Diane Nguyen, Fung Fellow
On October 22nd, I spent 9 hours of my Saturday participating in my first ever design challenge event. The Fung Institute for Engineering Leadership partnered with BOSE and Autodesk to host “Berkeley Design Challenge: Audio and Education”. The objective was to find a way to use headphones as a learning tool and to create an educational learning kit aimed at middle and high school students. The prize was a pair of top-quality BOSE noise-cancelling headphones and hopefully a worthwhile experience.
Design challenges like hack-a-thons had always piqued my interest, but my non-tech, Integrative Biology background left me feeling under-qualified and having reservations about attending such events. After I über-ed my reluctant self to Jacobs Hall, I was pleasantly surprised by the sight of free food (and Katie!). My design challenge team was made of one other undergraduate majoring in Bio Engineering and two Masters of Engineering students. Our product took us to the final 5, a result I wasn’t expecting to achieve.
I thought that this event felt like a shortened, high pressure Fung Fellowship design challenge. My team members all brought different skills and experiences into our conversations. For example, the Bio Engineering undergraduate had grandparents who were deaf and from her story, we tried to incorporate an educational aspect into our product that would allow students to understand how the hearing-impaired might “hear” the world. Another one of my team members had lots of experience with CAD modeling so he worked on the product model while the rest of the team made the power point and app design for our presentation. Just like in the Fung Fellowship, although the event had technological undertones, the most important part was ideation, a process every person could contribute to regardless of technical experience. I really enjoyed my first design challenge event and, from it, I learned that there is most certainly a strength that only comes from diversity.