COVID-19 Efforts at Jacobs

April 10, 2020 | 9:22 am

Though campus remains closed for the present moment, the Jacobs design community continues to collaborate and work together in our efforts to both respond and aid in the COVID-19 pandemic. Below we’ve highlighted some of these efforts, from sharing our strategies for teaching design courses online, to using our Makerspace to produce PPE materials for medical practitioners working first-hand with COVID-19 patients.

We will continue to highlight our efforts and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as provide updates on campus closure policies, our virtual public programming, and important updates about course scheduling in our news posts.

In the Classroom: COVID-19 has radically transformed teaching practices across the globe, often with little notice or time to prepare. This has been particularly challenging for our design courses, where classes rely on student teamwork, in-person critique, open-ended projects, and the ability to prototype using materials and resources available in labs and our Makerspace. Approaching the challenges of moving our courses online has required a collective adjustment of expectations: how do you take a thriving, public community, and create an equally thriving digital space?

We spoke with three instructors—Emily Au, DES INV 15: Design Methodology; Sara Beckman, ART 100/TDPS 100/UGBA 190C Collaborative Innovation; and Bjoern Hartmann, COMPSCI 160/260 User Interface Design & Development—about how they have been working with their students and curriculum to accommodate the sudden changes and the impact that social distancing has had on project collaboration and the classroom experience. We’ve outlined some of the most pressing concerns from our students and faculty, and how we’re addressing them at the Jacobs Institute, and across the broader campus community in a full story on Medium, which can be read here.

Another resource our instructors are using to manage classroom Q&A and collaboration is Piazza, a platform designed with the goal of re-creating a real classroom discussion scenario. Piazza makes it easy for students to easily pose questions, and for instructors and classmates to engage with these questions in a more active way than email and chat platforms.

In the Makerspace: While our Makerspace remains closed to the larger community, a small group of staff is back at Jacobs Hall to provide critical support for UC Berkeley researchers working on immediate projects that address the COVID-19 pandemic. The focus of this team has been fabricating prototypes for new types of medical equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) for local medical centers. Our Design Specialist, Gary Gin has been working with Professor Hayden Taylor and student Brian Salazar, to 3D print parts for medical face shields. The team printed nearly 100 shield headbands for UCSF’s medical team last week, and will continue printing more this week.

The Jacobs Institute is partnering with the CITRIS Invention Lab on this effort. For safety reasons, staff are only making parts that have been reviewed by the NIH or approved by a partnering medical center. Additional ongoing projects supported by our Makerspace include repurposing sleep apnea machines into ventilators, and building low-cost powered air-purifying respirators (PAPR).

Staying Connected: Developing strategies for our students to find ways to stay connected to both each other and the Jacobs Institute’s resources and vibrant community has been at the utmost priority for us, and one we are continuing to expand and evolve.

One of the first steps we took was to make sure students still have access to design consultation while they work from home. Our Design Specialists have are offering extended office hours for one-on-one project consultation and mentorship. Students are able to book directly with them through our Design Specialists page.

We’ve also expanded our workshops, led by our Student Supervisors and our Design Specialists. These workshops range from highly technical skills, like Parametric design; to COVID-19 related skills like sewing your own face mask; and to just-for-fun options like casting objects in chocolate. Students are encouraged to drop-in to workshops that interest them and pick up a new skill while re-connecting with familiar faces. The full April schedule can be found here.

And lastly, we’ve encouraged our students to put their critical design thinking to the test to think about solutions that address the COVID-19 pandemic, through our COVID-19 Design Challenge. Conducted entirely online, this three-week team challenge encourages students to think about the future challenges that COVID-19 will post on our communities, and think critically and creatively about solutions to help address these challenges. Students will present their final ideas at our Spring Design Showcase in May.

Events and Public Engagement: While we have decided to postpone our speaking events for the semester, we will continue to participate in Cal Week, as well as host our semesterly Design Showcase, both as digital experiences. Though digital events can lack the communal spirit of live events, we’ve found that building engaging web pages for each event can help provide an access point to vibrant virtual participation. Our Cal Week webpage, for example, includes static information normally shared through print collateral, combined with live video conferencing in lieu of face-to-face meetings, and fun videos and student project highlights that keep the upbeat energy of a live event present.

When we began considering our Spring Design Showcase—always a highlight of the semester—we knew we wanted to prioritize what would be best for our students at this time. This has always been an important opportunity for our students to not only share their work with their Jacobs peers, but also the rest of campus and the broader Berkeley community. We will link all projects to a single event page on the Jacobs site, while giving our lecturers agency to decide which platform is best to facilitate their class’ project. Some are using Adobe’s Behance web-based portfolio hosting platform, while others plan to use live Zoom presentations or PDFs of final projects. By giving our students and faculty the option to participate in a flexible way, we hope to keep the enthusiasm for sharing student accomplishments high. Save the date for the Showcase, which will take place on May 6 and 7.