DFAers at FCA Headquarters
DFA teams together at FCA Headquarters with DFA National and Curt Edgar, Michael Angelidis, and Prateek Gupta (DFA MSU'16) from FCA

Design for America sponsored projects unite partnering companies and the DFA Network in an effort to address timely social innovation initiatives. Practicing the human-centered design process, DFA students bring fresh perspectives and user insights to address topics important to corporate partners. In receiving monthly feedback from company experts and attending weekly check-ins with DFA National, project teams create new concepts that are ready for testing in just 10 weeks!

Expert feedback provided through monthly video calls with employees motivates the teams to create real-life impact with their projects.

Fall 2016 marked the fourth year of DFA National’s partnership with Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) in sponsoring social innovation projects. This year we asked, ‘How can we enhance shared mobility in rural and urban areas?’ Shared mobility is a comprehensive transportation system that includes public transit, bike- and car-sharing, ride-sharing, and other innovative solutions.Teams from five DFA studios - Northwestern, NYU, UC Davis, USC, and Virginia Tech, participated in this year’s design challenge. Each team tackled a problem prevalent in their local community, ranging from the first-and-last-mile problem of walking to public transit stops in NYC or Chicago to the lack of affordable ride-share options for international students in small-town Blacksburg, VA.

DFA teams then showcased their work during a final design expo at FCA Headquarters in Auburn Hills, MI. Teams presented prototypes in the central ground-floor atrium, and each used an FCA vehicle to demonstrate their solution as hundreds of employees from all over the company walked by to check out the work. Teams excitedly rushed to answer questions from various employees, and the feedback was very appreciated. “One expert immediately started giving us insights about electric car design” said SueSan Chen from Northwestern.

DFA NYU shares their prototype to explore how their solution provides safe and easy access to the inexpensive Dollar Van transportation available in New York City.

We have production targets, milestones; and while we come up with creative solutions within the constraints we’re given, it’s great to work with students who aren’t bound by those constraints.  I really enjoyed having the opportunity to work with these students and see their exciting ride sharing concepts.” FCA Human Machine Interaction Engineer Michael Angelidis noted. “The exciting part for me is that we see ideas far enough in advance that we can utilize and refine these ideas to make them into something down the road." 

DFA alum Prateek Gupta (Michigan State ‘16), who is a current FCA employee in the Product Design Department, talked with the teams at the event. “I was standing in your shoes last year, and now I work here. I started 3 months ago, and one of my favorite things about being here is that there are people who have been working here for longer than I’ve been alive, and they are still so approachable and willing to help.”

DFA Virginia Tech showcases their project on easing mobility challenges faced by international students in their community.

Teams left the expo thrilled about future possibilities: “To produce something physical as a deliverable was very powerful. If this much is done in one semester, what can be done in four?” said Michelle Pannone (Virginia Tech ’17). Design for America is incredibly grateful for a wonderful partnership with FCA and their continued support of learning and design innovation. We can hardly wait to see what else these DFA students will do to change their worlds for the better!

Click on each project poster to find out more:



1.6 million rides taken on the Chicago CTA every day, but users in transit deserts experience limited options and struggle to get to train lines efficiently. Skip is a network of two-passenger electric scooter as a supplement to Chicago public transit that utilized the existing CTA Ventra payment system. DFA Northwestern


Many commuters in lower-income areas face the “first-mile/last mile problem” which makes it difficult to travel to existing transit lines, especially in cities like LA. Traveler is an on-demand ridesharing service that residents without cars, smartphones, or the internet can access using kiosks at strategic points around the city. DFA USC


Many parents don’t have the luxury of organized transportation to and from school for their children.at all. Home Safe provides a secure and convenient transportation option for young students in rural areas by helping families and school administrators coordinate carpools for their students using an app and fleet of community owned vans. DFA UC Davis

Dollar Vans are a network of semi-formal public transit, especially within immigrant communities, serving major transportation corridors where public transit is lacking. Dora is a community-based fleet of vans that formalizes the process of requesting a ride through mobile kiosks to make travel safer, easier, and more efficient. DFA NYU

Learning to
navigate a new community on one’s own in a new city can be difficult, especially for international students coming to a new country. Ingage is a peer mentorship service that connects international students a local student and lets members access resources and amenities in the community using a fleet of connected, rentable vehicles. DFA Virginia Tech