The IxDA Student Challenge Winner is…

Project keyHue, a projection-mapping tool that helps people with dyscalculia learn music

Colorful sticky notes lined every wall of our design space in Le Sucriére. Squares of blue, green and neon pink outlined ideas, movements, emotions, motivations and barriers. The space looks like something out of a scene from A Beautiful Mind.

That’s the work of nine students in four days, who came together from across the globe to dive head-first into a design brief focused on quality education: how can design increase access and reduce friction for the widest number of people?

Microsoft sponsored nine students to come to Lyon, France for the Student Design Challenge at Interaction 18.

These amazing finalists had four days to research, design, and prototype a solution. Not to mention create and present a 3-minute pitch video. This story is a recap of each team’s project. You can also watch their full pitches here.


Project keyHue

Mélodie Jacob, Katarina Yee, Kevin Ong

Dyscalculia impacts our ability to understand numbers, keep a schedule, tell time, and even be able to judge how far away an object is. Music and categorization exercises tend to help those with dyscalculia improve their skills. With this in mind, the team created a tool to help people with dyscalculia learn how to play music: a projection-mapping application that displays color on a piano keyboard and corresponding colors on digital sheet music.


The team wanted to explore rhythm, provide an outlet for creative expression, and help improve spatial awareness for blind people. Their project is a musical instrument that constructs rhythms using 3D objects. It has a board that translates object’s weights into sounds when placed onto it.


Bodatoo is an interactive, pattern recognition game that allows students to be their most creative, playful selves regardless of personality or ability. They designed Bodatoo as an interactive way to teach rhythm to students with limited mobility or dexterity. The goals are simple — to teach rhythm and patterns celebrate creativity and ensure that everyone participates. Players translate visual patterns into movement and sound, and the experience use gamification to ensure that everyone gets a chance to participate.


Judges Commentary

The judges scored each team on several criteria: if they accomplished the task, how they outlined their goals, the fidelity of their proposed solution, use of the inclusive design process, the extensibility of their solution to other areas, and their storytelling.

“Project keyHue tackled a challenge most people knew nothing about,” judge Haiyan Zhang, Director of Innovation at Microsoft Research, said. “They were able to bring us into the experience of the user, through their video and their research, and by talking to someone with dyscalculia and speaking to some of the emotional challenges they face. Their idea was very innovative, and I liked the combination of an on-screen app and the physicality of still relying on the piano, so a person can, over time, learn how to play a real piano and learn the muscle memory.”

For Neil Churcher, one of our other judges (and Head of Design at Orange), Project keyHue’s ability to provide a connection between their research and the development of the design is what set them apart. “They had an idea to solve some of the challenges their research subject had, and you could see how it was extensible. They also had a believability to it that came through in their presentation, which gave them a little edge.”

For the winning team, it was all shock and excitement as they heard their names announced from the stage.

“Disbelief,” Kevin Ong said. “Just being here was an amazing experience. We took our time and wanted to be sensitive — we didn’t know anything about dyscalculia, so we spent extra time getting to know what we were jumping in to. We’re so grateful to Neil and his daughter Ingrid for letting us call them in New York even with the time difference and helping us build a good case and story.”

None of the winners had previously entered a design competition before, and it was actually Mélodie Jacob’s first time designing a project in English (she primarily speaks French). “I’m glad we got to explore a learning disability and learn more about it — in three days we made a whole project. It was nice to learn how to be efficient, work with people from other teams, schools and languages.”

“I think what I’ve been learning is our networks are so important. We reached out and didn’t just rely on the conference attendees to do extra research. That had a really big impact on our project and guided us forward. Without speaking with Neil, we would have stayed stuck.” — Katarina Yee

Answering the Challenge

The four-day challenge began with an inclusive design workshop led by Margaret Price, a principal design strategist at Microsoft, and Cassie Klingler of Microsoft’s Hacking STEM team. Ana Domb (A UX consultant with a Master’s from MIT) and Ahmed Riaz (who won the first year of the competition, and is head of UX strategy at Logitech) co-chaired the IxDA Student Design Challenge this year.

“It’s such an incredible opportunity to understand how students apply inclusive design,” Margaret Price said. “It’s incredible to see them in their space. One of the greatest benefits of inclusive design is being able to change people’s lives, and hearing from students about how the impact of how inclusive design has shifted their world view reinforces the importance of inclusive design. I hope they walk away with a deeper understanding of inclusive design and how they can take it, pay it forward, and make an impact.”

“I hope the students walk away feeling empowered,” Albert Shum, corporate vice president of design at Microsoft, said. “Design can inspire and create change. There’s tremendous need to make sure that humanity is at the center of everything we make and I’m excited to see the next generation of design thinkers and makers shape our future.”

But at the end of the day, why does design matter? Why does getting involved with students in their design education matter?

“To create inclusive experiences, I fundamentally believe we need to have an inclusive culture that extends the table to bring in different perspectives. How can we shape our world and the products we make to be more inclusive for everyone? This should be design’s agenda for the future we want.” — Albert Shum

“It’s a magical feeling when you see the smile on someone’s face once they’ve been empowered to accomplish something that they were previously unable to do,” Tim Allen, a partner of design at Microsoft, said. “I want more designers to feel that magic as often and as consistently as possible. To me, it’s one of the best aspects of being a designer!”

Neil Churcher added, “In places like this [Interaction 18] you have a collective interest, knowledge, and a desire to pursue what’s important [in design] to project onto students. These challenges are doing good, by helping students take responsibility as designers for what you deliver and generating insights for real problems. It’s a good way to shape education.”

Congratulations again to our winning team, and fantastic effort by all nine students who participated in the challenge!

Interaction 19 is coming to Seattle in 2019, and we’re looking forward to another year of design innovation ahead of us. Thanks for following along for Interaction 18 — hope to see you next year!


More from the IxDA Conference: Meet our nine finalists, and take a look inside their first day of the challenge.

Want to learn more about inclusive design? Head to our website, where you’ll find our Inclusive Design Toolkit, activities, videos and other resources.

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