Daring, Feasible, Applicable: Projects that Matter

  • Daring, Feasible, Applicable: Projects that Matter
  • DFA is an outlet for students to focus on what matters most. It dares them to tackle subjects outside their campus and comfort zone while giving a framework of research methods, expert advice, on-the-ground connections, and a network of students also challenging existing power structures.

    What is more powerful than a natural disaster? After witnessing friends, family, and community members struggle to find support in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and Nemo in 2013, the DFA studio at Yale addressed these events with Illumiloon, a low-tech, floating communication device that shows a signal for help without power or Internet.

    Illumiloon was initiated by a partnership between FEMA and DFA and brought to fruition with their expertise, mentors at Yale, disaster-relief idea incubator Field Innovation Team, and a DFA Impact Grant. Through these connections, DFA Yale was able to debut Illumiloon in 2015 at South by Southwest.

    Connections and grants are just a few of the resources provided to help students work on big challenges and showcase their innovations. Programs such as Leadership Studio and national partnerships encourage students to dive into a range of topics affecting the nation, from urban accessibility, and self-driving vehicles to voting rights, food insecurity, and worker safety.

    These initiatives create long-term results. After four years of continuous partnership with 20 teams, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has taken 25 percent of the projects created by DFA teams into the next round of consideration for implementation. 

    DFAers feel the impact they are making in communities, partners receive a platform for important topics, and members take what they learn with them into their lived experiences.
  • “Meeting people from the disabled community was important to me because 
    I had never considered accessibility before.”
    — Bailey Irvine, Engineering ‘20, DFA Barnard|Columbia

    “We are committed to making safe environments for all workers. We can really use 
    what the students brought to us to help Newell Rubbermaid improve worker safety.”
    — Lea Stewart, Senior Manager, Design, Newell Rubbermaid, Sponsor

    “A lot of what we think about here at Sodexo is how to better understand our end users. 
    We have hundreds of services, and we tend to go right to ‘the what.’ 
    This process really nailed down the importance of ‘the why.’”
    — Debra Daily, VP Global Quality of Life Transformation, Sodexo, Sponsor

    “When Hurricane Sandy destroyed my family’s house, they were left with almost nothing. T
    here was so much help being offered, but victims did not know where to turn. Our mentors 
    and connections through DFA inspired us to change that.”
    — Jane Smythe, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences PhD Candidate, Princeton, DFA Alum

    “My vision for design in the 21st century is inclusive, equitable, and sustainable.” 
    — August de los Reyes, Head of Design, Pinterest, Partner