This past year, DFA students, mentors, and community members have collaborated to accomplish some truly amazing things through the DFA design innovation process. From educating liver transplant patients about their newly acquired diabetes to diverting clothes and other goods from the landfill, DFAers worked on a huge range of meaningful, local, and scalable projects.

Check out the projects in our facebook album and read more about the inspirational works in progress below:

VERA | DFA Northwestern
How can we improve diabetes management education for liver transplant patients?


Vera began in partnership with Northwestern Medicine at Summer Studio, a 6-week intensive human-centered design program at DFA Northwestern. Every year there are 6,000 liver transplants in the U.S. and nearly a third of those patients develop Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes management education after a high-risk surgery is often marked by intense stress and pain as well as decreased cognition. To empower patients to take ownership of their diabetes, the team designed VERA – a diabetes management kit that makes each tool’s function more intuitive and easy to use, as well as a web application that provides training programs for the patients.

The team plans to further develop their prototype at The Garage, Northwestern’s entrepreneurship and innovation space, and create 5-10 kits for extensive home testing this summer. Learn more about Vera on Northwestern’s project gallery.

Project DvA | DFA Duke
How can we educate children about healthy and nonviolent relationships in schools?

Duke_Project DVA_cropped

The topic of domestic violence is a widespread and grave issue – according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been victims of physical violence from an intimate partner. After immersing themselves in the topic, a group of Duke students focused on supporting children who are witnesses to this violence as they are more likely to become future victims or abusers themselves. They worked with the Central Park School for Children to create a fun activities kit that demonstrates healthy relationships to children at an early age. Check out their process on DFA Duke’s blog.

Drop or Swap | DFA Rensselaer
How can we reduce the amount of items sent to the landfill as a byproduct of campus living (especially at the end of the academic year)?

RPI_Drop or Swap

According to the EPA, Americans threw away 251 million tons of trash in 2012. Students at RPI sought to reduce the amount of items going to the landfill to be donated and reused instead. In Spring 2015 they held their first Drop or Swap, an event where students could “drop” their unwanted dorm items and “swap” for some other items during move-out at the end of the academic year. This year they expanded their project to include pickup services at people’s dorms and apartments, donations to more local partners (Unity House, Troy Zero Waste, and Goodwill), and creating an organization to continue the annual event called the RPI Green Team. Like the RPI Green Team on facebook to follow along!

TIBI | DFA Cincinnati
How can we design a shoe that both provides the optimal comfort and wearable in formal scenarios for those with Friendreich’s Ataxia, a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder?


Students at DFA Cincinnati worked with Caroline, a woman who has Friedreich’s Ataxia. The degenerative neuromuscular disorder causes progressive damage to the nervous system and makes it difficult to move easily. Those with Friedreich’s Ataxia often have to choose between basic mobility and style in footwear options. The team designed TIBI to be both comfortable and wearable in formal scenarios. They received an Impact Grant from DFA National to continue prototyping over the summer, focusing on exploring materials and sourcing local manufacturers.


We’d like to thank Adobe for providing students with tools like the Adobe Creative Cloud Software to empower them to communicate and build their innovative solutions!