Berkeley Fellows Take 1st Place at Stanford Design Challenge
The Fung Fellows at UC Berkeley won 1st place at the Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge, a global competition that encourages students to design products and services to improve well-being.
On April 16, 2019, a team of Fung Fellows competed against over 97 teams representing 59 universities in 24 countries in Stanford’s Longevity Design Challenge “Contributing at Every Age: Designing for Intergenerational Impact.” The challenge encouraged students to work with an intergenerational member to create a product that would bridge the gap between multiple generations and improve well-being across lifespans.
UC Berkeley’s team composed of a diverse group of undergrads from the Fung Fellowship — Ashna Mangla (BioEngineering), Ismail Azam (Cognitive Science), Lillian Tran (Public Health), and Inaara Charolia (Sociology) — along with retired engineer Rani Cochran from Osher Lifelong Learning at Berkeley. This intergenerational team was advised by their coach for the competition, Jeannee Parker Martin, the President and CEO of LeadingAge California. After 7 months of extensive research, design-thinking, and late-night brainstorm sessions, they were victorious, winning first place with their no-tech solution: an intergenerational card game called “So You Think You Know Your Grandma?”
“So You Think You Know Your Grandma?” is a unique and clever approach to the challenge, incorporating aspects of storytelling and game dynamics to facilitate open dialogue among family, friends, and new social contacts across generations.
The team’s design-thinking heavily revolved around their consumer insights research. By conducting a series of user interviews, the team was able to unpack the problem space and understand the perspectives of potential players of the game.
“From initial user research, I was largely inspired by a teacher from my local religious center. Curious to understand how she connected so well with both younger and older students, I interviewed her and learned about the power of storytelling. It was evident that her tactic for leveraging storytelling was effective — especially after speaking to students who at age 21, after taking her class at age 8, could still recall the stories and found them to be a great way to connect with not only their faith, but with her.” — Inaara Charolia
The team was able to decipher two central patterns from their interviews: the importance of storytelling as a means to connect people across ages and the significance of the family unit as an opportunity space to strengthen intergenerational connectivity.
With the challenge’s broad nature and lack of formal structure, the Fellows initially struggled to organize themselves to create a solution that addressed the issue effectively. However, they were able to draw from lessons they learned in the Fung Fellowship to take advantage of the flexibility and leverage their team’s existing strengths and resources to make the project their own. Eventually, the Fellows were able to focus their innovation efforts to developing a card game. The team then took the product to the next level, further fleshing out game mechanics and branding their game to consider all potential customers.
Finally, the team went back to the most critical step in their design innovation: user testing. The team tried their product with over 90 users across five generations before pitching at Stanford, allowing the Fellows to iterate on the mechanics of the product and get feedback.
The trip to Stanford was split up into three phases: exploration, pitch, and next steps. On the first day, the team was able to explore Stanford facilities including the d.School and the b8ta store in order to learn about new technologies and the importance of user testing. Followed by a night of product pitch practice and team bonding, competition day consisted of mingling with other team members and exploring their projects alongside pitching their card game to their peers and the judges. One of these judges remarked that the game was “brilliantly simple yet profound.”
“I’ll never forget the night we stayed up until 2:00 AM in the morning at Stanford, which happened to be the day of our final pitch. We were so focused on perfecting our pitch and studying ‘100 questions asked by Shark Tank’ when all of a sudden it hit me. It didn’t even matter if we won or not, but rather what mattered most was how valuable it was to go through the entire process of designing and prototyping a real product. The experience of working in such an amazing team and building an impactful product from A to Z was worth more than any sum of money we received.” — Ismail Azam
The final day was a workshop on next steps — how to move forward after creating a prototype. This included learning how to transform ideas into reality, logistics behind starting a company, legalities, and more.
The Stanford Design Challenge has given the Fellows the opportunity to represent Berkeley by using their diverse skillset and education to create an impactful solution. Now, they are well equipped to apply what they’ve learned to their future endeavors.
This group was formed as part of the Fung Fellowship for Wellness and Technology Innovations, an undergraduate program at UC Berkeley at the intersection of health, tech, and design for social impact.