What It’s Like to Spend a Summer at DtM 2017

Celine Ta, Engineering Fellow


This summer has been a whirlwind six-week exercise in making a refined prototype on a limited budget and timeline, including my favorite part of the design process: scoping out priorities and making hard trade-offs. I’ve been interested in applying my design and engineering background to social problems for the past couple years, but many of the socially-minded projects I’ve worked on before were in early development, before the concept is fully fleshed out. While that stage in product design is creative and fun, this project was a really rare opportunity to push a product through its final stages of development before manufacturing. 

I split my time between designing, programming, and integrating a functional interface system and collaborating with manufacturers on a custom heating element. My most lasting contribution will likely be bringing the Otter heating element closer to its mass-manufacturable final version. We started with some pretty crazy designs and an even crazier timeline, but the manufactured heating elements will ship to our office on the last day of the internship! I’m excited to end this project with a fully integrated prototype of a newborn warmer, complete with a functional interface and heating system that we can field-test in Southeast Asia or sub-Saharan Africa.

In three years, I hope to be leading research into how technology can support equity in the U.S. and prototyping concepts that improve health or urban life. 


Kelly Brennan, Engineering Fellow


This summer, my goal was to practice and develop my engineering skills in a meaningful way. After working on Otter all year in my Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship Course, my summer internship continuing to work on the project was a great fit! I was stoked to create a more finalized works-like and interacts-like prototype.
I have been focusing on developing the next iteration of the electronics system, including closed-loop temperature control and interface functionality. I explored electrical design and PCB programs such as EAGLE. It has been amazing to practice PCB design and prototyping by using the Othermill to make PCB traces very easily. We have been able to rapidly iterate on our electrical prototypes. Some of my favorite challenges to tackle were: learning a new PCB design software, learning to make the PCBs with Othermill, making the interface PCB fit the exact outline of the interface, and designing the Otter system PCB to be compatible with multiple power supplies. It has been an amazing process and I really enjoyed working with and learning from Malory, Celine, and Tim too!
In three years, I hope to be a happy medical student who is able to do some global-health related product development.


Malory Johnson, Industrial Design Fellow


I originally became interested in social impact design after graduating with a degree in Industrial Design. I found Design that Matters and fell in love with the mission. Since working here, I’ve learned more about product design and research through focusing on a very motivating objective. However, I’ve also learned a great amount about the philosophy of design, and what role my skill can and should take in order to leave the world a little better.

My favorite parts of the design process are the start of a project when you are navigating a new, ambiguous problem, and the end where you polish and refine work that once seemed like a mess into a surprisingly well finished product. The objective  of this sprint was the latter. Our results were a finished prototype that both looks and works like the Otter we plan to manufacture in 2019.

In three years, I hope to be in the process of building my own social enterprise that will encourage a sustainable lifestyle by incentivizing cyclical consumerism and equipping people to repair the things they own.