Realizing that Kate's experiences of awkward social exchanges in the dining hall and difficulties navigating from food station to seat were universal issues that all college students experience, we realized that redesigning the layout of the dining hall would lead to a more efficient and pleasant experience for all university students.
What it does
Our first component is a web-based mobile app that allows students to read the daily menu, the nutritional information of each item, and filter the items via dietary restrictions or allergies. The items are broken down by food station, allowing students to easily locate the food items when in the dining hall. Built with universal design concepts, our app is optimized for students with a range of abilities.
Our second component is a redesign of the layout of the dining halls. Based on user research and drawing from our own experiences as university students, we came to the conclusion that dining halls are inefficiently designed. Use of space is not utilized in the most efficient way in order to better suit the needs of the students. Our redesign includes a variety of tactile variation in the flooring and colors to define regions for both visually impaired students and students non-visually impaired students. The ratio of smaller tables (for 1-2 people) to larger ones is also increased, as based on our research, most university students tend to eat by themselves or with one other person. This allows for an effective arrangement of space and a decreased in wasted occupied space. Visual and tactile cues are integrated into the structure and planning of the dining hall to prevent systemic barriers to an enjoyable and stress-free experience in the dining hall.
How we built it
We spent many hours grappling with the challenge prompt until we identified the larger issue: inefficient dining halls. After realizing this was a universal issue, we researched usability guidelines such as Section 508, Material Design Accessibility, World Health Organization, Microsoft Inclusive Toolkit Manual, and W3C, among others. As two of our team members attended the Pre-Hackathon Event at Continuum, we utilized the "Mad-Libs" approach the Perkins Innovation team used for the Bus Locating application. Using this as our first step, we fine tuned our ideas through the design workshops hosted by Aaron Leventhal and Miriam Zisook to ensure that our design was approached with an accessibility mindset but had universal benefits.
We then went through user flows of the dining hall experience for various students currently, designed wire flows for our proposed solution, and went to wire framing and prototyping. While we were designing and developing the application and the floor plans, we also developed a projected income statement for implementing this solution to forecast the sustainability and feasibility of this project. Though market analysis, we found it to be not only sustainable and effective, but also scalable to different universities.
After designing the prototype for the application and designing the floorplan, we tested everything through usability testing, contrast checkers (passed with AAA), checking our assumptions with Kate and Cory, and testing the tactile flooring using 3D printed models.
Challenges we ran into
Kate, our challenge expert, went home for a duration of the hackathon, so we were forced to make some assumptions during the development process. When she returned the next morning, we had an opportunity to run user testing and received feedback. A few of our assumptions were incorrect, and so we had to pivot our project to better solve the problems at hand.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're proud of taking the time to really hone in on what the problem really was. We didn't jump right into building a solution, and we made it a priority to ensure Kate was a part of the product development cycle and to emphasize both accessibility and universal design. We also didn't just build a technical solution to build, but rather considered how can we modify the currently existing structures that impeded a positive experience in the dining hall.
What we learned
We learned so much about accessibility, how experiences differ and are similar regardless of the range of disabilities, as well as how to be more accessibility-focused and universally focused during the design process.
What's next for Perkins-University-Dining
We would love to see this expand into utilizing RFID sensors, smart canes, etc.
Ask the Dialogflow assistant things like 'Hello Perkins', 'What's on the menu?' and follow the prompts!