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The FLY Project: Tony Chu

Each week, Interaction Design’s Social Media Officer Cooper Smith will curate a story from the incoming first-year class. This week’s post comes from first-year student, Tony Chu.Talk about a project you’re most proud of.

Before I started the MFA program here at SVA, I was primarily a web developer. This meant I spent my days writing code, thinking about interactions, and occasionally dabbling in design. There is a lot of work I’m proud of in the interaction design space – several projects at UBC, my alma mater, comes to mind. This post is not about any of that, however, because there’s nothing I am more proud of than the work I did at Financial Literacy for Youth.

Financial Literacy for Youth (FLY) started four years ago when two of my accountant friends approached me and said, “High school financial literacy education in Vancouver is awful. Want to do something about it?” What followed was a year of researching and prototyping, writing and designing, to create a new financial literacy curriculum for high school students. Along the way we recruited a team of teachers, accountants, psychologists, and designers. Every week we met with a group of high school students to test and refine our work. At the end of the year, we delivered a curriculum packed with notes, handouts, games, and illustrations.

We thought it was great. Our mentor at the school board loved it. Problem was: uptake among teachers was sporadic at best. “We don’t have time to fit a one week curriculum into the schedule. If only the student can get this outside of class.”

So we pivoted. Our second year was spent organizing a conference for high school students, built around the curriculum. We pulled in our friends in the business world to teach workshops. We recruited banks and accounting firms to talk to students in a tradeshow. We tested and honed games to teach financial concepts. At the first conference, 80 students showed up. So we iterated. At the second conference, 150 students showed up. We iterated again. The third conference had 230 students. FLY’s conference will enter its fourth year this year, led by some of the same students who we worked with and mentored when FLY started.

Although there are design work I did for FLY which I am proud of in their own right, I take much more pride in the work I accomplished outside my disciplinary focus. I learned about print. I wrestled with financial math, and the process of visualizing said math. I taught classes. I led teams. I mentored students. There are a thousand varied things I can hardly believe I did. Curiously, all that work circles back and informs my thinking about interaction design now. There’s nothing quite like teaching and interacting with students to learn whether you designed your curriculum well.

FLY is something I miss dearly about my life in Vancouver. If you happen to know about a similar cause in New York that needs some help, please do let me know.

Tony Chu

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