DFA Summer Studio, a six week design intensive held at Northwestern, had a midterm review last week! DFA National staff along with members of Northwestern’s Delta Lab and other mentors came together to give feedback to teams as they make progress of their projects.

This Thursday, Summer Studio teams will present their final concepts and receive feedback from experts at a final expo. If you would like to attend, the event will be held in Room 118 of the Donald P. Jacobs Center at Northwestern from 4:30-6:30 pm.  All are welcome to join us!

Check out below what each team has been up to this summer.

Early prototypes of airport prep kits to ease navigation and overwhelming sensory experiences.

Sensory Airport Navigation
How can we aid independent, autistic adults in comfortably navigating airport environments?

Airports typically have high ceilings, lots of people, and a lot of commotion – they can be overwhelming sensory experiences, especially for those with sensory disabilities. Based on feedback from the team’s community partner, Open Doors Organization, the project will focus on the autistic community and making airports easier to navigate. In the final weeks of summer studio, the team will explore mediums and build prototypes of accessible and useful sensory maps for autistic travelers. Main ideas so far include airport kiosks, traveling preparation kits, a sensory app map, and more!

Wheelchair Users + Baggage
How can we intuitively communicate handling instructions from powered wheelchair travellers to baggage handlers? How can we protect a powered wheelchair during the loading process?

This team is fighting the millions of dollars of damage that occur annually while wheelchairs are stored in airplanes. The team is prototyping stickers for information on proper storage and handling wheelchairs, as well as wheelchair attachments and devices that will ease the storing process for baggage handlers. They recently visited the tarmac at Midway airport to test prototypes with wheelchair users and baggage handlers. Currently they’re building “works-like” prototypes for another round of testing!

Samarth Soni of DFA Northwestern tests one of the Dementia empathy activities.

Dementia Friends Illinois
How can we increase empathy and reduce the stigma surrounding dementia? How can we train Illinois business owners and staff to be more dementia-friendly?

This team is working to decrease isolation that those with dementia and their caregivers often experience. Last week, they spent time in River Forest speaking to community members and testing an empathy kit and activities aimed at increasing understanding of what it’s like to experience dementia. The team looks to identify which activities are most effective and who might benefit most from using the kit.

Mental Health for Young Adults in West Garfield Park
How can we help young adults in West Garfield Park identify the signs of a peer living with a mental health issue? How can we help young adults in West Garfield Park start appropriate conversations about mental health?

Initially, this team looked to increase accessibility to Mental Health First Aid, an eight hour mental health responder training course similar to CPR training in style. After attending the class themselves, the team learned most courses are too costly and inconvenient for students that may benefit most. The team pivoted to encourage young adults in supporting their peers and friends with mental health risks, aiming to create more desirable forms of intervention for those communities.

Feinberg team tests prototypes with middle school students.

Combatting Depression for Middle School Students in Lake Forest
How can we create a fun way for middle school students to be aware of their emotions and feel comfortable talking about them with parents?

This team is collaborating with the Feinberg School of Medicine to combat depression and suicide rates in Lake Forest High School. In their research, they found that the stigma around depression is already solidified by high school age, so supporting middle school students in communicating emotions became the focus. The team is prototyping and testing daily planners with mental health activities and google forms and card decks to spark conversations between students and parents. The next step is synthesizing their learnings and working with Lake Forest middle school to implement these activities in the upcoming school year.