A special feature written by students of DFA NYU.



Design for America of NYU was officially launched in May 2015. The concept of a design group first started at NYU in Fall 2011 as an OpenIDEO student chapter, part of the open social innovation community of OpenIDEO. Our group participated in several OpenIDEO challenges and prototyped with several ideas they posted or took from the platform. As time passed, our name changed to a small core group called Design Tinkering, and finally Design for America to join a network and structure that supports multidisciplinary collaboration.





Dexter Project – Sponsored by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA)

In Fall 2015, DFA NYU joined four other DFA teams to work on “Improving Driver Safety through Monitoring and Automation”, a sponsored project by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) facilitated by DFA National. The team was challenged to improve distracted driving.


The team created Dexter, a customizable safety environment within the car that allows drivers to choose how they want to be alerted when they become drowsy.In December 2015, the team presented a prototype of Dexter at FCA’s headquarters. During the Spring of 2016, the team improved Dexter to be customizable for multiple drivers.

Bindi Pilot in Nepal: Workshop on sexual health facilitated by Bhaktapur Youth Club, a partner of DFA NYU and WHR on the ground.


Bindi Project

In 2014, DFA NYU created one of the winning ideas in OpenIDEO’s Amplify Challenge on Women Safety. The team’s original idea was the community concierge, who would inform and connect women within their community. This project sought to identify and train female leaders, who in turn provide skill-training and access to resources to other women in their community. We collaborated with Women for Human Rights (WHR), an NGO based in Kathmandu, Nepal to create Bindi.


In January 2016, a group of DFA NYU traveled to Kathmandu, Nepal to conduct design research and light prototyping with WHR (immersing with users and conducting research in-person is a fundamental part of the design process!). The research trip was supported by the Amplify program (a collaboration between IDEO.org and UKAID, the UK Department for International Development). In parallel, we started a pilot with a NY-based NGO, Wishwas, which works with immigrant women in Queens. Thanks to these two pilots and the feedback of IDEO.org, we were able to refine our idea and focused on developing the Bindi guide, an open source guide to help NGOs implement a community-centered program to empower women.



NYC OpenIDEO Chapter

Faithful to our origins, we continue participating in OpenIDEO challenges. This allows our studio to learn the human-centered design (HCD) process while collaborating with a global community. Some of our members are facilitators of the NYC OpenIDEO Chapter, which organizes in person meetings for New Yorkers to tackle OpenIDEO challenges. These meetings connect our studio with with designers, social change makers and other professionals.



Workshops and Collaborations

In addition to projects, DFA NYU members share their passion for HCD through design workshops to students in all NYU schools. We even go beyond the boundaries of NYU, facilitating workshops with K-12 students during the STEMulate and the Diversity Summit organized by the NYU Tandon School of Engineering Office of Students Affairs.


DFA NYU also established partnerships with other NYU clubs and departments to promote collaboration.  DFA NYU members were part of the team that organized HackNYU 2016, the biggest global hackathon hosted by NYU with over 500 participants.


DFA NYU members’ hard work and service to the community led to recognition by NYU. We were nominated “Organization of The Year” at NYU Tandon School of Engineering and received the 2016 President’s Service Award for Community Service and Civic Engagement, which recognizes students and groups that have made a significant impact on the local community in the areas of community service, civic engagement, leadership and student life. One of our leaders, Izabela Correa, received the 2016 President’s Service Award for individuals.


DFA NYU is preparing 4 projects for next Fall and is open to other project ideas by members:


  1. Family Fuel Project

This team will pair up with a startup called Family Fuel, that creates a food-focused social enterprise by answering “How might we develop solutions that inspire low-income families to lead healthier lives?”  


  1. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Project (Applied)

DFA NYU is once again applying for the FCA project this year. This year, the FCA Sponsored Project Teams will tackle: How can we support shared mobility for motorists to develop more sustainable cities and increase economic opportunity?”


  1. Project Avocado

Project Avocado is continuing from Winter 2016 to reduce food waste at NYU by helping students share food with one another. The team is will being testing different prototypes for the design question: “How might we reduce food waste at NYU while building a stronger community of students?” The details about of Project Avocado, from its conception until now, can be found at its blog.


  1. SS Columbia Project

The SS Columbia Project aims to revive the National Historic Landmark SS Columbia steamboat while connecting with communities through art and science. DFA NYU is partnering with them to address: “How might we foster community and connection to the environment along the waterfront?”



For the future, we aim to engage various NYU schools to boost multidisciplinary collaboration. Our goal is to work on developing a few strong projects, guide our groups with great mentors, and continue providing HCD workshops for our members and the broader NYU community.


Lastly, we intend to create a strong culture in our studio in which members feel “at home” and “among friends”. After all, being a DFA NYU member is about using HCD to solve local social issues and create social impact, but it is also about being part of a community of like-minded, passionate and fun, people.


Thank you, DFA NYU for updating the network on your spectacular accomplishments!