top of page


Engineering students at the University of Pittsburgh are often stretched for time and as a result sacrifice getting a full nights rest each day. In this project, we aim to develop a solution to allow students to relax between classes.

Identified Stakeholders:

  • University of Pittsburgh

  • Swanson School of Engineering

  • Students

  • Faculty

  • Janitorial Staff

1. User Outreach

Data Collection Methods:

  • Google Forms Survey​

    • 168 responders​

    • Reached out through Facebook, GroupMe

  • One on One Interviews​

    • 10 interviews​

Survey Results:


Open-Ended Results:

"What word do you associate with napping?"

2. Ideate and Prototype

Team began by walking around the building for inspiration

Initial Ideas:

  • Whiteboards that fold out into beds

  • Desks that rotate over into beds

  • Utilizing bench space for rest

Pretotype of desk that rotates into bed

As a desk

As a bed

Pretotype of bench space utilization

3. Re-Define the Problem
Our team took a step back to ask: are we solving the right problem?
Back to the basics: WHY ARE WE DOING THIS?
  • Because college students are stressed and tired
New Plan: Develop a solution to relax students
The idea: Test 3 different types of Zen Gardens to see if this reaches our goal
Meet the Zens
Zen 1: Original Zen
Zen 2: Digital Zen
Zen 3: Ferrofluids Zen
Data Results



  • 45% of people who walked by looked at the Zen

  • 11% of people stopped to play with the Zen


Zen Garden:

  • 10/10 people interviewed liked it.

  • Users wanted info on Zen history, larger rocks, and finer sand

  • Quotes from Users:

    • “This is Zentastic”

    • “We are all just pieces of sand in a zen box”

    • “Seeing it makes a positive impact on my day”

    • “Playing with this is surprisingly soothing”



Digital Zen:


  • 12% Thought it was interesting

  • 35% of people didn’t understand it

  • 53% of people didn’t like it

Ferrofluids Zen:


  • 67% of users enjoyed it

  • Suggestions for improvements:

    • “More lights”

    • “More magnets to play with”

    • “Add colors”

    • “Turn it into a game”

bottom of page