Fall Prototyping Fund Showcase displays diversity and creativity

2 students displaying porta-potty prototype

Members of the "Rethinking the Porta Potty: Improving the design of portable toilets" project team at the Prototyping Fund Fall 2019 Showcase.

While students passing by the MakerSpace on December 5 may have initially been drawn in by free pizza, they felt compelled to stay to explore all the cool projects on display. The projects were prototypes developed by awardees of the Fall 2019 NYU Prototyping Fund, a collaborative program offered by the Design Lab @ NYU Tandon MakerSpace and the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute awarding multi-disciplinary teams of NYU students from across the University funding (up to $500 for Phase 1) to build hardware or software prototypes as well as to connect them with resources, tools and mentors.

The ten projects showcased diversity among the prototypes — from the sensory sphere created by Veronica Alfaro Arias (Tisch ITP MA ‘20), Nicole Nimeth (Tandon IDM MS ‘20) and Gabrielle Caguete (Steinhardt MA ‘20) to relieve anxiety experienced by patients and caregivers in the Oral Health Center for People with Disabilities to Ariane Schoenwiesner’s (Tandon BS ‘21) project titled “brian,” a guitar with user-controlled sound processing integrated directly into the body of the instrument. Other projects included Nathan Weinstein (Stern MBA ‘20) and Anthony Wang’s (Tandon MS ‘20) reinvented Porta Potty, which considers new elements such as a folding/collapsing functionality and sustainability. The prototypes not only displayed a blend of creativity, practicality and relevance but underscored the teamwork between Tandon students and NYU students across different schools, such as Tisch, Stern and Steinhardt. 

First-year Tandon student Cory Mei studying Business and Technology Management and Tandon graduate student Samadnya Kalaskar studying Computer Engineering reinvented NYU FREEdge, a Design for America NYU project that aims to reduce food waste and provide NYU students with access to free food via a community shared refrigerator. NYU FREEdge was previously awarded the Prototype Fund in 2016. Mei acknowledged the benefit of the Prototype Fund’s nature to include diverse ideas and promote collaboration across NYU schools. “We can receive various perspectives from many students in different schools and faculties,” Mei said. “The Prototype Fund Showcase gave us a great chance to introduce FREEdge to all of the NYU community.”

Professor Anne-Laure Fayard co-organizes the Prototyping Fund with Sarah Maibach of the NYU Entrepreneurial Institute. Year after year, she is continually impressed with the innovation of the projects produced.

"We have been running the Prototyping Fund for 6 years now, and I'm still surprised and inspired by the passion and dedication of NYU students,” Fayard said. “This Fall Showcase was no exception with a broad variety of ideas, different schools represented and a lot of experimentation. I always insist the prototype does not have to be perfect or to be the whole thing, and that what is essential is that it helped them ask questions, test assumptions and ultimately learn."

Anna de la Rosa
BS, Media, Culture, and Communication
Class of 2021