» third in a series of posts by Emily Unrue, Ethics Lab Program Manager

It’s been a busy week here at the Lab.

This Monday, four teams went through crits in Profs. Slakey, Anderson, and Dhillon’s Science and Society: Global Challenges studio course. I was invited to participate as a juror for this mid-semester crit where students formally present their minimally viable product (MVP) to their classmates, professors, and a few outside experts. This was the final (public) check-point before students pivoted and launched into the second half of the semester where they will venture outside of the classroom to consult with subject matter experts and the audience they seek to impact. But I should include the caveat that the traditional semester course is the starting point for student projects. The hope and implied expectation is that students will continue to iterate their projects and products well beyond the scope of the semester and even their time at the university. A great example of a student project that has continued beyond the classroom is the Invasive Hitlist. Read more about the project here.

First, I was deeply impressed with the range, creativity, and thoughtfulness of the student teams. The questions and comments from the jury were rapid-fire and pointed. Each student group was on the hot seat for half an hour, and I can definitively say that with the exception of the transition time between each student team, there was not a single moment of silence or lag. “Desk” or “table” internal crits (which is the form that my University as a Design Problem course took for our second interim crit this Tuesday) are more informal and conversational in tone and format, and they don’t necessarily bring in outside experts like you would find at a juried critique.

In brief, the four teams:

Team Elephant: This group is focusing on the reduction of elephant crop raids in Kenya through installation of beehive fences as outlined in the study Elephants & Bees. These beehives will, in turn, provide honey and other byproducts that the team proposes to bottle and sell in US stores and farmers markets where proceeds will then be directed back to the study and Save the Elephants fund for further expansion and growth.

Team Sex-Ed: The second team is tackling questions of sexual assault and misconduct based on the 2016 GU survey results that found that 31% of female undergraduates have experienced non-consensual sexual contact since entering Georgetown. Based on further research, they found that the best age to inculcate and influence behavior is ages 10-13. Based on that understanding, the team is focusing on creating a graphic novel or similar product that will address the societal factors that encompass sexual education and provide context and an age-appropriate medium for furthering that culture of conversation.

Team Fleece: This group honed in on the issue of microfibers (synthetics, specifically fleece) and their effect on small fish when ingested (hint: they die). To combat this issue, the team proposes to develop a finely woven mesh bag to place the fleece in during washes that will trap the approximately 1.7g of microfiber released from the washing machines during each wash cycle which will reduce the hazardous impact on the aquatic environment.

Team Prenatal: The final team is using a human-centered design process to explore the issue of insufficient prenatal care for low-income, medically under-served D.C. residents. The group, at present, intends to create some sort of field guide as informed by their expanded scope of knowledge as they tackle the issue through the design process.

Now that I’ve had the opportunity to see where the student projects are headed, I’ll be interested to loop around closer to the end of term to see the progress and pivots that happen in the second half of the term as students focus more heavily on the business end of designing for social impact. Next week, I’ll provide an update on my class, University as a Design Problem, and give you a mid-semester report on some of the key findings and commonalities our groups have uncovered.