Rice Design for America
Design Innovation for Social Good

West U Organizers


West U Backpacks

We are seeking to help West U Elementary School students with their organization within the classroom. Saving one back at a time.



Date: September 24, 2016

Tell us about your team.

We are team Got Your Back,  a group of Rice University students representing different years, majors, and interests. However, collectively, we are driven to use human-centered design to help young students.

What are you looking forward to most as a team this year?

We are excited to learn about and utilize the design process, and engage with our community while doing so. We hope to let our creative juices flow and come up with a viable solution, that is both useful for this community and scalable to other communities.

What is a challenge you expect to overcome this semester?

Challenges we expect to overcome include balancing our commitment with DFA with our academics, continuous communication with the elementary school, picking up technical skills with physically building prototypes, dealing with iterations, and ultimately, coming up with a creative but effective solution.




Did you conduct user interviews this week? If so what insight did you gain?

We visited West U Elementary School twice this week. By talking to teachers and students, we were able to narrow down our problem space and assess what the source of the problem is. We found that the problem is related to students’ mobility with excess of materials and organizers that they need to carry. We also learned that there is an existing prototype made by the teachers that we can consider using in our own design.

Screenshot 2016-10-26 17.34.08.png



What are the biggest key insights you’ve gained for your project?

  • About half of the students walk, bike, or scooter home
  • Kids carry around more than 1 bag
  • Kids move from class to class without backpacks, but with bags or binders
  • Kids carry all their supplies because they don’t want to forget anything
  • School doesn’t allow backpacks in classrooms
  • Lockers and cubbies exist but are very small
  • Backpacks are not allowed in the classroom because they take up a lot of floor space and students trip
  • Teachers all have different systems
  • Average weight carried around school is 9.926
  • Straps are hurting their shoulders
  • The binder breaks easily (zipper, velcro)
  • Binders are expensive (~$30-40)
  • Disagreement between students and teachers on what the cause of people carrying so much is
  • Students do not easily find necessary materials around desks
  • Significant portion of time each day devoted to students gathering materials
  • Students have too many materials to fit in their backpacks and a lot are unnecessary
  • Frequently use paper assignments; rarely have digital assignments
  • Students complain about heavy backpacks often
  • Students like to share materials with one another
  • Large bags enable kids to carry more stuff
  • Compartments are good
  • Two straps are good
  • Average weight/height of male 10 year olds: 88.3 lbs, 56 in
  • Average weight/height of female 10 year olds: 90.7 lbs, 56.9 in
  • Typical daily load is 8-12 kg (17.6-26.5 lbs) for 12 year olds
  • About 5,000 kids visit emergency room each year because of backpack related injuries
  • At least 14,000 kids treated for backpack related injuries

What is your new HCW statement?

How can we help 5th grade students at West U Elementary School to easily organize and carry around all their necessary materials in a single consolidated manner?

What are your hopes for your project?

We hope to have a low-fidelity, working prototype by the end of the semester after 2-3 iterations.

Ideate / Post Mid-Semester Review


What feedback did you receive from Mid-Semester Review?

  • Feasibility to complete project in semester
  • Whether students will actually use our solution
  • Define costs more clearly
  • Talk to parents

Which idea have you decided to focus on?

  • Standing upright
  •  Organizability with accordion folder and compartments

Phase: Build / Test

Date: 11/05/16

What did you initially build / test? What does your prototype look like and how will you improve on it?

We built a very low-fidelity prototype of the entire backpack, with a foldable rigid bottom and a detachable accordion folder.

What do you plan on doing in the upcoming week?

We are shifting our focus to be a device that can attach to exist backpacks, but with the same concept of a foldable rigid bottom and accordion folder. Our reasoning is because rather than making students buy new back-packs, we think we can solve the problem with an add-on instead of an entirely new replacement. An attachment rather than a backpack will also be cheaper and more scalable.