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A quick look at my resume.

my name is Kayla Matheus, and I am a creative problem solver.

Kayla Matheus


235 W Van Buren St. Apt. 4115 Chicago, IL 60607

Yale University, May 2011


Concord-Carlisle High School, 2007


paid experience

design thinking human-centered design rapid prototyping metal machining wood machining CAD/CAM graphic design sketching photography basic programming written editing Spanish language

S.C. Johsnon Senior Associate in Design (Winter 2014 - Present)

software Abode CS 4, 5, 6 Solidworks MasterCAM Microsoft Office/iLife

I want to create meaningful objects that improve our human condition using engineering and design.

BA: Art (graphic design, sculpture), Mechanical Engineering Cum Laude, Distinction in the Major

hobbies soccer guitar swing dancing

bringing human-centered design practices to technology development early on, conducting consumer research, and designing new products for malaria prevention.

Altitude Freelance Mechanical Engineer (Winter 2014) designing and developing prototypes for a novel product in the surgical world.

Design for America Fellow, Project Consultant (Fall 2012 - Fall 2013) mentoring university students studios across the country in human-centered design, creating learning tools for them, and participating in organizational strategy.

Segal Design Institute, Northwestern University Instructor (Winter 2013 - Spring 2013) teaching a section of the course “Design Thinking and Communication� to a group of sixteen freshman engineering majors.

Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design Design Intern (Fall 2011 - Fall 2012) assisting in the creation of a new interdisciplinary center aimed at undergraduates in engineering and design.

My approach to design is based in two beliefs. art + engineering = design As a recent graduate in art and engineering from Yale University, I have a love for merging the creative and the technical. In art, I learned to think in an intuitive, goal-oriented fashion and to push the bounds of reality. In engineering, I learned a more functional, detail-oriented method driven by the properties of the physical world. Blending these two modes of thought creates something powerful: a method of problem solving that is conceptual and creative while at the same time grounded in utility and craftsmanship. I believe that this mindset is vital to the makings of a good designer.

human-centered design Yet pure function can be impersonal, while pure form may lack in impact. Art and engineering become unified in design when they are anchored by the human as user. Between my schoolwork, work for the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design, and experience now as Fellow for Design for America, I have come to firmly believe in the processes of design thinking and human-centered design. Their common elements of “innovation� - problem definition, user empathy, research analysis, rapid prototyping, user testing, interdisciplinary teams, iteration etc. - are divergent yet honest. They are tailored to actually solve real needs, and solve them truly. I believe that in addition to the blend of emotional awareness and free-thinking with logical analysis and functional rigor, good design creates things that matter.


I want to work with my mind and my hands. a problem (space)

assumptions questions



design goals

“how can we� statement(s)






robust design

implementation model pitch pilot


parts of the design process I am most interested in.

form function manufacturing test environment

rough design



sustained impact Above: A visual analysis of the design process I created and then tailored for Design for America tools and guides, 2013.

I don’t want to siloed into being a CAD monkey (though I do love working in Solidworks). I believe the best designs come from working in interdisciplinary teams all throughout the design process. I am specifically interested in applying the insights that come from research towards the ideation of solutions, and then following through with those ideas into the prototyping and testing phases.

Project 1: Body-powered Prosthetic Hand.

The body-powered prosthetic hand aims to be a passive, under-actuated, and anthropomorphic prosthetic powered by a traditional shoulder harness used by many upper body amputees. While most modern prosthetics are complex and expensive, this project hopes to bring a cheaper and more effective alternative. I worked on this project with a graduate student at the Grab Lab at Yale university over a summer. My part in the project was designing and manufacturing the fingers, grips, and palm for the hand.

I designed the prosthetic fingers based off the human hand and the robot finger technology used by the lab. The Grab Lab uses rubber joints that bend when a line is pulled rather than difficult-to-control motors.

After 3D printing to get the right form, we turned to figuring out how to manufacture the fingers at a lower cost. We developed a series of mold-making and CNC milling steps to get the complex forms and grips.

Once the fingers were developed, I moved onto the design of the entire palm and connections to the fingers and mechanical interior. This complex geometry was a new CAD challenge.

One fascinating part of this project was researching the perspective of prosthetic hand users. We worked with a hook user to better understand their needs and ensure that tasks could be easily accomplished.

Project 2: Cassava Dryer for Sub-Saharan Africa.

This cassava dryer is the result of a team project in appropriate technology intended for farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa. Powered by a 12-volt battery, the dryer eliminates the need to travel long distances to a cassava plant or wait for sun-based drying. The battery is charged by farmers using a novel technology that harnesses energy from pre-existing sources, such as human-powered bicycles or spinning motorcycle wheels, and converts it into mechanical or electrical energy. More information at:

Initial dryer concepts ranged from tumblers to “salad spinners” to dehumidifiers. We ultimately chose a dehydrating concept that uses a fan to carry away moisture.

The crux of our design lies in the use of a “Kentank” – a commonly used water tank in Sub-Saharan Africa. We used all locally-available materials and skills so as to encourage a sustainable and local economy.

A significant factor in drying times was the density and size of the cassava on the trays. We ran experiments to determine the optimal arrangement and ensure that drying times made sense for the cost of the dryer.

In order to mimic the hot and humid conditions of Sub-Saharan Africa in the middle of winter in Connecticut, we built a full-scale humidity chamber to test our prototype and different cassava densities.

Project 3: DFA Mentoring & Strategy.

Gathering stories and perspectives from DFA students at a meetup of our studios in the East Coast. Students drew themselves before and after DFA so we could better understand our target user’s motivations.

A comprehensive communications plan for transparency and the transfer of information between DFA headquarters and our studios and project teams.







As a Design for America (DFA) Fellow, I have worked on a myriad of mini-projects contributing to the support of DFA students and growth of the organization as a whole. My primary role was to mentor 5 studios at universities across the countries, which translates to around 125 students and 25 design projects. In addition, I worked with other DFA staff to improve communications, student learning, and organizational logistics.





NETWORK (individual)

SPONSOR/ DONOR (organization) Faculty Mentor

One identified need was fostering a deeper understand of the theory of human-centered design and how to do certain parts of the process. I spearheaded the effort to create a comprehensive design process guide.


Implementation Partner

Community Partner



Summer Studio

Leadership Studio



NETWORK (organization)

Professional Mentor





At an organizational level, we identified that DFA needed to keep track of its numbers and metrics. Here, a map I helped create of the entities at play in our organization.

Project 4: Stool-Chair.

This piece provides a functional and aesthetic improvement to a traditional art stool. While cardboard is not conventionally sturdy or comfortable, the interlocking lattice structure can support an average human’s weight and remain comfortable over time. As there are no fasteners, the stool remains unharmed and can be returned to normal by disassembling the chair pieces.

Initial concept sketches to figure out curvature, structural supports, and interfacing with the stool.

The top-down lattice structure.

Each cardboard piece was hand-cut and together form a cohesive curvature for comfort.

Testing with a user (she liked it!)

Project 5: Jacket-Tent.

This project is a response to the prompt of making a garment that transforms into a shelter. I was inspired by disaster-relief efforts in current events and sought to create a hypothetical emergency shelter in wearable form. I took care to use the aesthetic of emergency situations in attractive ways while also making the piece fully functional as a tent. To view the transformation:

Initial sketching of various shapes and configurations. A big decision point was the shape of the head of the tent that would become the hood of the jacket, as well as the number of panels.

Initial prototyping at a small scale using trash bags.

Jacket-Tent is made primarily out of water-proof plastic tarps. As the transformation occurs, velcro, plastic tubing, and string also play a key role.

The tent fully transformed.

Some other things I’m proud of. The portfolio I submitted to the Innovation Design Engineering program at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, for which I was accepted in 2012. This includes much of my sculptural and graphic arts work not included in this design portfolio.

My daily work as a Design for America fellow, mentoring and strategizing according to the human-centered design process. Also, my work founding the Design for America studio at Yale University in 2011. (password: Design101)

In 2010, I co-authored a conference paper entitled Benchmarking Grasping and Manipulation: Properties of the Objects of Daily Living at the Proceedings of the 2010 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS 2010).

In 2007, I placed 3rd in the Massachusetts High School Sabre Fencing Championships.

Matheus Design Portfolio