Apr 2 • 3 min read
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Students Compete in Fox DESIGNchallenge to Create Change for Mass Transit

The Fox DESIGNchallenge is an annual student competition that focuses on complex problem solving and civic innovation. Students worked with client SEPTA to discover new ways to push the use of mass transit and fight the perception that the car is more convenient. Students were tasked with finding solutions on how to shift Philadelphians away from the “auto-centric” environment.

20 teams composed of 150 high school, undergraduate and graduate students spent the day working in interdisciplinary teams to uncover new solutions for SEPTA. Using personal experiences and current perceptions as a starting point, students were tasked with formulating ideas and strategies that would make SEPTA a more efficient mass transit system. Student teams were collaborating to find answers to questions such as, “How do we provide a safer and more enjoyable experience for SEPTA?” and “How do we create revenue streams to make SEPTA more efficient, clean and reliable?” The students solutions to these questions can help set a path to make mass transit more appealing and to increase ridership. Manager of Strategic Business Planning for SEPTA, Erik Johanson, comments, “With this new funding I think that we’re going to be looking to customers for feedback on how we can improve their experience and really looking outside the walls of our buildings to both our customers and potential customers to figure out what they want in our system and use those ideas to improve the customer experience.”

Students spent the day developing innovative ways that will allow SEPTA to transform to a more reliable and efficient mass transit system. Students see there is a shift away from cars for younger generations for numerous reasons, including the easy access to public transit and the maintenance in cars is too expensive, to name just a few. Engaging SEPTA’s issue with many different perspectives allowed students to come together and find a core problem and a solution to that problem. Teams focused on strategies that would make SEPTA a more personalized experience with the use of mobile apps. Many teams also had a focus on real time scheduling and delays, as well as more security and better lighting at night. The majority of the groups focused on a better communication strategy that SEPTA can have with its consumers. Using their own experiences and current perceptions of SEPTA, students were able to formulate new ideas to change the future of SEPTA by catering to a younger audience’s needs.

The Design Challenge is a process for students to take a different approach to learning and use a hands-on, experiential learning experience. This competition takes students out of their comfort zone and allows them to collaborate with others to see multidimensional perspectives. This experience benefits students because they are envisioning change in their city and collaborative problem solving like this can be used across all industries. What do students like most about this day filled with creative problem solving? Program Director, James Moustafellos, comments, “The best thing they see about the experience is, how they get to see their city in a different way, how things that they see on an everyday basis have transformed because they’re really focusing in on it.”