La Jolla Country Day students place in national design competition

 Allison Casey is the youngest of three finalists in the 2021 National High School Design Competition
La Jolla Country Day School freshman Allison Casey is the youngest of three finalists in the 2021 National High School Design Competition by Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Country Day School)

Allison Casey and Akaash Doshi, both students at La Jolla Country Day School, have been recognized in the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum’s 2021 National High School Design Competition.

The contest prompted 815 entrants to produce an idea to create a healthier world, and Allison, a 14-year-old freshman, is one of the three finalists with her design for a “vaccine truck that will go around to the lower income neighborhoods [where residents] don’t have the resources to get to the vaccines,” she said.

She will participate in a final judging June 12-13 virtually, after which a winner will be announced and awarded a family membership to the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, along with the opportunity to meet with designers and experts who align with the winner’s interests.

La Jolla Country Day School sophomore Akaash Doshi received honorable mention in the design competition.
(Courtesy of Akaash Doshi)

Allison’s vaccine truck idea was driven by her reading that locally “people have been traveling hours to get their [COVID-19] vaccination, but then they were out of the vaccine or something like that. … I just want to make it easier on them … so that they have the same opportunities that other people get.”

Akaash, a 16-year-old sophomore, received honorable mention for his design of a “pedal that can be easily attached to existing door handles,” he said, so they can be opened with one’s foot. “The design of it is simple so that it’s relatively cheap and can be retrofitted on doors for minimal costs.”

Akaash said his idea was inspired by his annoyance when, after washing his hands, “you have to touch a dirty door handle that who knows how many people have touched, especially during COVID times, when sanitation is extra important. I wanted to design a simple way to fix it.”

Both students entered the competition at the encouragement of their teachers in Country Day’s Center for Excellence in Design and Innovation, in which they each take classes in design.

“I just wanted to try [entering the competition] and just get some experience,” Allison said. “I wasn’t expecting to do well.”

But landing among the top three was “surreal,” Allison said, noting the other finalists are at least two years older, some with plans for architectural school after graduation. “I thought it’s really cool that I get the opportunity to work with them.”

As a finalist, Allison was also awarded a one-hour mentoring call with Rachel Smith, senior product designer at Zillow, who helped Allison “organize all my ideas and made sure that they were solid, to help narrow down exactly what I wanted to focus on” ahead of the final judging weekend, Allison said. “She helped me present my ideas more concisely.”

Allison also participated in the finalists’ virtual mentoring weekend May 15-16, during which “we had a lot of one-on-one time” with previous competition winners, she said. “They were able to work on our presentations with us and give us feedback.”

She said her interests in design stem from her father’s work as a software engineer. “I’m very interested in doing … coding and designing things … in the future,” she said, adding she plans to continue in Country Day’s innovation program the next three years.

Akaash said he isn’t sure what his goals are beyond high school, but he also plans to continue in the school’s innovation program.

“I feel like innovation and designing is up my alley,” he said, “and it’s very interesting to me.” ◆