Students presented design solutions to international audience

Under normal circumstances, the course would culminate in a presentation and networking event in Silicon Valley, USA. Instead, an innovative and creative digital solution had to be quickly put together. "The best event we have had" says Marie Bengtsson, who has been a teacher and organizer during the course.

Screenshot from the presentation that the students of Team Bosch made as a news broadcast from the future. Screenshot of the presentation made by the students of Team Bosch in the form of a news broadcast from the future.

Nine students from LiU participated in the course Design Thinking And Multidisciplinary Development projects (DAMD) in two of the total 33 project groups. The course is part of a network that was started at Stanford University that has grown considerably. Currently it includes 25 companies and organizations as well as 26 universities from South and North America, Europe, Asia and Oceania.

Projects with a strong link to companies

Team Bosch at a presentation they made in Karlsruhe in March 2020.Team Bosch at a presentation they made in Karlsruhe in March 2020.

One group of LiU students was part of Team Bosch. Their task was to develop a future car workshop in collaboration with Bosch and students from Karlsruhe. The result was a digital platform that collects data from cars and distributes it as well as facilitates collaboration between car owners and mobile car mechanics.

The second group of LiU students in Team DigitalFilm Tree worked with the Hollywood-based company DigitalFilm Tree and students from Stanford. Their project is about medical images in 2D and 3D that through a digital platform facilitates cooperation between radiologists, surgeons and their patients.

Evaluation of prototypes

 The students of Team DigitalFilm Tree on stage at a presentation at Stanford in December 2019. The students of Team DigitalFilm Tree on stage at a presentation at Stanford in December 2019.

The method used by the students during the course is complex and sought after by the companies. The students put a lot of energy into understanding the user. An approach which resulted in lots of prototypes. The data from both successful and less successful prototypes is very interesting for the companies, so they do not have to test and make the same discovery themselves.

– The students learn to really dig into the problem so to speak. Since the problem is not clearly defined, we may spend six out of nine months working on understanding it, says Marie Bengtsson, senior lecturer at IEI and teacher in the course.

The fact that the groups with students from LiU built some form of digital platform proved to be advantageous when the Corona pandemic hit the world.

– It was tougher for the groups that had a physical thing or prototype to build. Suddenly, they could not meet or access their tools because they could not go to the university because of restrictions.

When it was announced on April 15 that a physical presentation of the projects was no longer possible, a great deal of work was put into coordinating a digital solution.

– It has been a challenge to make it work between all 26 universities, says Bengtsson.

Digital presentations

The work resulted in a worldwide conference via the SUGAR network's platform, where the students in the Bosch group, along with others, presented the results of the nine-month long design collaboration in front of a large audience. The digital platform included a stage, a booth for each group, and also a digital bar with entertainment afterwards.

– The best event we've had. Perhaps not the most social because the spontaneous meetings were missing, but this has forced us to think completely new about everything from how to make presentations to how to collaborate within the groups.

For the group that collaborated with Digital Film Tree, the presentation was held via Zoom and a website with links to each project.

– Given the circumstances, the students have done fantastically well. There is a drive and a desire among our students to do well even when circumstances change, they did much more than just "survive". It is good to see that our LiU students are very highly qualified even when placed next to students from Stanford and other highly ranked universities.

Students now have to give a presentation at the respective companies at the end of June, when the data from the projects will be handed over.

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