Student design challenge transforms North Broad Street into North Broadband

March 30, 2011 //

Media Contact: Brandon Lausch, 215-204-4115,

Batina Lewis lives at 18th and Diamond streets and works at a bank in Center City. The 29-year-old wants to attend more cultural exhibits and sporting events, but she doesn’t want to travel across town to do it.

Lewis — a character created by a group of Temple students — is fictional, but her problem is real. So is the effort to solve it.

Ninety students in 15 teams, representing six schools and colleges at Temple, recently participated in the inaugural North Broadband Design Challenge to create innovative solutions to local issues such as this.

The competition, co-hosted by the Fox School of Business’ Center for Design+Innovation and the city of Philadelphia, sought to combine the brainpower at Temple’s Broad Street campuses with technological resources to transform ideas into action. The purposely open-ended challenge — to design something environmentally responsible, economically sustainable and humanly satisfying — produced promising results.

The winning team, full-time MBAs representing the student group Net Impact, created a hair salon-based automated banking system to combine the comfort and pervasiveness of salons with the long-term benefits of financial institutions over check-cashing storefronts.

The idea arose after two days of shoe-leather research, including walks along North Broad Street and resident interviews, and nearly a full day of a structured exercises and activities to promote team-based collaboration.

“It distinguishes the university a lot,” winning team member Ann Dubensky said of the challenge’s emphasis on metro engagement. “It makes it a genuine experience. We’re not just here to be here. We actually interact with the community and want to help it.”

And vice versa. On March 14, the first day of the four-day competition, city officials, community leaders and business executives visited Main Campus to describe issues and advise students. Competition judges ranged from city Deputy Cultural Officer Moira Baylson to local pastor Taehoo Lee, and Mayor Michael Nutter spoke on the final day of Fox’s DESIGNweek.

The two winning teams were awarded cash prizes — $1,000 for first and $500 for second — and opportunities for their ideas to be aired with city officials.

“It’s more than just the academic and the abstract,” said the Center for Design+Innovation’s James Moustafellos, who oversaw the competition with Oxford University’s Lucy Kimbell. “It’s about immersing yourself in the real world, with real-world people and real-world issues. The teams that won really understood that.”

To competition judge Christopher Wink, CLA ’08 and co-founder of technology news site Technically Philly, Temple is at its best when its students are off-campus and involved in communities.

“Action is a virtue, and the Design Challenge is a way to bring action, entrepreneurship, community involvement and collaboration together,” he said.

Junior entrepreneurship major Salima Cunningham, a native of Germantown and a member of the second-place team, said she typically feels more comfortable working alone instead of in groups. But during the design challenge, “everybody had something important that they wanted to contribute.”

“From start to finish, it was a collaborative effort,” she said.

Cunningham’s team, a mix of business undergraduates and a geography and urban studies major, devised an open-source web portal for university and community members to share news and events. As an extension of the proposed portal, smart-phone users could utilize an application, a la Google Goggles, to snap photos of Temple buildings to download information about them, such as upcoming events.

Just what Batina Lewis could use.

– Brandon Lausch