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Spelman Team Finishes Second in BioDesign Challenge

July 2021

Spelman Students win BioDesign Challenge
In Spelman’s first time participating, a team representing the College beat out 51 other teams to garner second place in the BioDesign Challenge this year.

Spelman’s project, Sub·ver·sive /səbˈvərsiv/ - BioFashion for Black Lives, features a bio designed hoodie that collects biometric data. The individual data collected can be crowdsourced across urban landscapes and used by entities designed to provide therapeutic and protective response mechanisms.

The team, which included first-year students Mika Campbell, Grace Burch, Savannah Adams, and junior Abigail Gordon, considered themes of mental health and vulnerable populations, safety and security for women and the curation of ancestral legacy when developing their prototype, said Jaye Nias, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer and information sciences.

"We decided to utilize a speculative design process that incorporated Afrofuturist discourse. It was a great opportunity to push students to imagine a future where Black bodies could explore the full breadth of the human experience," said Dr. Nias. "We challenged ourselves to think critically about where we find Blackness in BioFuturists design that holds on to our culture and propels our societal progress. We hope to be able to continue iterating on our design through prototyping methods once everyone returns to campus."

In addition to Dr. Nias, Robert Hamilton, senior instructor in the Department of Art & Visual Culture, Tiffany Oliver, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of biology, Mark Maloney, Ph.D., professor of biology, and Phillip Thompson, Spelman Innovation Lab manager, advised the students on their project.