Ever wonder what happened to the winning entries in the DiabetesMine Design Challenge? In many cases, the entrants went on to get good jobs in the diabetes industry or related fields. But what about their actual design concepts coming to fruition?
I was thrilled to be contacted recently by the winners of last year's Most Creative Concept category, a newly formed student group at Northwestern University called Design for America. The group is multidisciplinary, including students majoring in biology, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering and other fields. But they all share a "collective passion" for design.
Four of the six students who gave birth to Jerry rallied for an update phone call with me, led by Mert Iseri, a student at Northwestern Engineering's Segal Design Institute.
Please first watch the video they made for me:
(disclaimer: the students may have been a little over-enthusiastic about Jerry "solving the problem" of fingerpricks and injections. Also, could have done without the screaming girl's face — and too bad that turned out to be the video icon shot)
Still, this quite exciting in terms of how the competition was able to spur innovation. Please read what this student group had to say:
"The DiabetesMine Design Challenge has been a turning point in our lives! Our Design for America group was totally new, and we were trying to get support from the school. The day we won the competition, the dean of the engineering school finally got in touch with us. That was the most inspirational moment. All the doors opened for our organization to grow and prosper.
We were able to show that we brought in $5,000 ourselves, directly from the students independently, with our creativity, our work — so now it's the university's chance to step up and support us!
Jerry the Bear was our first success, and we used the $5,000 as seed money to fund our organization at Northwestern. We were also able to create connections for other student organizations to form. There are now Design for America Chapters at Cornell, Dartmouth, Brown and Rigby (RI School of Design).
After we won this thing, we all got busy though, and didn't think we'd be able to take it to the next level. But a few months later, we started thinking, 'What does it really say about Design for America if we can't realize our original concept? Can our group create any impact? Is it a success?'
So for the last year and a half we've been trying to get it made. Four of us students rolled up our sleeves and decided to build this bear from scratch. We're working on the circuitry — we've been up for the past three days to put this thing together so we can test it soon with children.
We've programmed the bear so the eyes can blink, the speaker can talk, the sensor in the mouth can sense if it's being feed. There are also sensor sites on the stomach, thighs, etc. It has its own glucose meter and pen. Every 20 seconds its glucose levels go down by 1 point. If you feed it, they go up by larger increments.
Our next step is to put together enough working prototypes to take Jerry to a clinic and let diabetic children play with it. We're now talking with doctors, clinics and other potential partners who might be able to help us get Jerry off the ground. We'd love to hear from anyone interested in helping.
Thank you so much for the competition. I don't even know how to put it into words. This is the story that grew us from 3 to 300 students. It was the sheer optimism, the possibilities that came out of winning. You can't can't get an A in a class and feel that way. It's just not the same. Thank you so much!"
O.M.G. I'm not sure what to say either, except that it's hard for me too, to put into words the feeling of knowing that a simple idea for an idea contest could make such an impact. Thank you to everyone who's helped with the competition, participated in any way, or even just followed it here on the site. If nothing else, we sure are motivating the next generation of designers!