Started in Fall 2012 by Sanny Lin, Mike Remolona, Kris Wan and Jason Soderland, DFA UIUC started out as a virtually unheard of group of students passionate in using design for social innovation, education and business.
The team started with its application project focusing on how they could help increase campus safety. They came up with a Saferides app that helped students page the saferides service that is run by CUMTD, the local public transit company. The team then started participating in the OpenIDEO challenge for E-waste coming up with 2 winning concepts. The first was a E-cycle truck and the second a laptop battery checkout service at cafes to recycle old laptop chargers. This was implemented in a limited amount at local cafes Mia Za's and Espresso Royale.
In the summer, the studio participated in a design challenge by health.gov. Their solution, entitled the "Blue Button Narrative", redesigned patient records to make them more intuitive for healthcare workers and patients to understand. They consequently placed 3rd.
In 2013, after this string of successes, DFA UIUC continued working on transitioning from competitions and limited implementations to more impact. This was a transitional year, with many projects being explored. E-waste continued to be a hot topic, so was homelessness, urban flooding, empowering women and workplace disabilities. UIUC also sent it's own team to the inaugural DFA corporate sponsored project focusing of driving for older adults. This team was quite successful and got favorable reviews of their "turning headlights" concept that illuminated corners before a turn and for their "spatial lights" concept which use color changing to signal proximity in cars. Of the community project teams, only the workplace disabilities (with the wheelchair-using students of Nugent) and E-waste (with local recyling company U-cycle) made it to prototyping phase. The former came up with a device that could be attached to wheelchairs to help users plug in sockets that were located too low to the ground. The latter came up with a wireless charging battery pack for video game controllers.
In early spring, DFA UIUC won a $1500 Public Engagement Grant to conduct a workshop based design project that engages Makerspace Urbana.
For Fall 2014, DFA is looking to grow to a medium sized studio of 40 people with projects that can reach some form of implementation. We've also gotten new partners to work with us. These include professional mentors, Pixo and the Product Manufactory. On the faculty side, we have Karrie Karahalios and Eric Benson. We have 5 projects: 1) Alzheimer's Caregivers 2) Walking School Bus 3) Urban Flooding 4) Machine Operator Safety (Newell-Rubbermaid) and 5) Driving with Epilepsy ( Chrysler)