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Frequently Asked Questions

*** Notice to students, parents, and project partners, the nature of the Design Thinking & Communication program has been altered to meet the University’s COVID-19 safety precautions. The information below may not accurately define the experience for the ’20-’21 academic year. We are dedicated to providing an educational and thoughtful experience for all parties involved.

I want to be a project partner, but I don't know anything about engineering. Is that a problem?

Not at all. Past partners have had all kinds of backgrounds. You don't need to know anything about engineering or design. You just need to have a problem you're trying to solve.

How big is the time commitment?

You'll meet with a team of students four times during a ten-week term. The total time commitment for you will be about 4-7 hours.

When will I meet with the students?

The students working on your project will need to meet with you four times during a ten-week term. You will be given the dates in advance and the students will be respectful of your schedule. The timeline for a DTC project is:
  • Initial Meeting – Week 2 of the term (1-2 hours)

  • User Observation – Week 3 of the term (1-2 hours)

  • User Testing – Week 6 of the term (1-2 hours)

  • Final Presentation – Week 10 of the term (1 hour)

What do "user observation" and "user testing" mean?

During user observation, students will look at how the end user performs a task or they'll try to encounter the problem firsthand. During user testing, students will bring the end user a prototype to try out.

Who is an "end user"?

An end user is the person or people who will actually use the prototype.

Do I have to pay a fee or give money for this?

No. There is no cost to participate. Northwestern provides approximately $100 per student team for materials. If you wish to have more costly materials used, you can provide either funds or materials to the team.

Do I get to keep the prototype that the students make for me?

Yes! The student team will deliver a final report and a prototype to the client at a final presentation held on Northwestern's Evanston campus during the final week of the term. Upon delivery, the report and work product will become your property.

I have a question about intellectual property. Can you answer it?

We will try. Please read the Student & Partner Understandings Form first. If you still have a question after reading the form, please email Deyandre Thaxton, project coordinator for the Segal Design Institute.

What if I still have a question?

Please email DeYandre Thaxton, project coordinator for the Segal Design Institute.
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