Addressing Belonging Among Neurodiverse Students, “Dialog” Wins No Code Design Sprint 

Dialog, an application to increase a sense of belonging on campus for student with disabilities, won the fast-paced, seven-day No Code Design Sprint, hosted by Syracuse University Libraries, the College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA), and School of Education (SOE), in partnership with Intelligence++.  

The final round—a pitch competition—was held in the Whitman School of Management on Feb. 9, 2024, led by Don Carr, Professor in the VPA School of Design, and VPA alumnus Kai Alexander Patricio G’23, a design consultant at Matchstix in Brooklyn, NY. 

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Group holding awarded cheque.

A multidisciplinary team, Dialog is made up of Fasika Melese G’18, G’19, a doctoral student in SOE’s Instructional Design, Development, and Evaluation program; Viha Mashruwala, G’24, a master’s degree student in the School of Information Studies Applied Data Science program; Lang Delapa ’24, a senior in the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications Advertising program; and Sawyer Tardie ’27, a Whitman School of Management freshman. 

The Dialog team consulted with students from SOE’s InclusiveU program to identify a challenge neurodiverse students face—loneliness. To increase their sense of belonging, the team designed and developed a mobile app to help develop communication skills, including prompts for journaling, discussions boards, daily challenges, and more.

Honorable mention went to LearSona, a team that developed a working prototype of an app that offers academic content to users in a medium that fits their learning preference, such as visual, textual, or kinesthetic. 

Other teams pitching their ideas—and developing inclusive design solutions—were Optimal Assessment, an artificial intelligence-powered teaching and assessment “co-pilot” for professors, to tailor course content for different learning preferences; Equilearn, a learning platform to address the “pain points” of accessible education; and BookTalk, a platform that encourages neurodiverse students to better understand material by sharing learnings with each other. 

The Design Sprint began on February 2, with an intensive workshop on no code and inclusive design led by Kai Patricio. The author of “Design Led No Code,” Patricio is an expert in regenerative design, inclusive design, interaction design, and the development of new digital interfaces. 

After the initial workshop, teams met together across the week with the goal of creating a minimum viable product (MVP) for an inclusive product or service that could enter the pitch competition on February 9 and win a prize of $500, plus $5,000 in Amazon Web Services credits. 

Coaches for the week of intensive idea development were Samantha Calamari, Senior Learning Experience Designer, Microsoft; Quinton Fletchall, Senior Design Researcher, Conifer Research; Max Mirho, Content Creator, Make with Max; and Andrew Tsao, Founder, Codeless Coach.

The competition judges were Samantha Calamari; Seth Gitner and Adam Peruta ’00, G’04, both associate professors in the S.I. Newhouse School Of Public Communications Magazine, News, and Digital Journalism program; Aimara Rodriguez, Co-founder of Function Wellness; Brenton Strine, Co-founder and CTO of Kicky Art; and Gianfranco Zaccai ’70, H’09, Co-founder of innovative design firm EPAM Continuum and Founder of Intelligence++. Joining the hosts as competition sponsors were the Couri Hatchery and CuseHacks.