Student Work

Teaching students to think in disruptive and generous ways

Hand Drive

A wheelchair attachment that could make lever-powered wheelchairs more accessible to everyday users

The Hand Drive is a 3D-printed wheelchair attachment that can be attached to any wheelchair, allowing it to be powered in a rowing motion. This motion is better for your back, as it uses bigger muscle groups, it’s more efficient for your body, and it keeps your hands cleaner. Traditionally levered-powered designs cost anywhere from $2,000-$10,000, but because Hand Drive is almost entirely 3D-printed and completely open source, it costs less than 1% of the competitors’ options.

The Hand Drive was a finalist in the Hackaday Prize Best Product Competition and was exhibited at the 3D “Printing the Future” show at MoDA (Museum of Design of Atlanta). It was included at the White House Science Fair in 2015 and featured in Wired Magazine.

Play Structure

A group of NuVu students designed a play structure for the new playground construction in the south end of Danehy Park.

Danehy Park, the largest park in the city of Cambridge, has a complicated history that includes everything from brick manufacturing to landfilling operations. After researching that history, NuVu students generated several designs, considering factors that included budget, safety and accessibility. Students presented their final proposal, an accessible art-play structure inspired by Danehy Park’s industrial legacy, to the Cambridge Arts Council, where it was enthusiastically accepted. Their winning design called “Pipe Dreams" was built and installed in 2021 at the Louis A. DePasquale Universal Design Playground, Cambridge’s first universal design playground, which opened in November 2021.

Bioluminescent Algae

This project uses sophisticated visual effects to simulate the activation of algae. Students worked with a Hollywood FX artist, learning to use a professional tool called Houdini. The final result is a short video which shows how flashes of blue light are triggered when the algae are moved by the wave.

Other projects from the same studio simulated natural phenomena like lightning strikes, crystal formation and the complex movements of schools of fish.

Rebuilding the Philippines

A student with family in the Philippines, where tropical storms and typhoons often damage buildings, decided to design a storm-resistant community center for Tacloban City. After researching the physics of storms, the student learned about resilient architecture and began to generate several rounds of both physical and digital prototypes.

The final project not only used forms and materials that can stand up to strong winds but also incorporated many elements of Filipino-style architecture, ensuring that the building would fit seamlessly into its intended setting.