AMES, Iowa — Ana Pinto da Silva, co-founder and chief executive officer of innovative modular home company Minka, Inc. and former principal user experience design lead for Amazon, will kick off Iowa State University’s first Ignite Innovation Showcase with a lecture Friday, April 16.

Pinto da Silva will present the College of Design Dean’s Charrette Keynote Lecture, “Learning Courage: Designing Innovation in a Post-COVID World,” at 5 p.m. via Zoom (also live on YouTube). The online event is free and open to the public. Please register in advance to receive the zoom link.

Pinto da Silva synthesizes her interests in design, storytelling, architecture and emerging technologies with her deep passion for creative collaboration. In 2017, she co-founded Minka, a company that designs, prefabricates and delivers energy-efficient kit homes that can stand alone, act as accessory dwelling units or be combined to develop pocket neighborhoods.

Minka uses robotics and scalable digital systems to “print” homes more quickly and efficiently than traditional homes can be built. The company provides a radical alternative to traditional housing, building intergenerational communities that seek to strengthen connections, improve health and increase well-being.

As a designer, technologist and community leader, Pinto da Silva has led future-forward design innovation initiatives traversing healthcare, education, civics, shopping and productivity for Amazon, Microsoft, NBBJ and others. Her work explores the nexus of leading-edge scientific research, design thinking, business development and social change, underscoring the continued need to develop products and services that center underserved populations as both drivers and recipients of first-tier technology innovation.

As we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves at a crossroads, Pinto da Silva says. “What will be the arc of our creative potential? How will we use innovation to define a new future for ourselves, our families and our collective communities? What will be the framework for our ‘new normal?’ How must education change to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead?”

In her keynote, Pinto da Silva will explore the intersection of equity, innovation and technology, challenging us as a collective community to center courage as the central driver for transformational change in a post-COVID-19 world.

Dean’s Charrette

The keynote lecture will kick off a weekend-long virtual charrette competition with more than 40 students representing each of the undergraduate colleges and every department in the College of Design. A charrette is a rapid, intensive design process in which participants think holistically about a project to generate and test ideas and potential outcomes.

Titled “The Future of [Design] Education: Places of Learning,” the charrette competition challenges students to create proposals for new, hybrid places of learning for higher education after COVID-19. Working virtually in interdisciplinary teams, students will be asked to explore solutions to questions including:

  • How might we reframe learning spaces, places and practices in our college communities in the post-pandemic era?
  • How might we investigate, co-create and locate places that can reconnect people and enhance collective well-being, teaching and learning?
  • How might we make learning universal to all [design] students and reimagine our spaces to create equitable, accessible and inclusive places of learning?

Students will work virtually with faculty mentors in a series of mini-workshops, team activities and creative sessions Saturday, April 17, and Sunday, April 18, to develop initial ideas. They will then continue refining their conceptual proposals for online presentation to a panel of judges from across campus at 1 p.m. Thursday, April 22. The winning team will be announced at the Innovation Awards Ceremony at 2 p.m. Friday, April 23.

Civic Innovation and Community Change Making

In addition to the Dean’s Charrette, the College of Design will play an active role in innovation showcase events on Thursday, April 22, around the theme of “Civic Innovation: Community Change Making.”

Dean Luis Rico-Gutierrez and other members of ISU senior leadership will present a pre-recorded panel “On Civic Innovation: Leading Social Engagement,” which will include discussion of the university’s land-grant mission and public-service, social innovation and community engagement initiatives.

Other College of Design events include an online social entrepreneurship ’zine launch; an in-person panel discussion of high-impact practices in service learning, community engagement and civic innovation across the curriculum; a Wearables Design Show virtual community workshop and a live Zoom discussion of the immersive design opportunities the show is bringing to the first-year student experience.


Register to access these and all Ignite Innovation Week events. Questions may be directed to Ana Luz, analuz@iastate.edu.


Ana Luz, Design Innovation and Entrepreneurship Coordinator, analuz@iastate.edu
Rachel Moylan, Design Events Coordinator, rmoylan@iastate.edu
Heather Sauer, Design Communications Director, hsauer@iastate.edu