Black and white headshots of the five symposium speakers.

SCDC and SEDTAPP collaborate to host virtual symposium on design thinking

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The Stuckeman Center for Design Computing (SCDC) is collaborating with the School of Engineering Design, Technology and Professional Programs at Penn State to bring its annual Flash Symposium and Open House to the virtual environment on Sept. 25. The theme of the 2020 online event is “Design Thinking.”

“This symposium explores how, as designers, we design thinking,” said Yasmine Abbas, assistant teaching professor in the Stuckeman School’s Department of Architecture and the lead organizer of the event. “How do we design holistic approaches to curating and optimizing the spaces, scenarios and systems within which we design – so as to fully and beneficially leverage the feedback loops between our environmental (and social and psychological, etc.) contexts and our thinking (processes and outcomes)?”

“Making the program virtual is particularly meaningful at the present moment,” added DK Osseo-Asare, assistant professor of architecture and engineering design, and symposium co-organizer. “Especially during a time of COVID-19 – when many of us are socially distanced from not only each other, but also our research labs, libraries, classrooms and workshops/fabrication labs; and when systemic issues of racial and social justice and equity are resurfacing once again in the United States.”

It is critical for us, as a society, to discover how better understanding of these relationships can inform redesign of our world to be more just, more sustainable, more healthful and more inclusive into the future.” — DK Osseo-Asare

Speakers for the virtual event, which will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., include:

  • Winifred Elysse Newman, acting associate dean for research and graduate studies and Homer Curtis Mickel and Leona Carter Mickel Endowed Chair in the School of Architecture at Clemson University, and director of the Institute for Intelligent Materials, Systems and Environments. In her talk, titled “What does digital have to do with it?” she will speak about the expanding digital world and how the relationship between designers and digital tools fosters computational design thinking.
  • Dan Lockton, assistant professor in the School of Design at Carnegie Mellon University and director of the Imaginaries Lab. “New Ways to Think, New Ways to Live: Imaginaries, Design, and Futures” will explore idea of imaginaries — the mental images and understandings people have of big concepts from the climate to their own health — and how designers can work with these, to uncover them, help people share them and help people reimagine how life could be.
  • Aradhana Goel leads research and design strategy for Bayer Pharmaceutical’s cardiovascular therapeutics platform as part of the Digital Ventures team. She will speak on “Design Thinking in Service of Behavior Change,” or how design and data together can help create sustainable behavior change and help reframe people’s perspectives.
  • Katja Hölttä-Otto, associate professor of product development in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Aalto University. Her talk will touch on the role of empathy in design for well-being and discuss evidence-based decision-making in multidisciplinary design processes.
  • Darla Lindberg, professor of architecture at Penn State, will also present the findings of her book “Outside the Skin: Systems Approaches to Society’s Larger Structural Issues.” Published in January 2019 by Applied Research & Design, the book takes design thinking outside the skin (of buildings and people) to present an emergent architecture of collective choice and consequence.

“We are fortunate to have a some of the leading engineering design researchers right here at Penn State. This event will help strengthen our students’ and faculty ties with international design leaders and help us continue to broader our notions of design and its impact in the world.,” said Scarlett Miller, associate professor of engineering design and industrial engineering, and director of both the Brite Lab and the Engineering Design program in SEDTAPP. Miller also contributed to organizing the symposium.

In addition to the speakers, SCDC faculty and student researchers will share the projects they have been working on for the past year via an online platform that translates the physical layout of the SCDC and SEDTAPP facilities into in a virtual interactive space. The specific link will be shared with symposium attendees.

“Typically, our researchers have their posters on display in our lab within the Stuckeman Family Building during the Open House and they discuss their projects with symposium participants who tour our space,” explained José Pinto Duarte, director of the SCDC and the Stuckeman Chair in Design Innovation. “This year, due to concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus, our researchers will present their posters online, which actually allows people from around the world to see the important work we are doing, not just those who are on campus.”

The SCDC is devoted to advancing design research and learning in computational design. The center’s research includes engaging in architectural robotics, simulation and visualization, game development, geographic information systems, sustainable development and digital fabrication, as well as historical and theoretical aspects of computation in design.

Registration for the 2020 Flash Symposium, which is free and open to the public, is required via For more information, including the full schedule of events, visit the event website.