Still chuggin' along

Long time without a post....but that doesn't mean that we're not working! We're still at it, thinking about our prototype and how to manufacture our design.

We're currently looking for some external help with the mechanical design and engineering.

We're also brainstorming how this project can keep thriving once the three members of Team Illumiloon graduate from Yale in May and head off to different areas of the world.


Dyson Award Submission

Long time, no post! Team Illumiloon has been busy working all over the world (from New Jersey, to DC, to Berlin, to Japan!) on a variety of different projects, but constantly thinking about Illumiloon and our next steps. 

We submitted to the James Dyson Award (check out our submission page here) in hopes to increase our exposure and potentially our resources as we move forward. After we determine our means of scaling up, we will begin to field test the design, from distribution to deployment. User feedback from this exercise will be key as we ready our design for use in disaster-prone communities. 

Inventor Spot, after seeing our Dyson submission, names us 'Invention of the Week.' Check it out here.

Stay tuned!

South by Southwest!

March 15-17 was an incredible weekend for the Illumiloon crew as we took on Austin to display our design as part of FIT's Robotics Petting Zoo at South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive. We had the incredible opportunity to present our design to hundreds of innovators, designers, and generally amazing individuals. We got to explore SXSW to discover other fantastic innovations as well as chat with their designers.

As part of our display, we had a DFA-inspired post-it board where individuals could let us know what they liked about our design as well as suggest any improvements. Additionally, we had the contents of the Illumiloon kit along with the accompanying instructions on display. We also made a mini-model of a neighborhood with the Illumiloon system deployed (see above photo).

It was exciting to catch the eye of a few different people, which led Illumiloon to be highlighted in various online publications from the Yahoo tech page to a Brazilian article. Check out the following links:,news-20656.html


Displaying at SXSW was an absolutely amazing and enriching experience. It was great to receive validation on the Illumiloon design as well as learn how we can improve it moving forward. We want to thank DFA for getting us to where we are and give a huge thank you to the FIT team for inviting us to display allowing us to become a part of this incredible experience. We hope to see you next year, SXSW!

1.5 Months Until SXSW

Busy prepping to display at South by Southwest (SXSW), the Illumiloon team has been spending hours in the CEID (the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation and Design) prototyping updated designs. 

We have made progress on the gas release mechanism and are now testing out a few different material choices for the balloon. With pros and cons for both mylar and polyethylene, we are trying to see if there is an alternate material that we could use to enhance our design. 

The team is also brainstorming creative ways to display our design at SXSW. We have thought about handing out Illumiloon kits to people who enter the Robotics Petting Zoo  to deploy if they lose the person that they came with, and we have considered utilizing the entire room and using the Illumiloons to signal as part of a game. We are still trying to think of more effective ways to showcase the signaling capabilities of Illumiloon and demonstrate how easy they are to use.

Edward testing out a new balloon material

Edward testing out a new balloon material


Fall 2014 was a pivotal time both in the development of the Illumiloon design and in our newly-formed connections with the incredible FIT team. An exciting new year lies ahead for the Illumiloon team!


  • Having dealt with some kinks in the gas release mechanism in the fall, we have updated our design to include a 3-D printed attachment device that we are currently working on. This device will ideally be leak-proof, secure, and easy for an elderly person or someone disabled to use.
  • FIT has invited us to display our design at the Robotics Petting Zoo on March 15-17, which is a part of South by Southwest Interactive. In preparation for this event, we will be finalizing our design over the next two months and cranking out prototypes. Additionally, we are brainstorming creative and interactive ways to display our product.


In October, the Illumiloon team heard about the 'Design4Disasters' challenge hosted by the Field Innovation Team (FIT) and AIGA, an American professional organization for design.The challenge parameters, to create a design that dealt with community-centered communication after natural disasters, were well aligned with our idea.

We created a 60-second submission video and were selected as the winner!

AIGA published an article about what it means to design for disasters and the Design4Disasters challenge:

In addition the AIGA publication and a cash prize, we were invited to attend FIT Bootcamp in the mountains of Utah in November. The goal of this Bootcamp was to train FIT members to "rapidly asses disaster-related problems, identify the needs, and prototype solutions." 

Kamya Jagadish attended the three-day bootcamp, in which she learned about the details, nuances, and unpredictability of innovating in disasters. Bootcamp was composed of ideation workshops, team building, and design exercises. Following Bootcamp, Kamya and the Illumiloon team took what they learned from FIT Bootcamp and from its attendees and applied it to the Illumiloon design. Most importantly, the design was altered in terms of how it would be implemented within a disaster setting.


Illumiloon started as a project with Design for America (DFA), an undergraduate organization that forms interdisciplinary teams to create solutions to community problems. Originally as a team of six Yale undergrads involved with DFA, we were grouped into a team to focus on our common interest in natural disaster management.

DFA oversaw the evolution of Illumiloon throughout its first year, from preliminary research about natural disaster response to nascent prototypes. In May 2014, we displayed our idea at the DFA East Coast meet-up, which was attended by DFA members from campuses across the east coast as well as by DFA headquarter leaders.

In August 2013, DFA awarded the Illumiloon team with the "Inspiring Future" Award.

Image: Kamya and Jane looking sassy at the DFA East Coast Meet-up with a preliminary mockup