(students finished the event with a pitch of their solution)

 This past weekend, DFA Rice held an open school event appropriately named, The Big D(esign Challenge) that introduced over 40 students, faculty, and community members to DFA, human-centered design, and Arthrogryposis. The massively successful event was the first of its kind from this new studio. Check out all the photos here! It awarded top students in 6 areas as well as a $100 cash prize to the best in show.

For those of you that have not heard of Arthrogryposis before, it is a congenital birth disorder that leads to limited and restricted joint and muscle mobility. People with Arthrogryposis are often forced to use their mouth and neck as their primary extremities and often require a wheelchair to get around. For a brief introduction to the disorder, watch this video. Attendants of the Big D were tasked with one of the four following areas to design for:

  • How can we facilitate meal preparation so that is more simple and enjoyable?
  • How can we create a multi-use eating utensil that can be used both at home and at school?
  • How can we encourage a campus culture that better embraces and empowers people with disabilities?
  • How can we create a space that encourages kids with and without arthrogryposis (or other disabilities) to play together?



(the ‘cornucopia’ of supplies centered in the Big D battleground)

The event started with a keynote address by Kirsten Osterr that touched on the ability of design and technology to bring different people and ideas together in collaborative ways to create great things. After a brief introduction to DFA, the teams were shown the debilitating effects of living with Arthrogryposis via a few videos. A Rice improv comedy group got the group thinking creatively and humerously to kickstart their creative problem-solving abilities!




They followed that with a brainstorm, a bodystorm and a group brainstorm.


(Some awesome bodystorming happening)


Top ideas that came out of the event were:

  • Arielle Lift – a pulley-based play equipment that taught kids about science in order to participate in a disabled-friendly slide
  • Helping Hand – an elbow and foot-controlled eating aid for home and school
  • PrepPossible – an all-in-one tray to help prepare food for meals



(judges had fun too!)


The teams were judged in the following categories:

  • creativity
  • insights
  • technical feasibility
  • pitch quality
  • hack-ability/lowest cost
  • team dynamic


(awards were given out and posed with studio leads Sonia Garcia and Katharine Li)

Shout-out to the local event sponsors! Thank you!

PHOTOS WERE TAKEN BY KAI CHEN AND KAI IMAGE. If you would like to see more picture from the event, you can find them here.