Day of Design Challenge

Nine animal loving participants in Spectrum Innovates Day of Design Challenge made a unique foray into the world of innovation as members of our neurodiverse team consisting of four high school-aged students on the autism spectrum – alumni of autisMakes workshops, two students from a NYC independent school and three students from NEXUS’ partner in the event, Vaughn College of Aeronautics & Technology. We believe that inclusive opportunities such as this can help upend the current paradigm and lead to fulfillment of the promise of neurodiversity.

Spectrum Innovates created a Challenge based on a timely issue:  design and rapid-prototype a device that can be used to safely & effectively assist in pet evacuation during a life-threatening event/natural disaster. No information about the topic or requirements was revealed to participants prior to the day of the Challenge. Employing the Stanford Design Thinking process to achieve their goals over the course of a single 8-hour day, the Challenge stretched the skills and creativity of everyone on the team as they were driven by their shared passion for animal welfare.

With stakeholder input a vital part of the design process, the day ended with the presentation of prototypes to a Feedback Panel, including a member of New York City Fire Department EMS, Captain Kathleen Knuth. Impressed with innovative features of the designs, she acknowledged their value and the urgent need for such products. Capt. Knuth concluded her comments by expressing the desirability of bringing the devices presented to market. Kudos to all team members!

Day of Design™ is a national movement that teaches creative problem solving across the entire student pipeline, K-12 and collegiate. The aim is to eliminate the STEM gap by teaching students how to be innovators and create change in their own communities. Global business leaders see these skills as highly valuable for the future of innovation. STEMconnector® is engaging teachers and students in design challenge activities leading up to Day of Design Live event October 6th. Spectrum Innovates has chosen a very timely topic for the Challenge - Design and rapid-prototype a pet rescue device that can be used in a natural disaster. The Challenge has no accommodation for autistic participants and is sure to push the skills and creativity of the team.