How SUTD innovators respond to COVID-19 with rapid design thinking


Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) offers a truly interdisciplinary education that produces students who are unafraid to push the boundaries of interdisciplinary design and innovation. This is where students take on real-world challenges by creating innovative solutions, unconstrained by traditional boundaries. Just take CrowdFlux, for example. The project initiated by Raphael Yee and four other classmates is inspired by the popular game Pokémon GO to stem overcrowding in a mall.

“When the overcrowding is detected, we use an algorithm to generate rare augmented reality creatures around the mall, causing the mall patrons to move to the areas to ‘catch’ the creatures – causing the crowd to disperse. “, explains the Information Systems Technology and Design (ISTD) student.

CrowdFlux is a gamification system that was designed with an understanding of human-centered design, powered by technology. Their solution was intended to be non-disruptive, interactive, and fun, as the current measures in place may seem invasive, induce anxiety, and foster negative reinforcements for some.

CrowdFlux has been designed with technologies that respond based on environmental cues to reduce overcrowding which could pose threats to health and safety. It detects, collects and calculates congestion data in a shopping center, before enticing customers to move from crowded areas to less crowded spaces with AR gamification rewards.

CrowdFlux, created by Raphael Yee and four classmates, takes inspiration from Pokémon GO to disperse crowds. Source: CrowdFlux

Such a systems approach to thinking is the reason why SUTD has been recognized as “the undisputed leader in engineering trainingBy the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Raphael and his teammates were fulfilling a mission for the Design Thinking and Innovation Course within their Freshmore year. Trademark of SUTD’s unique pedagogy, this course introduces students to design concepts at various scales and design disciplines. Raphaël and his team were trained by a team of instructors made up of architects and engineers. Avoiding a traditional faculty structure, the SUTD interdisciplinary course merges the technical aspects of innovation with forward-looking and human-centered designs for a better world.

A graduate in cinema from an art school, Raphael attests that students from non-scientific backgrounds are also able to excel in the course and stimulate innovation, thanks to SUTD’s favorable learning environment. “Coming from different backgrounds in software, hardware and design, we have contributed in our own way to making the project a success,” he says.

Tap into a source of ingenuity

Singapore University of Technology and Design

Such a systems-based approach to thinking is why SUTD has been recognized as “The Greatest Leader in Engineering Education” by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The pandemic has given rise to the importance of public space designs, fueling the need for architectural solutions that take into account both the historical context of a site and the restrictions in place on gathering in public spaces. Likewise, quarantine and physical distancing inspired Chi Jia Cai to create speculative interventions for reconfigure spaces post-pandemic and beyond via its To-Gather Apart Project.

The Master of Architecture and ASD pillar price 2020 The winner was urged to look beyond functionality when formulating plans for new floor murals and furniture systems in South Beach’s public courtyard. Jia Cai created a semi-concentric floor wall design with a two by two meter grid system. This helps people maintain a safe distance, in accordance with the latest assembly size guidelines.

His work embodies SUTD’s innovative and revolutionary design approaches. Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD) program. Under the tutelage of his studio instructor, Dr Chong Keng Hua, one of the leading figures of Singapore’s social architecture, Jia Cai further refined his proposal in its award-winning form.

Faithful to SUTD’s concerted teaching approach, professors engage and work closely with their students throughout their educational journey. “In SUTD, instructors always encourage to challenge the norm and critically tackle the root of the problem to find innovative and concise solutions,” notes Jia Cai. Without his teacher’s guidance to ensure the suitability and usability of the design solution, Jia Cai believes it would not have been possible for him to design a solution that resonates well with the public.

“The combined scheme of new floor murals and a furniture system allows easy adaptation of the spatial configuration of the public courtyard through the various stages of the regulations while ensuring a safe distance between users of the space, ”says the 25-year-old. “This allows courtyard catering businesses to utilize the naturally ventilated outdoor space for outdoor catering purposes with minimal disruption to operations.”

It credits SUTD with empowering students with advanced design methodologies and real-world experience. “SUTD’s ASD pillar has become a pioneer in what contemporary architecture education looks like,” he says.

People-centered solutions for a changing world

The prolonged lockdowns created feelings of disconnection, and many turned to new hobbies to fill the void. For Jerry Neo, a Engineering Product Development (EPD) student specializing in Engineering computer Science and minor in Computing, his Eureka moment struck while he was working on home improvement projects. It was so Scratchbac, a proximity-based social utility app that unlocks the power of communities and connects people in need of help, was created during Breaker of 2020. This Telegram bot connects people within a 1km radius to share resources and help with errands, such as delivering food to elderly neighbors. Today, Scratchbac has over 60,000 users across Singapore.

Singapore University of Technology and Design

Scratchbac is a proximity-based social utility app for connecting people in need of help. Source: Scratchbac

“I was installing a shelf and needed a drill. It was the ‘ah-ha’ moment. There are hundreds of families in my single block, one of them surely has a drill to lend, ”he recalls. After recruiting teammates Cheryl Low and Princeton Poh to assist in the development of design and technology, the team has grown and is set to launch their Launch campaign soon. The interdisciplinary nature of SUTD’s framework means that digital literacy is a priority in design and innovation to produce graduates in demand. This approach has also benefited the faculty of the university.

“Coming from a large American university, I know how compartmentalised a university can be and how difficult it is to meet and work with professors from different disciplines,” says Professor Peter Jackson, pillar leader for Engineering and Design Systems (ESD) and director of Institute of Aeronautical Studies (ASI). His interactions with professors from other departments have inspired new techniques applicable to his own work.

In collaboration with Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, he built predictive mathematical models based on analyzes for model a user-friendly tool estimate hospital demands for critical resources, assisted by students who have verified the prototype.

Singapore University of Technology and Design

Singapore University of Technology and Design

Possible epidemic curves and system dynamics. Source: SUTD

Emphasizing the need for data-driven knowledge, he adds, “Whether you’re talking about genetics or materials science, unmanned vehicles or hospital waiting rooms, the power of data analytics and the tools artificial intelligence provide a unified means of approaching and solving a problem. a multitude of problems.

Source: Shutterstock

As rapid tests become more and more ubiquitous, Associate Professor EPD Huang Shaoying seeks to take things to the next level. She is a member of a SUTD project experimenting with microwave testing for COVID-19 using saliva that can detect the virus in less than five minutes.

“The project is interdisciplinary and the process is woven from design thinking,” explains the professor. This is precisely the kind of unconventional survey that allows SUTD to stay ahead of the game while putting societal concerns at the forefront of innovation.

Discover the programs of the future

What sets SUTD apart from other universities around the world is its non-traditional character architecture and engineering study programs. These are not constrained by prescribed ideas about what the design should involve. SUTD’s openness to testing and breaking new frontiers of innovation is a new learning experience.

Ultimately, through human-centered design and technology, their students create solutions to present and future challenges. As Professor Jackson succinctly puts it: “Innovation is a state of mind: a desire to be playful. Are you afraid to have fun?

Discover your originality to become a leader in design technology here.

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