School of Art, Media, and Technology

Totes and Tech: Student + Alum Projects Aid Sandy-affected Communities!

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In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, faculty and students struggle to not only make up for lost coursework and classes, but also to respond accordingly to the needs of those affected communities near and dear to them. You should already know about our great resource list for those still looking to lend a hand to hurricane victims, but you may not know about how some Parsons students and alumni are using their talents in design and technology to create strong statements and agents of response and recovery.

15 Design Students on a Mission!

Led by Julia Gorton, Assistant Professor of Communication Design, AMT, fifteen design students are currently working to raise funds for affected neighborhoods with custom screen printed tote bags. The project was conceived during the first class meeting following Hurricane Sandy. Gorton’s visits to devastated areas of Red Hook and Coney Island steered the discussion from concerns with making up class work, to an inspired plan to use design to help those affected by the storm. Each student researched one of the hardest hit neighborhoods (Red Hook, Atlantic City, Westbeth, Brighton Beach, Coney Island, Sea Bright, Long Beach Island, Hoboken, Staten Island, Alphabet City, Battery Park City, Chelsea, The Rockaways, The Seaport and the Downtown Financial District) and presented their findings and sketchbook work, while consulting other disaster related design projects, including Milton Glaser’s  “I Love New York More Than Ever,” for guidance and inspiration.

SAND-AID was chosen as the project’s brand name; final designs were sent to the in-house screen maker, 400 totes were bought from Muji, and the SAND-AID tumblr was launched this past weekend–along with the actual screen printing process.

Plans to sell these totes include a pop up lobby shop during Academy classes, via social media outlets and promotions, as well as through individually-pursued opportunities, such as this Wednesday’s “Benefit to Restore Red Hook – Starring Rosanne Cash!”  where this tote, designed by Aaron Knapp, will be on sale.

MFA DT Alumni Extend Thesis Work to Sandy Relief!

Two MFA DT alumni are amazing examples of community-centric, hyper-local civic engagement. Their involvement with technology-based relief efforts is an extension of both their thesis work and their current careers in the non-profit sectors. An interview with each alumni will follow after the holiday, as we all take note of what we’re thankful for, and continue to check back in with how various neighborhood efforts are faring.

Jonathan Baldwin ’12

Field Analyst for New America Foundation (NAF)
Working with Red Hook Initiative

Baldwin’s MFADT thesis was  Tidepools, which is a community-centric mesh network (private, community maintained wireless network), used to manage recovery efforts. Check out the latest press release from NAF/OTI on the work with Red Hook Initiative – covering the Tidepools integration with SMS status updates that he recently finished developing with the community. This article on has a good synopsis on the actual functionality of the mesh network around RHI after Sandy, as well as more information about other tech-centric community outreach, relief and recovery tools.

Jess Klein ’10

Mozilla Foundation
Working with Team Rubicon in Rockaways

Team Rubicon,  a volunteer group of military veterans working to help clean up the disaster areas in the Rockaways, Staten Island, and New Jersey, have partnered with the software company, Palantir, to organize volunteers into teams that have fanned out across the Rockaways (and other affected areas), snapping pictures of homes with Samsung smart phones. The pictures are geotagged, marked with pertinent information about the residents (disabilities, immediate needs), and any work that needs to be done at the property. The photos are then uploaded to a detailed heat map (think Google earth on steroids) that the group uses to track what is needed at every home. Klein, a Rockaways resident, is one of the volunteers manning the map at the Team Rubicon command center, inside an old green school bus. In addition to this project, Klein also built on the fly as a central repository to gather volunteer support. Her MFADT thesis was OceanLab, which was a transmedia, cross-platform ocean safety toolkit and curriculum that was acquired by the NYC Parks Dept.

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