As part of ThinkChicago in Fall 2018, Alexa participated in a civic tech challenge in order to solve civic problems in the Chicago area. Her chosen topic was education, and the specific problem was lack of student involvement in after school programs. After discussion with past Chicago Public School (CPS) students the team created a proposal for CPS Connect, a website that allows students to view all of the local events in one place. Additionally, this website will connect parents with their children's schedules which is particularly useful for working parents with more than one child. Further, the students and parents will be able to sort events by students' interests, age levels, and locations to find events that are appropriate for the individual student.
Alexa and her sister, Vic, learned about social entrepreneurship through the learn-by-doing curriculum provided by Acumen+. In this course, Alexa helped Vic define and scope a problem she was having as a social servant. The course lead them through combining passions and skills to solve social problems using techniques such as Theory of Change, Ecosystem Mapping, and Scaling which were documented and presented at the end of the course. While Alexa and Vic did not create a prototype in this course, they are planning on continuing research in the ecosystem and begin prototyping static GUIs.
Throughout her college career, Alexa has gotten the opportunity to learn many different 3D modeling softwares. One class was focused on CATIA, which is commonly used in the aerospace and auto industries. Throughout the course, students were taught to create both drawings and digital 3D models of parts and assemblies as well as compile this work into a digital portfolio. For her final project, Alexa modeled a small multi-tool.
In many of her other design experiences, Alexa has not had the opportunity do full statistical analysis on the customers or the impact of the final design. In her engineering statistics class, she was able to practice these aspects of research and design with a small team. The team chose to study the sleep patterns of fellow Purdue students to determine whether a student’s college affiliation had an impact on their sleep. After determining that college affiliation did have a significant impact on amount of sleep students get, we presented our findings.
As a multidisciplinary engineer, Alexa has been able to take a wide range of classes. One of the electives that she chose to take was a history class that focused on the role of gender in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. While the course primarily focused on research, students were also encouraged to machine a product that worked to created more equitable experience for men and women. Alexa chose to solve a problem that she had been having in her personal life and apply that solution to many other groups of people. Her product was a handle to augment equipment at the gym for different body types. While this solution solved her problem, it also opened her eyes to the other populations that are restricted from fitness facilities because of their bodies.
One of the most fulfilling and impactful experiences that Alexa an 8-week Cultural Hackathon. In the Cultural Hackathon, Alexa was paired with a community partner, Beebe Arts LLC, to help improve branding and outreach. This included re-designing the company business card, website, and Instagram page to better represent the company and improve clarity for new clients. Alexa worked with another student and the founder of Beebe Arts LLC, Chanel Beebe, to iterate designs quickly to reach a solution that worked both for Chanel and potential new clients. After 8-weeks, Alexa presented the design process used, as well as the impact that the experience had on the community and the design team. Although the project was over, Alexa and Chanel decided to continue their work together through an internship.
During her junior year, Alexa participated in Purdue's first annual 3 Day Startup program. This program introduced her to entrepreneurship and gave her experience with rapid prototyping, need finding, and customer discovery. She and a team of four other students noticed a gap in the running app market. They interviewed customers at running stores and students at Purdue University's fitness facilities to gather more data, which was then coded to determine customer needs. They created a wireframe and mock up of a running app that would allow runners to get more variations in their running routes while remaining safe. At the end of this weekend event, Alexa and her team presented their design and business model to a panel of investors and all other student participants.