DTR at a glance

Students participate in DTR through fast-paced, quarter-long programs (intended to be repeated). Students work with a mentor to identify a direction of research, explore and iterate over designs, prototype at varying fidelities, build working systems, conduct evaluative studies, and report findings through conference publications. As a cohort, students demo their prototypes, provide and receive feedback, and help each other resolve technical challenges.

DTR adapts and extends agile development and design-based research practices with scrums, sprints, studio critique, design logs, and pair research. Students embraced these practices and praised their effectiveness for promoting productivity, learning, and collaboration.

Below is a rough schedule for the course. Students meet with the instructor weeks prior to signing up for the course to determine a research direction.

  • Weeks 0 to 2: Learn relevant web, mobile, and wearable technologies.
  • Weeks 1 to 6: Iteratively design and build based on needfinding, frequent user feedback, and in-lab testing.
  • Weeks 6 to 8: Setting up and conducting user studies to test key hypotheses.
  • Weeks 8 to 10: Analyze collected data. Write academic papers for submission to top conferences. Report findings to a general audience on DTR website.

Getting started

Students participate in DTR for one or more quarters. Each quarter is a well-scoped, self-contained research project that culminates in a working prototype, a user study or deployment, and an academic paper. The first time a student participates, the student meets with their mentor in the weeks before a session starts to brainstorm project ideas and research directions. They start with as many as 10-15 ideas, narrow down to a handful that the student’s most interested in, and then dive in to brainstorm and identify a specific project for the quarter. Once a project is identified, a student works individually or in a small group to drive the research.

Grow with time

A first-time participant is expected to build a functioning prototype, conducting a small scale study (10-40 users), and write most of an academic paper (e.g., all sections with the exception of related work). A student continuing beyond a quarter will typically expand on their project by building a scalable, deployable system, conducting medium to large scale studies (100-1000+ users), and writing the entire research paper themselves. As students develop their design, technical, research, and communication skills, they are expected to mentor other DTR students, and to help others with both technical challenges and the research process.