EUREKA! Design students discover solutions for local organization
Oct 10, 2017
by Aaron Garland
Students representing multiple programs in RIT’s School of Design recently completed the school’s annual, 48-hour design blitz for which it partners with a community organization to initiate social change in Rochester.
This year’s EUREKA! experience saw 16 RIT students work with Lifespan of Greater Rochester — a United Way of Greater Rochester agency that offers services and advocacy for older adults and caregivers — from Oct. 5-7 at the Maplewood Family YMCA. EUREKA!, started in 2014, is a collaboration between students in various disciplines where formed teams create design solutions to challenges faced by a client. The 2017 project was sponsored by local advertising firm Dixon Schwabl.
Lifespan’s prompt for the four teams focused on enhancing the experience at the Lily Café, Lifespan’s 55-and-older program that promotes successful aging and healthy habits in its engaging atmosphere at the Maplewood YMCA. Students were challenged with improving the program’s appeal to and connection between adolescent and older populations. The Lily Café was used as the starting point for generating a greater sense of community and increasing overall participation and intergenerational contact at the Maplewood YMCA.
The winning team, selected by judges, was composed of Cole Johnson (human-centered computing, a program in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences), Qiaochu (Karen) Liu (industrial design), Aurora Prosch Newman (graphic design) and Jennifer Schroll (industrial design). Their concept consists of a plan to match interests of Lily Café members with youth who belong to the YMCA or attend area schools to foster a stronger relationship between those groups. The quartet — named Team Willy after a Lily Café member, an 89-year-old female powerlifter — will work with Lifespan to implement its ideas at the Maplewood YMCA.
RIT graphic design professor Lorrie Frear is the creator of EUREKA!, initially called Project M Gowtown.
“I think it is critical that we give our students the opportunity, exposure and expectation to give back to their communities as part of their professional design practice,” Frear said. “This is also the only formal opportunity that School of Design students have to work together on design projects in this interactive, interdisciplinary blitz environment; building a sense of community and learning from each other in the process.”
The other three EUREKA! teams included:
• Cindy Castillo Lake (graphic design), John Keefe (new media design), Aaron Koons (industrial design) and Siqi Xu (industrial design)
• Laura Knaflewski (graphic design), Tianzhi Li (industrial design), Yinan Luan (industrial design) and Christine Van (new media design)
• Dylan Davis (new media design), Cynthia Muniz (graphic design), Angela Sarfo-Abadio (metals and jewelry design) and Isabel Thelen (industrial design)
This year's EUREKA! participants
The design blitz started the night of Oct. 5, when students were fed information about problems faced by older adults from 1974 RIT industrial design alumna Patricia Moore, an internationally renowned designer and gerontologist. Lifespan President and CEO Ann Marie Cook also provided insight into the organization’s programs that evening.
Moore spoke during an RIT-hosted alumni symposium Sept. 27 that was part of events commemorating RIT President David Munson’s inauguration. She then stayed and spent the following week in the School of Design, visiting classrooms, meeting with faculty, giving a public lecture and partaking in the EUREKA! kickoff.
On Oct. 6, the four interdisciplinary groups and EUREKA! facilitators — faculty, alumni and other advisors who assisted the students — went to the Maplewood YMCA, where they met with YMCA and Lily Café members. After receiving an introduction to design thinking, teams conducted research, and each worked with a Lily Café member mentor to gather information about the program and users.
Throughout the day, teams met with three School of Design alumni and a current student who were contributing to EUREKA! as volunteer consultants. That crew included Mimi Ace (graphic design alumna), Justin Callaghan (industrial design student), Michael Kelly (MFA industrial design alumnus) and Kimberly Patt (graphic design alumna). Teams also had the benefit of pulling from Moore’s expertise and applying the advice of Marshall Statt, Dixon Schwabl creative director and 2005 RIT graphic design alumnus.
All of the concepts were presented to a panel of judges the evening of Oct. 7 in RIT’s Carlson Auditorium. The judges were Kristine Santillo, program director of Lifespan’s multipurpose aging resource centers; Ryan Moore, Dixon Schwabl director of design and 2009 RIT graphic design alumnus; and RIT graphic design lecturer Stephen Scherer, who initiated the contact between RIT and Dixon Schwabl, which provided key funding to ensure the EUREKA! project continued in 2017.