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National Design Competition

By Jennifer Fogarty, communications content manager
Upper Schoolers were recognized in a national design competition.

Congratulations to Allison Casey '24 (finalist) and Akaash Doshi '23 (honorable mention), whose designs were chosen out of 815 entries in the 2021 National High School Design Competition by Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.

The annual competition challenges students in Grades 9–12 to design a solution to a unique scenario. This year’s prompt was, “What would you design to create a healthier world?” Interested teens submitted a sketch of their idea and described how the design addressed the prompt. Entries were evaluated for overall design on innovation, impact, relevance and communication. All finalist and honorable mention submissions are displayed on the Cooper Hewitt website.

Allison is the youngest of the top 15 submissions. She envisioned mobile COVID-19 vaccine and testing centers that visit low-income communities to eliminate such barriers as language, technology, information and transportation. Because the submissions were due in February and vaccines have since become more easily accessible, Allison has expanded the concept to provide flu shots or other vaccines in addition to multilingual medical information and free COVID testing. 

Akaash designed an inexpensive and easily installable pedal to open public doors, mainly in restrooms. By not touching the door handle, it decreases the spread of germs.

“What I love about this competition is that it’s about the idea,” explains Dan Lenzen, director of design and innovation. “Students have to visually convey their idea, but it’s not a graphic design competition. They also learn to communicate their idea in a succinct manner as there is only a small text section available.”

Allison created her poster on Canva, a graphic design platform she learned in an elective innovation class in Middle School. She shares her memory of how it all started in a fifth-grade science class. “We did a Shark Tank project,” she recalls  “My group got our materials from the Innovation Lab, and I remembered saying, ‘I’m going to do this [choose innovation as an elective] in seventh grade.’ It was so cool to see what the older kids were working on because it was posted on the lab wall. I was so excited about what you can do and learn.”

Being in the top 3, Allison is granted access to a mentor for both a one-on-one call and a virtual weekend event with the other finalists. In April 2021, she spoke with Rachel Smith, designer and founder of Design to Combat COVID-19 and a senior product designer at Zillow. Allison prepared a list of questions for the hour-long call, and Ms. Smith shared ways to organize and consolidate all of Allison’s ideas, helped advance her submission and answered technical questions about software.

During the virtual Mentor Weekend, finalists will meet each other, learn more about the design process and how designers solve everyday challenges, further discuss their design ideas and prepare for the final presentations to the judges. 

The final step is Judging Weekend in June, where the finalists will present their updated designs live to a diverse panel of creative experts before the winner is announced. The winner is invited to participate in a virtual program with the opportunity to meet with designers and/or other experts around their interests in design in fall 2021.

No matter the outcome, Allison participated just for fun and shares, “I like being creative and using science to come up with new ideas to change how the world views an issue. It has been one of my goals to come up with one of those ideas.”

La Jolla Light highlighted the students in this article.


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