School of Design Students Awarded kynamtrix Grants

Julia Petrich

Xiaowei Jiang, Lorraine Shim, and Jane Lien, three Master of Design (MDes) students from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design, have been announced as recipients of the kynamatrix Research Network “Innovation through Collaboration” 2016 Grant Awards. The kynamatrix grants are awarded to projects in design, engineering, computer science, and service learning.

The kynamatrix grants are awarded to project proposals that are evaluated confidentially by a national selection committee based on the quality, thoroughness, and rigor of the research plan and the broader impacts and merit of the project. The projects are also evaluated on how well they might produce measurable results and the extent to which they prioritize innovation through design/collaborative research.

Xiaowei Jiang’s thesis, “Public Communication Design in Charities,” is about how nonprofits can work to communicate trustworthiness. “In my research, I found that the public is getting more and more skeptical about how nonprofits operate,” Jiang explained, “especially after series of scandals around the world. But there are lots of good nonprofits that worth trusting.

“I want to investigate what the role of design can be in helping nonprofits win public's trust back,” Jiang added. Jiang plans to use this grant in developing various prototypes and in conducting user testing.

Jane Lien is also focused on communication in her thesis project, “Communication Among Startup Co-founders.” She started by exploring the ways co-founders of a startup communicate in an effort to learn how this communication effects a startup’s chance of success. Of her research, Lien said she “noticed a lot of startups could benefit from design help. Additionally, some startups know they want a designer, but might not have a full understanding of what the designer can contribute.” She has since shifted to focusing on developing the relationships between designers and startups.

“Relationship Domain of Material Ownership” is the title of Lorraine Shim’s thesis, which is a study of the meaning of artifact ownership to a highly mobile, tech-savvy, and socially connected generation. In her efforts to observe the ways people interact with objects as physical and digital, Shim describes her research as unique in that “it follows an inquiry-driven process, based on a repeated model of questioning, ideation, empirical testing, low-fidelity prototyping, and literature review to examine the breadth and depth within the topic.” Her research is focused on mapping the territory of a research area rather than arriving at a single design solution.

For the past twelve years, kynamatrix has been a volunteer-operated, independent nonprofit organization, promoting collaborative scientific research, innovation, and scholarship at the intersection of design, engineering, and computer science. In keeping with that goal, kynamatrix has been granting awards to graduate student projects at universities across the U.S. Some of the past recipients have been students from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Washington, and Georgia Tech. 

Alyce Hoggan, the Executive Director of kynamatrix, drew upon her experience at Microsoft as a professional designer, as well as her education at Carnegie Mellon University, in co-founding kynamatrix. 

“Carnegie Mellon University introduced me to new methods and tools that combine verbal and visual communication,” she said. “I was able to explore the strategic planning of communication systems and the visualization of complex information spaces. Interacting with world-class professors, students, and resources at CMU, I began to understand the collaborative intersection of design, computer science, and engineering. 

Design thinking sparks intangible ideas, identifies potential scenarios, and matches people's needs with what is technologically feasible; computational thinking assists in virtual prototyping, data modeling, and creation of well-defined processes; and engineering thinking implements plans and blue prints into tangible, innovative real-world solutions.”

The three design student award winners were pleasantly surprised and honored to receive these grants from kynamatrix. “I am grateful for what I have learned in this passing year,” Jiang explained.

“The School of Design not only teaches me how to think through problems, but also shapes my worldview.”

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Date Published: 
Thursday, February 18, 2016
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