By Julie Arditti ‘18
A Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship workshop on Human-Centered Design was one of two kick-off events held last night as part of Entrepreneurship Week 2015. Rob Calvey of Design for America (DFA) led the session with 12 undergraduate, graduate and PhD students.
Human-Centered Design is a creative process that starts with the people who are the focus of the design and ends with new solutions that are specific to their needs. Calvey described DFA’s main focus as “using design to make the smallest change to make the biggest impact possible.”
To warm up the participants, Calvey had the groups do an activity that is usually utilized by improv groups before they perform to spark creativity. This unique technique, along with music playing during brainstorming sessions, allowed for a relaxed and thought-provoking environment.
The group was split into two and worked through steps to solve a challenge: getting women interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields (STEM). While 17% of men are in STEM, only 5% of women are. Two representatives, Mary Lee and Melina Smith, from Girls Engineering Change spoke at the workshop about their personal experiences as females interested in STEM.
Calvey emphasized the importance of Human-Centered Design to students as they created their solutions. He had students follow the steps used in this type of design, including making an empathy map to better understand what a woman involved in STEM experiences first hand.
Calvey spoke about a few successful ideas coming from DFA at various campuses and emphasized the importance of trial and error and immersing oneself in the recipient’s environment to be most effective. DFA is an organization which started in 2009 at Northwestern University. It consists of a national network of over 800 college students who use design to make a local social impact. Calvey has worked for DFA for two years and co-founded DFA at Virginia Tech. He works to support its network with Human-Centered Design and is a mentor to students.