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Expanded student design challenge prompts innovative solutions to urban problems

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By: | March 26th, 2013 | leave a comment

Media Contact: Christopher A. Vito, 215-204-4115, cvito@temple.edu

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If you spent three days walking around Philadelphia, you’d likely encounter several problems plaguing the city’s neighborhoods. Some of those issues include improper trash disposal and an inconvenient bike sharing system.

Temple student Shunya Naoi takes a break from the idea board to hear a fellow group member make a suggestion for a product that would streamline bike sharing in Philadelphia.

Temple student Shunya Naoi takes a break from the idea board to hear a fellow group member make a suggestion for a product that would streamline bike sharing in Philadelphia.

These are the very problems that students came together to solve at the Fox School of Business’ annual DESIGNweek Challenge, sponsored by Temple’s Center for Design+Innovation and hosted Feb. 19 in Alter Hall. This daylong challenge attracted 110 students from Temple, University of the Arts and Philadelphia University, and 15 students from Crossroads Accelerated Academy, a local high school. Participants worked in 19 teams to develop a new product, process or resource for local communities struggling with a specific problem.

“The students work to discover a problem in urban settings, bring all of their research together and create something new that we haven’t seen before,” said Youngjin Yoo, the director of the Center for Design+Innovation and a professor of Management Information Systems (MIS).

The competition began Feb. 15 with a reception where students received instructions and met with city officials, community groups, nonprofits and local businesses to learn about their interests and needs. In the intervening days, students were led on guided tours throughout Philadelphia by city planners, community groups and residents to conduct fieldwork and research.

Team 5 won first place with its project “Secret Historical Society,” a history-based scavenger hunt game.

“We have truly expanded beyond Temple’s borders to engage the city, our communities and our colleagues to ask meaningful questions and propose innovative answers,” said James Moustafellos, associate director of the Center for Design+Innovation and an assistant professor of MIS.

Each team worked through the design process and was judged on four criteria including the strength of their idea, the viability of said idea and the productivity of their process. The judges, who came from a variety of backgrounds, included Rina Cutler from the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities, Donna Frisby-Greenwood of Knight Foundation Philadelphia and Wayne Kimmel of the venture capital firm Artists and Instigators.

One group, at the suggestion of Ousmane Sow, a ninth grader at Crossroads Accelerated Academy, worked to develop an app that would use facial recognition software to pull up information about buildings in the user’s neighborhood.

Another group worked to create a community kitchen that would provide jobs and, by ordering food in bulk, save money for the community members with a subscription to the kitchen’s services. A third group sought ways to solve the problems of the bike sharing system in Philadelphia.

“This year’s challenge demonstrated an incredible level of collaboration that represents the true spirit of this competition,” Moustafellos said.

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