Team Fusion (Photo by: Aaron Down)

As a part of the NYC Design Factory’s Challenge Based Innovation A3 (CBI A3) program, team Fusion traveled to Geneva in the first two weeks of November for an immersive experience at CERN IdeaSquare. We kickstarted the week by meeting our friends from design factories around the globe – Mannheim University of Applied Sciences (Germany), Warsaw University of Technology (Poland), Swinburne University of Technology (Australia), as well as our friendly next-door neighbor Pratt Institute (USA). The two weeks experience emphasized a plethora of exercises to boost complex problem-solving, design thinking, creativity, communication, and teamwork. We were introduced to various deep technologies developed in support of particle physics research at CERN and learned how they are being used for the betterment of societal needs. Our goal was to derive the needs of the society from UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #3, Health and Well-being, and connect them to these deep technologies. The first few days were quite intense (thanks to jetlag) but the excitement to learn took over! Each day we learned something new! 


Gearing up for the day! (Photo by: Aaron Down)

Our usual mornings began with brewing a hot cup of cappuccino at the IdeaSquare kitchen, and then we moved on to our daily energizers. Each team planned an energizer at least once during our two-week intensive. We spoke a little bit of Polish, grooved on Aussie music, played German games, and shared cultural experiences of the States. Our mornings truly began with a bang! We also had a chance to cook and share a bite of our ‘local’ breakfast with our friends from different parts of the world. 

The project workshops and keynote sessions were curated and structured around the design thinking process and mindset and pushed our boundaries to think radically. The quick ideation and rapid prototyping sessions taught us how to come up with innovative ideas within minutes, and even test these ideas. We made some amazing paper prototypes, and models and even role-played some of our ideas for the audience to understand our ideas better. We had a series of workshops around team building and cultivating a growth mindset. These workshops proved to be extremely fruitful and helped us collaborate better within our team and with other teams as well. We shared our hopes, fears, and expectations within our teams, and set personal goals that aligned with the team’s overall expectations. This work helped our team connect and trust each other. For unpacking the deep technology (CERN and ATTRACT), we did a team switch where we worked together as a cross-disciplinary team to understand the technology better. 

Our official invite from the Exoplanet Bureau. (Photo by: Aaron Down)

In addition to prototyping and ideation, we had an uber-cool opportunity to try out some experiments like constructing our cloud chamber at the S’Cool Lab and learning about fundamental particles in the universe. More so, we time-traveled to other planets! Unbelievable, right? We brainstormed and ideated using terraforming in multidisciplinary teams to unlock the possibilities of designing for a better and sustainable future. We visited the CMS, CERN’s heaviest particle detector where we were introduced to the ongoing experiment. We got a guided tour of the UN Headquarters where we met the SDG Lab director and learned about their fieldwork in depth. Quite cool! Isn’t it? That’s not all, to top it all we enjoyed an evening by Geneva Lake with the most delicious cheese fondue ever! (Still drooling over it!) 


We wrapped the two weeks by presenting our ideas to CERNies and our design factory partners. We gathered feedback that helped us understand the problem space from a different perspective and gained some amazing insights on how to develop our ideas further. We celebrated our journey of two long weeks by ending the day with a celebratory dinner at IdeaSquare and sharing some warm hugs with the CBI A3 community and bidding goodbye.

Sachin and Susanna presenting our idea BECA. (Photo by: Howard Tu)

To sum it up, the immersive at IdeaSquare has been the most rewarding two weeks I have ever witnessed. I learned so much in such a short period that I had never imagined in my wildest dream! It fueled my personal and professional growth to an extent that’s astounding. If given an opportunity to do it all over again, I most definitely would, without a second thought!