Connecting STEM to the Culture

 Magic Cool Bus (Fascinate, Inc.)


Design Brief: Paper and Presentation

Fascinate, Inc. is on a mission to bring cutting-edge technology to underrepresented students nationwide, while exciting them about STEM. During the course of the studio, we will be working together to create a cohesive process that will be used to have tech showcases on a consistent basis. We will also reach out to communities in order to get at least 500 people of color committed to being mentors to students of color where they reside.

For this design brief, we used the Activity Analysis and Affinity Diagrams listening methods. We believed the Activity Analysis method would be helpful in detailing what worked well and not so well during past showcases. The Affinity Diagrams method will foster creative ways to pitch the impact of these showcases to prospective partners.

The challenges we anticipate include generating quantifiable results and finding the financial resources needed for these projects. Nonetheless, we will be hopeful moving forward.

Project Hope | Design Brief

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 10.52.39 AM

Link to Design Brief:

Link to Slide Show:

Massachusetts has some of the most expensive child care in the country and has some of the most vast income inequality in the United States. That coupled with limited spots in child care centers, swaths of child care deserts, strict laws around child care, and hefty fines for informal child care leaves in-state child care unaccessible and acts as a barrier for wealth accumulation.

Lower income families and single parents must either stay home, find inexpensive child care centers, or find other means for care. Mothers in the Roxbury, Dudley, Dorchester neighborhoods have explained that you “get what you give” suggesting that quality care is achieved when price is high. However, many families from these communities have found a system that provides personal quality care at the cheapest price: Family Child Care Centers.

Project Hope provides a variety of programs to assist the community, particularly women within the community. For example, they provide 11 families with shelter, the provide adult educational services, workforce development and employer partnerships, and offer a speakers bureau. They have a program dedicated to helping women with child care talents to start these Family Child Care Businesses in the Roxbury neighborhood. However, they struggle to get the community involved or to get them to take advantage of these programs unless they are already affiliated with Project Hope. Many of the mothers who came to Project Hope for assistance in times of struggle now are family child care business owners. However Project Hope feels that they have many more services to offer the entire community, not just those who are already engaged with the nonprofit. They hope to spread their services of promoting Family Child Care Businesses throughout their greater community.

(a brief) design brief

The project so far has simply been referred to as “The Interactive Walkthrough” because we haven’t really come up with a title. Since the project if the first of its kind for our organization, we haven’t really needed to call it anything else. We’ll probably come up with a better title as we work more!

The project we are working on is meant to achieve the goal of presenting information to trans students and their families in a wholistic yet easy to follow manner. We decided a great way to do this is to create a choose-your-own-adventure style guide that gives information as users/players choose their paths in the interactive walkthrough. This project will be a lot more engaging than walls of text, and is a way to have all the necessary information in one easy to reach place.

Design brief:



ecosystem map

CPA Design Brief Summary

Screen Shot 2018-03-21 at 11.44.00 AMProject Title: Expanding the Notion of Public Good (Presentation Link)

The Chinatown Progressive Association (CPA) organizes working-class Chinese/Chinese-Americans in Boston around issues of housing and workers rights. Civic action and political education around economic and racial justice are embedded in their organizing model. Currently, CPA is fighting for community control and ownership of public land alongside other work around Chinatown Stabilization, including affordable housing preservation and helping tenants fight eviction and displacement from development. The Public Good Campaign at CPA is centered around this fight over community land ownership, specifically with Parcels 12, 21, 25-27.

We discovered after further conversation with Mark at CPA that the Public Good Campaign is linked to a larger 10-Year agenda effort led by Massachusetts Community Labor United (CLU), a coalition of community and labor organizations around Massachusetts. It is centered on pushing back against the increasing privatization of essential social services such as healthcare, and public transit.

During the weekly CPA staff meeting last Friday, Karen Chen, the director of CPA, voiced the lack of a deeper understanding of what is “public good.” Utilizing our skillset—urban design, art, graphic design—and co-design framework, we plan to help expand the notion of “public good” through public education. We hope to explore and engage with CPA members (including residents and workers) around what is at stake with increasing privatization for the working class Chinese/Chinese-American community, and how to mobilize and take action against it.

At the Right to the City Coalition meeting at the Asian American Resource Center, neighborhood leaders and residents from around Boston explored the definition and potential of collective power. They discussed how with collective power, Boston neighborhoods can resist the privatization of land, education, transportation, and labor markets. We hope to connect the notion of public good with community members’ everyday lives, expanding their understanding, aligning them with CPA’s mission, and ultimately mobilizing them to learn, build and take action collectively.

Moving Beyond the Edges


Moving Beyond the Edges

Image by Maureen Kavanaugh (

Image by Maureen Kavanaugh (

[Team’s design brief and presentation slides]

The Partner
The Griot Museum of Black History is a wax museum depicting black history, located in the north side of St. Louis city. opened in February 1997. When the museum opened it was the second African-American was museum in the country. The Griot’s mission is to collect, preserve, and share the stories, culture, and history of Black people – particularly those with a regional connection to American history. The museum is located in a lower-income, majority black neighborhood in the deeply segregated city of St. Louis.

The museum is run by the founder and CEO, Lois Conley. Conley is a St. Louis native and has lived in the region her whole life. She recalls her family being resettled due to imminent domain “urban renewal” efforts in the 1950s. Lois and her family were moved out of her birth neighborhood of Mill Creek Valley, a prominent African American community. The history of Mill Creek Valley is not well known, yet deeply affected many black families in the region. Lois cites this as an important foundational experience that revealed to her the important of preserving and sharing black history and culture. In this sense, her work with the museum is also deeply personal.

Design Justice Principles
The primary design justice principles that will guide our process are:

  • We see the role of the designer as a facilitator rather than an expert.
  • We work towards sustainable, community-led and -controlled outcomes.
  • Before seeking new design solutions, we look for what is already working at the community level. We honor and uplift traditional, indigenous, and local knowledge and practices.

Thus far the research methods we have employed include computer research about the history of the museum, its past and present programs, news articles, stories concerning the neighborhood in which The Griot is housed. However, our main source of research has been interviews with Lois Conley. For these informational interviews, we have practiced activity analysis, flow analysis as a means to better understand processes she typically undertakes. This is because Lois is the sole employee of the museum, and because we discerned that processes would be central to fundraising, audience development and strategizing around new developments, all central issues we needed to learn more about. We also wanted to learn what Lois has already tried and what are areas of further opportunity.

Our findings can be summarized into a few categories.

Fundraising is an ongoing challenge – Due to limited capacity, small size of organization, concerns about funders’ lack of interest in black history, and dearth of time to develop relationships, The Griot struggles to raise more funding beyond ticket sales.

The founder and CEO is overworked – Lois has limited capacity to attend to any needs beyond day-to-day operations. This seems to limit the time she can devote to fundraising, relationship building, the development of the building, audience growth and strategies regarding impending nearby development. Lois loves her work and is deeply committed to it but does endure a certain amount of stress from the lack of additional support.

There is an opportunity to grow The Griot’s audience – While The Griot has a dedicated audience of enthusiastic visitors, there are opportunities to continue to grow this audience to generate more revenue and to better achieve the museum’s mission.

There remains untapped resources within the Museum’s building – An entire floor of the museum is available and underutilized. With limited time and funding, this area hasn’t been developed but could be. The founder is interested in what might be possible for this space.

Impending developments nearby could pose incredible opportunities or threats to The Griot, but the museum is not connected to these developments – Lois has not been engaged in conversations surrounding these impending developments, but is generally excited about the potential positive effects they could have on the museum. Based on the history of displacement and racially-motivated disinvestment in St. Louis applied to different regions (ie. black neighborhoods), these developments may also pose challenges to The Griot.

Design Challenge Statement

“How might we ensure the financial well-being of the Griot Museum?” We see the financial well-being of the museum as interrelated to all the other issues we have uncovered through our research.

Beginnings of ideas

Create a strategy for fundraising

Design & launch a Kickstarter campaign

Support Lois in grant writing efforts, including past grant audits

Design a strategy for outreach to new development projects

Streamline work through automationDesign new campaign to draw new audience – social media?

Create Volunteer Program

Restructure Organization

Decrease Cost of Building

3D Printing

Design Brief: Moving Beyond the Edges

Abstract: Mallory and I are working with Lois Conley, ED and CEO of the Griot Museum of African-American History and Culture.  Based on our research and conversations with Lois, a key design challenge we (Mallory, Lois, and I) have for the Griot is how can we ensure the financial well-being of the Griot Museum?  We have come up with a list of 10 possible projects, but are still interested in hearing more ideas from the class and from Lois.  Since we were on spring break last week (yay Harvard and MIT having different spring break schedules), we’re still trying to get a few more calls in with Lois before really solidifying the project plan.

Griot Museum

You can find our slides here and our design brief here.  Note that they are still a work in progress (I have to post because I’m heading to class now!).

Design Brief: School Gun Violence Opinions and BMHS Student Activism Documentary

In response to the Parkland School shooting in February 2018, students nationwide have begun organizing to push for gun reform and the end of school gun violence. As an access television employee interested in hyperlocal news, I would like to explore how the high school students of Billerica, MA (where I work) are responding to this recent movement. After some discussion with my high school video club members, I have decided to do a short collaborative documentary project with Billerica Memorial High School students focusing on their opinions about gun violence and student activism. The documentary will primarily feature interviews with students, school employees, parents, and other groups impacted by student activism and school gun violence. I am organizing a group of students to help plan interviews, gather social media posts from students, edit footage, and other logistical tasks for the documentary. My goal is to center this project around student voices and decisions rather than that of adults in the community.

Photo Credit: Jake McIntosh (BMHS Class of 2020)

BMHS Student Walkout March 14, 2018 (Photo Credit: Jake McIntosh, BMHS Class of 2020)

For more information about this project, please check out my design brief and related project slides. I imagine as this documentary process develops further, some of the information in my brief will change, but that’s design for ya!

Listening Methods

While taking Technology and Social Change last semester, I had the opportunity to get a head start on this project. Below are listening methods that helped formed my design brief, and my decision to go forth with the Subscription box idea.

Historical Analysis 
Through my historical analysis (an IDEO method) I was able to dig deeper into the inequalities in the public school system – a system that has a direct impact on Black and other marginalized youth’s ability to go into STEM fields. While conducting research on this system, it was evident that, as I suspected, multiple systems of discrimination and oppression are at play, at once. These systems include, but are not limited to, poverty, housing, violence, and healthcare.

Ecosystem Map
I developed a high-level ecosystem map that shows who is impacted directly and indirectly by the systemic and structural barriers to constructionism in education for Black and other marginalized youth.
Now that this has a specific focus, I plan to create another map, that is more detailed, and includes the youth at the South Boston Boys and Girls Club that I will be working with.

Contextual Inquiry
I conducted interviews with different entities from the my ecosystem map. Those people, and their current roles, are described below. The people who were interviewed are not limited in knowledge to their current positions, and were able to speak about the different parts of the ecosystem they are/were connected to.

Research Scientist at the MIT Media Lab
Education Consultant and author of the 2010 Tacoma Achievement Gap Report
Faculty member at the MIT Media Lab
Graduate student at Anglia Ruskin University
Director of the Computer Clubhouse Network
Co-Founder of Technology Access Foundation
Fulbright Fellow currently working on a STEM program for girls in Cambodia
Physics teacher at the Tacoma School of Industrial Design Engineering and Art
Clubhouse Coordinator at the Boston Computer Clubhouse
Alumni of Year Up – Seattle
Software Developer at Microsoft
Computer Science student at a community college
7th grade student aspiring to be a game designer.

Inspirational Works
My inspiration comes from the many Black women who persisted despite the systemic, structural, and social barriers they faced. Kimberlé Crenshaw’s work around intersectionality encouraged me to believe that multiple things can be true at once – in this case, multiple barriers can exist at once. The virtual community #BlackAndSTEM, created by Stephani Page, PhD has encouraged Black people in STEM academic programs and professional careers to share their experiences, and empower a new generation.  Following Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, PhD on social media (and in real life) reaffirmed my experiences and desire to pursue this issue. She is the 63rd Black woman in the United States to receive a PhD in physics (there are less than 100), and she constantly speaks out about injustice through her writing. Trish Dziko, who has paved the way for Black and Brown youth to pursue STEM in Seattle for more than 20 years at Technology Access Foundation, inspired me to look more into the traditional education role in constructionism, which impacts a wider range of youth than after-school programs. Tacoma Action Collective, and their work around HIV/AIDS prevention through social justice inspired me to to think of how to approach this issue from a social justice lens.
Books that inspired my research include “Lifelong Kindergarten” by Mitch Resnick and “Why We Can’t Wait” by Martin Luther King Jr.

Below are listening methods that I have started to implement or will implement in the next few weeks with stakeholders.

Stakeholder Interviews
I began with a group stakeholder activity with the Lifelong Kindergarten research group. I started with this group, because they created the first Computer Clubhouse, and developed the four guiding principles they operate under. As a group, they identified creative learning activities, and next steps that can be paired with them. (Next steps can be college majors, summer programs, community college, technical college, four year university, etc.)

Comparative Analysis
During first semester I began doing research on who is already addressing the issue, and looked at other STEM subscription boxes. In the next few weeks, I will take a closer look at the subscription boxes and online communities for marginalized youth, to see what is already being done, and how what I want to do is different. This will allow me to identify gaps in what’s already being offered.

In addition to the methods listed above, I plan to implement the card sorting method before prototyping the online space and community.

Who should guide listening?

Image by Maureen Kavanaugh (

Image by Maureen Kavanaugh (

Because Aki and I are working with a partner who is not based in Boston, geography will determine the listening practices we will be able to employ. We’re trying to be creative – what listening practices can we employ when we are not on the ground with our partner? For our work we are hoping to learn more about some of Lois’s (our main representative from the partner institution) processes around fundraising and audience outreach, as well as determine more information about her network as it relates to fundraising, new audiences, and the two new developments that are slated for The Griot’s neighborhood.

Similar to Aki, believe that an activity analysis will be particularly important to dig deeper into Lois’ processes. She is nearly a one-woman shop who covers most of the tasks related to the museum. Similarly, focusing on flow analysis will also allow us to pin down how Lois’ activities connect, and may reveal opportunities within her processes. Some of these processes will give us better insight into what Lois has already tried, as well as roadblocks and areas less traveled.

For some elements of our initial co-research, I think it will be helpful to envision what future activities could look like–a realistic future with all of its potential snags, as well as an ideal future in which The Griot and Lois are thriving in the manner they would like. For this type of research I think the listening practice of journey mapping and role playing could be interesting, and I think both can be done over the phone/video chat. Journey mapping may be a helpful next step to activity and flow analyses and allow Lois and our design team to imagine more ideal processes. Role playing could allow for us to better understand how other key stakeholders, partners or users might engage with some of our design ideas, but also how Lois might disrupt processes that she is currently a part of and wants to change.

This week, because Aki and I were both out of the country, we completed a set of follow-up questions over email with Lois. The week prior we drafted a set of questions we wanted ask Lois. We began the conversation sharing a little about who Aki & I both are and what we are hoping to get out of the partnership. I think this set an honest and personable foundation for the codesign relationship. We sorted our interview questions for Lois into categories with sub-questions. We then traded off asking questions and then taking notes while on the call to make sure Lois understands that Aki and I are in true partnership, even though my relationship with her preceded the project.

I have been thinking the breadth of epistemologies and methods of communication that can be present in this partnership, and wondering if in listening practices are best selected to honor the subjects at hand, the preferences of the co designing partner, the preferences of the designer, or some sort of calculation of all of the above. At present, I believe Aki and I are navigating with the subjects as our guiding force. For example, if we need to learn more about how Lois fundraisers, we will undergo an activity analysis; however, perhaps later in the process as we begin to understand our partner more and vice versa, perhaps our listening strategies would evolve instead of meet the needs of our partners preferred ways of knowing or methods of communication.

Lastly, an additional part of our listening practice will be listening to what stories and voices haven’t we heard from, and who can help to build our richer understanding of the issues Lois wants to address through our partnership.

Listening Methods with CPA

Photo credit: Chinese Progressive Association (

Photo credit: Chinese Progressive Association (

We plan to work with CPA on either the Workers Center pro-union education initiative or the Chinatown Stabilization Public Goods Campaign. This will be decided by Friday of this week after a general staff meeting we are attending. Depending on which project we work on, we will have to draft a project agreement and schedule meetings with varied stakeholders, including CPA staff, workers in the Home Health Aid union and Hotel Workers Union, and/or Chinatown youth.

Method 1: Fly on the Wall
We were not able to attend the general staff meeting at CPA this week but we are scheduled to sit on their weekly staff meeting on Friday, March 16 at noon. This will help us gain a better understanding of current workflows and dynamics within the CPA office, and challenges the staff are facing.

Method 2: Flow Analysis/Ecosystem Map
We plan to create a flow analysis map with a CPA staff member who runs the specific project that we decide to work on—pro-union education (Fiona and Yusin) or public good campaign (Lydia or Mark). This exercise will help identify bottlenecks, opportunities, and stakeholders.

Method 3: Guided Tour
We plan to join one of their guided tours or ask them to take us on one within the next two weeks. Going on a tour will help us understand the spatial dynamics of the issues we will work on, including the public parcels in contestation or the workers’ places of work and community hubs.