each other and quickly transitioned into our first team building game.

Katya, our events planner, led an exercise about being stranded on the moon.  The situation was that each team was lost on the moon 200 miles from their mothership and only had certain, limited supplies.  First, team members were given the opportunity to rank the supplies from most to least important individually.  Then, the teams worked as a group to come up with an improved list which was compared to NASA’s standard.  Most people found that their score after collaborating with the team was much higher than when they completed the exercise alone, proving teamwork is effective!

After these “forming” team activities we helped the groups start the other stages of group formation: storming, norming and performing.  Each team exchanged contact information, set up a weekly meeting time and started to discuss each member’s strengths and weaknesses.  This led into our final challenge of the night: to build the tallest tower out of only balloons and tape in 10 minutes.

Here are some pictures of the teams hard at work!

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Thank you again to our advisor, Matt Nash, from Duke’s Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship for setting us up with the space in Gross Hall.  Also, thank you to our mentor from DFA national, Julian, for Skyping in for this exciting meeting!

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Upcoming Events, Application Updates and Gross Hall

Application Updates

This week each team has been busy interviewing applicants to we can choose our new team members this weekend and have our first official meeting with the whole studio on Tuesday.  Keep up the great work, everyone, we are so excited to welcome such interesting newbies into our DFAmily!

Our New Home: Gross Hall

We are thrilled to announce that Design for America Duke will officially be based out of the new creative space on the third floor of Gross Hall.  After a year of renovations, the building that used to be home to Organic Chemistry lectures and science labs now contains the Department of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, an open space for a potential design kitchen in the basement, and several open student spaces complete with plenty of whiteboards, breakout rooms and movable furniture!  In addition to receiving permission to have studio time and meetings in Gross Hall, we also have a place to store our new ideation/prototyping cart.  The cart will house all basic prototyping tools and is the first step toward getting a whole room full of supplies dedicated to design.

Upcoming events

Now that everyone has settled into the rhythm of the semester, some of our partner organizations are hosting events to put our studies into use and perspective.

Innovation Co-Lab is a “creativity incubator” sponsored by Duke OIT to give students interested in high-tech development a space to be innovative.  On Saturday, October 5 from 11am-4pm in Perkins 217, Innovation Co-Lab is sponsoring an Iconathon.  Here is a little more information about the Duke Iconathon and how to sign up!  “Iconathons are facilitated design workshops organized by The Noun Project in partnership with organizations and sponsors across the country. The Co-Lab Iconathon will be themed around “Innovation In Education”. We are at a significant inflection point in the nature of learning in higher education. Online classes and new learning models are changing the way that we think about how to teach and how students learn. Speakers at the event will provide an overview of this changing landscape, along with what Duke is doing to lead these efforts. We’ll then tackle the design problem of creating a visual language for these new methods of teaching and learning.  This event is open to Duke students, as well as local designers and regional students (UNC/NC State), so it’s also a great opportunity to network and problem-solve with some of the other creative minds here in the triangle.”  Feel free to contact us with any questions and be sure to sign up here!

More information about the Iconathon!

More information about the Iconathon!

Our advisor, Matt Nash, works for the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship which is part of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) department at Duke.  They are hosting two interesting speakers in the coming weeks.  Both events are free to Duke students and sound super interesting and relevant.  The details are below!

“Social Media, Social Entrepreneurship and the Power of One” with Jay Jaboneta

  • Wednesday, October 2nd, 6:00-7:30pm
  • Sanford School of Public Policy, Room 04 (refreshments served)

A SINGLE FACEBOOK STATUS THAT TRIGGERED EXPONENTIAL CHANGE:  In May 2012, The Philippine Funds for Little Kids was incorporated as the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc. On October 29-30, 2010, Jaboneta served as a featured speaker at Mindanao Bloggers Summit in Zamboanga City. It was at this event that he first learned about elementary school students from Layag-Layag, an island community in Zamboanga City. Close to 200 of these students could only attend school by swimming half a mile to get to the mainland.  Disturbed by what he had just learned, and encouraged by his friend Josiah Go to do something more than just post on Facebook about it, Jaboneta began a movement he called Zamboanga Fund for Little Kids, in an effort to help. The group began by raising funds to be able to provide the community of Layag-Layag with boats which the students could ride to school. Meeting initial success, the group kept pressing forward, searching for ways to be able to serve the Layag-layag community better while identifying other communities with similar needs. The effort eventually resulted in four separate Yellow Boat communities in the Philippines as of May 2012. Strong community support combined with social networking contributed to the growth of the Yellow Boat Project. Today, the project is formally known the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation, Inc. with Jaboneta and Anton Mari H. Lim as co-founders.  Learn more about Jaboneta and the Yellow Boat of Hope Foundation at and .  RSVP here.

“Taking Healthcare the Last Mile” with Dr. Eric Bing, MD, MBA, PhD

  • Tuesday, October 8th, 1:00-2:30 pm
  • Hanes House Auditorium, Room 131

Please join the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD) and the Duke Global Health Institute in welcoming Dr. Eric Bing to Duke. Dr. Bing spearheads the Bush Institute’s global health initiatives, with an emphasis on creating programs that engage both the public and private sectors. He is also a professor of global health at Southern Methodist University. Dr. Bing received his medical degree from Harvard Medical School, a master of public health and his Ph.D. in epidemiology from UCLA, and an M.B.A. from the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.

“Every year, more than a quarter of a million women die during childbirth and almost 7 million children under five die as well.  Why?  Because, even though we have the medical solutions that people around the world need, we just can’t get it to them. They are dying not because we can’t solve a medical problem, but because we can’t solve a distribution problem. Saving these lives does not need to be costly, and it can be done now.” –Dr. Eric Bing

Duke Global Health Showcase, featuring Astronaut Col. Ron Garan

  • Monday, October 21st, 4:00pm – 7:00pm
  • Nasher Museum of Art

Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) and the Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke (SEAD) will be co-hosting the Keynote Address for the Duke Global Health Showcase ( ), which will be given by Col. Ron Garan (U.S. Air Force, ret.). Col. Garan, a former NASA Astronaut, will be giving his “Orbital Perspective of Global Health”. The Showcase will also feature a poster exposition of research performed by Duke students and faculty in the arena of global health and will be followed by a reception. Please join us for this exciting presentation of the important work Duke faculty and students are doing to change global health around the world.  RSVP here.

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On Monday night we had our kickoff workshop and it was a huge success!

We started with a game of “mockup-tionary” where the challenge statement was “how can we help a farmer catch a chicken?” Considering the user and problem were chosen randomly from a set of post-its, it was a pretty logical match of user/task.  The attendees were divided into 5 teams and each team had 10 minutes to design a mock-up of a solution to the problem.  It was incredible how innovative and complete the solutions were after such a short period of ideation time.

After this warm-up activity we introduced the human-centered design process and had each team choose to focus on a theme of campus safety, student life or energy conservation for the remainder of the workshop.  In an hour and a half the teams completed an abbreviated version of the DFA design process and ultimately pitched their ideas.

The ideas generated included:

  • An application to decrease wait time and water waste associated with laundry.  This phone app shows washer availability and gives students the opportunity to reserve machines, receive notifications when laundry is done and collect points when they choose energy efficient washer settings.
  • One group pitched a safety application which gives students the ability to view the locations of their friends, call for help, find taxi/van numbers and get updates about any safety concerns on campus in real time.
  • Although phone cases with key-card holders already exist, one group saw a need for a phone case with a key holder as well.  Losing/forgetting keys is a major and expensive problem for students at Duke and this group prototyped a phone case with a DukeCard and room key holder.  They also pitched for a lost DukeCard station where students who find unclaimed DukeCards can swipe the card and leave it in a box which notifies the DukeCard owner via email that their card has been found.  Using his/her netID and password, the rightful DukeCard owner can visit the box and reclaim his/her card.
  • In the topic of energy conservation, one team designed a lever mechanism that unplugs a charger from the wall once that charger is removed from the device.
  • The last idea also related to campus safety and was a ring that flashes when there is danger in the vicinity.  The ring also has the capability to send alerts to a list of contacts, the Duke police and emit a sound as a warning to other people who are in the area.

We are so excited by the enthusiasm and creativity that came out of the workshop.  Hopefully we will host more events like this as the year progresses to continue to share the human centered design process and the opportunity to be creative with the Duke community.

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Reminder that applications are due Friday, September 20, 2013 at noon. Thank you to everyone who came to the workshop and we look forward to getting to know you further through your applications!

Apply to be part of our DFAmily!

Our information sheet is now live! Please check the “Join” tab for more information about the recruitment process and as always, email duke@designforamerica with any questions.  Applications are due Friday, September 20 by noon.

We are also excited to announce our first design workshop will be Monday, September 16 from 6:30-8:30 pm in the Link Classroom 2.  Pizza will be provided and it will be a great introduction to the human centered design process, we look forward to seeing you there!

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Week One

Not only was last week the first week of classes, it was Design for America Duke’s first week on campus as an official DFA studio! In order to establish credibility and clout at Duke, we met with a lot of administrators, professors and organizations to spread the word about DFA and create partnerships.

We met with Matt Nash from the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) who is working on bringing design and innovation to the curriculum and was so excited about DFA.  His support and insight are invaluable and we are thrilled to have him as an ally.

We also met with Peter Hollander, the Duke representative from the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance.  Peter has the shared goal of finding a space for design on campus.  We think it is so important for Duke students to have access to a place that encourages creativity and doesn’t double as an academic location. Hopefully we can work with Peter this year to find/create a space where DFA and other similar organizations can ideate and prototype most effectively.

Michael Faber is the IT Innovation Program Manager at Duke and he heads the Innovation Co-Lab which is an incubator for students interested in high tech.  We talked to Michael about possibly co-sponsoring an “Iconathon” for The Noun Project. The Innovation Co-Lab is like DFA for students focused on technology design and a partnership between our organizations has the potential to bring real impact to Duke/Durham.

In addition to these meetings we spoke with Dean Linda Franzoni (Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education at the Pratt School of Engineering), a psychology professor and a drawing professor.  It is evident that there is a wave of design coming to Duke and we are so excited to be on its forefront. Now, our main focus is to recruit new members who are as passionate about this mission as we are.  We’ve been visiting lectures and took the Student Activities Fair by storm with a walking poster advertisement in order to spread the word about Duke’s newest creative, innovative and proactive organization.

This week we have two information sessions where we invite everyone interested in DFA to come hear more about us!

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