Skip to content

Design-A-Thon: Mindshifts on Megafires

During fire season, it has become the norm to see front-page images of apocalyptic wildfires. A century of suppressing wildfires has created a dangerous accumulation of flammable vegetation on landscapes, contributing to megafires that risk human life and property and destroy ecosystems.

The Design-A-Thon brings together UC San Diego students from all disciplines and experience levels in a pitch-style competition to apply the Design Thinking process to proactive solutions to end destructive wildfires. All participants will be invited to present their submissions on April 20 after the Design@Large panel on Climate Risk Reduction and Technology.

Key dates and events:
-April 7 @ 4 PM - Design Challenge unveiled at kickoff
-April 15 - Registration & design-thinking workshop, lightning talks, and mentor sessions
-April 16 @ 11:59 PM - Submissions due
-April 20 @ 5 PM - Project showcase at Design@Large

How They Got There: Janet Johnson

Graduate student Janet Johnson is currently working towards her doctorate degree in Computer Science, while also conducting HCI research in the UCSD Design Lab, primarily focusing on XR (extended reality).

So, what is Johnson’s research?  Johnson conducts HCI research, primarily focusing on XR. As Johnson describes it, “XR is an umbrella term for augmented reality, augmented virtuality, mixed reality, and virtual reality.” She says to think of it as a spectrum where one end is the real world alone, the other is complete virtual reality, and everything in between is varying mixes of the two. Johnson’s research primarily focuses on this mixed middle ground. “The majority of my research focuses on how we can use mixed reality or extended reality to help a novice…get help from an expert.” She then poses the example of both surgery and CPR. Johnson’s research explores ways for an expert to provide instructions to the novice as if though they were in the same room. Her goal is to help bridge the distance between novices and experts, both physically and skill wise, while also decreasing the amount of time a person receives aid. “By the time a medical personnel arrives at the scene, it’s already been 7 to 10 minutes, so each minute counts for the person’s life,” she explains. “You don’t have time in that 10 minutes to train the people around to be able to do CPR or any other sort of resuscitation, same with surgery.” 

As Johnson continues to conduct her research in this field, she’s excited for what the future holds for this technology and the ways she can contribute to it.  
Seda Evis

Designer in Residence: Seda Evis

While Seda Evis participates as a Designer-in-Residence at UC San Diego with The Design Lab, and is VP of Strategy & Growth at FreshForm Interactive—an experience design and innovation consultancy—she also claims to have what she refers to as a superpower: her hybrid mind, which she describes as the combination of two worlds: the business side and the design side.

As a Designer-in-Residence at The Design Lab,  Evis enjoys working in an interdisciplinary setting, which she says enhances her existing skillset. “Academia tends to be quite separate from how the practice is done,” she explains. “I find ways of doing interdisciplinary work, as well as cross industry work, very important for innovation because that’s how you actually get seeds from different places.” As of now, most of Evis’s work at The Design Lab has been working with the Community Team on the now winning bid for the World Design Capital 2024 (WDC) designation. Her work dovetails with her role on the Board of  Directors for the Design Forward Alliance–a non-profit organization started by the Lab in partnership with the regional design community and one of the partners co-leading the HOME 2024 WDC efforts alongside the Design Lab, Burnham Center for Community Advancement, the City of San Diego and the City of Tijuana.   The designation puts the San Diego-Tijuana region in a prestigious international cohort recognized for the “effective use of design to drive economic, social, cultural and environmental development.”  Even the proposal theme is significant, Evis says. “Home” not only refers to the immense and diverse communities of San Diego and Tijuana that form one, but also serves as an acronym for Human-centered, Open, Multi-disciplinary/Multi-cultural, and Experimental. For Evis, participating in HOME2024 signifies her career “coming full circle.” 
Olga McConnell

Olga McConnell, Project Specialist and Executive Assistant to the Director of The Design Lab

As the Executive Assistant to the Director of The Design Lab, a project manager for the Lab’s special projects and annual events, and a lifelong learner who holds a M.A. in English Linguistics and Translation, and a M.B.A. in Business Administration and Management, Olga McConnell’s zest for knowledge is palpable. She is currently on track to complete a Project Management Certification at UC San Diego Extension at the end of 2021, and she is planning on obtaining her Project Management Professional (PMP) Certification after that. “I’m kind of addicted to getting degrees,” jokes McConnell. “I even thought the other day, maybe I’ll go to law school. And then I was like, no, enough, enough.” 

For nearly five years, McConnell was Executive Assistant to Don Norman, the Founding Director Emeritus of The Design Lab. She is now the Executive Assistant to the new Director of The Design Lab, Mai Thi Nguyen. It is Nguyen’s vision of human-technology-community interactions, along with her JEDI (justice, diversity, equity and inclusion) approach that has McConnell excited about this new chapter in the Lab’s legacy, saying, “I see how great she is as an efficient leader, so I’m really looking forward to working with her, supporting her administratively, as well as taking charge of certain projects that she has in mind.”
Bennett Peji

Meet Designer-in-Residence Bennett Peji

When Bennett Peji was asked to join The Design Lab as a Designer-in-Residence, he immediately said yes. “It was a natural fit,” he explains. “The Design Lab is composed of so many talented people, both in leadership and in its students, who have tremendous technical abilities, but also a big heart for using that expertise for the greater good.” Peji works with the Community team at The Design Lab, working on ways to define what it means for San Diego to be a global city. He is the Chief Innovation Officer at several businesses and Chairman of California Humanities. “Seeing us all collectively as being a very unique region in the world is one distinguishing factor in developing the opportunities that we have here. My role is to be a connector and a bridge builder to organizations who are like-minded. Like-minded in terms of seeing our region holistically and working for more ways to collaborate and create greater economic opportunities and access.”

Peji is a walking example of practicing what he preaches in order to present San Diego as a unique, diverse, global city. He emphasizes that it is not enough to just be welcoming. We must be truly inclusive. “The real work is to include and empower the folks who have never been to the table, who don't think and act and see the world the way we do, so that we can all have a more profound way of looking at the problems.” To do this, Peji has not been afraid to be the one swimming upstream. “We all have to find our way in this world called America and do the best we can. But since I’ve been on this journey for so long now, it has become so clear that it is not about assimilating [but instead] finding your own voice and expressing your own unique and distinct identity.”
Back To Top