A celebratory mood consumed the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center on December 9, 2016 as the latest class of Northwestern University’s Master of Science Program in Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) concluded its 18-month journey.
Thirteen students presented their individual thesis projects, efforts that touched on topics ranging from education and healthcare to food and travel.
Spanning the third and fourth quarters of the EDI program, the thesis project tasks students to apply the skills and methods learned in EDI to their own self-selected endeavor. Working alongside a faculty or industry mentor and fine-tuning their projects during a thesis studio course led by Segal Design Institute Maker in Residence Brandon Williams and adjunct lecturer Craig Sampson, students built prototypes, produced multiple iterations and tested their ideas in preparation for the December 9th thesis event.
“Rather than working with others on a problem given to them by a client, the thesis project allows each individual student to cement his or her identity as a designer,” says Williams, a 2014 EDI alumnus. “It is entirely each individual’s own process that shows who they are, how they approach a problem and their unique skill set.”
Class of 2016 students stood eager to discuss their projects and how the EDI program propelled their efforts:
Jonathan Crow, who holds dual degrees in mechanical engineering and French from Calvin College, showed NaviGate, a kiosk that provides gate assignments, station maps and status updates to intercity bus travelers.
"I never would have created a digital tool like NaviGate with my mechanical engineering background alone, but the EDI program encouraged me to think about the right questions to ask and gave me the tools, including the research and presentation methods, to develop the project," says Crow, who visited bus stations in multiple cities to observe and connect with travelers.
With an interest in bringing design into healthcare, Ellie Pearlman introduced Day by Day, a platform connecting parents who cannot be at their hospitalized child’s bedside to medical staff through daily text and voice updates.
"The EDI program gave me tangible skills like digital and physical prototyping and conducting useful interviews for research that were so critical to developing Day by Day as well as the confidence to design something my own way," says Pearlman, who earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Dartmouth College.
Katherine Adamski entered the EDI Program to learn more about the product development cycle and how she might leverage new technology to effectively address user needs. Adamski accomplished just that with Trapeze, a digital web app that helps travelers create a personalized map highlighting the places they want to visit in a given location.
"As a psychology major [at Northwestern], I got good at talking to people and analyzing problems, but the EDI program taught me how to build, iterate and work with users to develop a real-world solution," Adamski says.