Yale Alumni ‘Take Flight’ in CEID


Even if you’re not afraid to fly, odds are you don’t like flying: The seats are too small, there’s never enough space for storing luggage, and at the hint of a gray cloud, sunny days turn into delays turn into cancellations. So how do you improve the flying experience?

Over the course of one hour, 50 Yale alumni of all backgrounds used that very question as a springboard for learning about the engineering design process. Led by Yale juniors—and Design for America team members—Paul Singer and Ben Weiner, the Nov. 9 workshop was one of four interactive sessions offered during the Association of Yale Alumni’s (AYA) 2014 Assembly.

Central to the experience of the workshop was its location in the Center for Engineering Innovation & Design (CEID). After Singer and Weiner presented the core principles of the design process—from identifying the problem to idea generation to prototyping—the AYA delegates then created and presented prototypes of their solutions using materials for “thinking prototypes” found in the CEID, such as pipe cleaners, styrofoam, and cardboard.

"Large companies use human-centered design to improve their products and services a process that can take months or even years,” said Singer. “But focusing on the flying experience, we were able to tap into something familiar enough that we could overview each step that makes that design process work. And the alumni in attendance went above and beyond in their thinking and prototypes—it was one of the most successful workshops we’ve ever led."

The design workshop was only one way that SEAS contributed to this year’s Assembly. In a further extension of Assembly’s 2014 theme—“The Entrepreneurial Spirit at Yale”—SEAS Dean Kyle Vanderlick served as judge for the session following the design workshop, a “Shark Tank” pitch session for ventures developed on the Yale campus. 

The AYA Assembly is the preeminent leadership information and development program for alumni. It is actually two things: (1) the body of delegates, as outlined by the AYA Constitution, who serve as representatives of the alumni community; and (2) the annual gathering of these delegates back at Yale on the weekend of the last home football game in November.