Solana Beach student’s work recognized in national design contest

Aviya Afra
(The Grauer School)

Solana Beach teenager Aviya Afra, a junior at The Grauer School in Encinitas, was recently awarded an Honorable Mention in the 2023 National High School Design Competition.

Presented by Cooper Hewitt, a Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City, the theme for this year’s competition was “What Would You Design With Data For Your Community?” The contest challenged teens to use design and data to share information in an innovative and engaging way.

Aviya’s entry was titled “The Loneliness of Aging”. Out of 707 entries from across the county, there were three finalists and 12 honorable mentions, putting Aviya in the top 2% of entries submitted.

“My design brings awareness to the loneliness and isolation epidemic that seniors face,” Aviya wrote in the description for her competition entry. “It highlights a story that represents millions of seniors who lack friendship and companionship.”

At 13, Aviya was named the youngest KonMari consultant in the world, teaching others how to achieve their ideal lifestyle through the KonMari method, a home uncluttering technique developed by world-renowned organizing consultant Marie Kondo.

As a community service project, Aviya used the KonMari techniques with her 80-year-old neighbor “Mrs. B.”, whose husband had recently passed away. Aviya and Mrs. B went through their home together, to let go of items that might elicit grief and keep the objects that bring joy and happy memories.

The experience served as a source of inspiration for Aviya’s project topic, along with one of her favorite movies, “Up”.

Aviya Afra's graphic.
(The Grauer School)

Her 4D rendering is comprised of two data sets, one showing the amount of time one spends with others throughout a lifetime and one a music visualization from a spectrogram extracted from the song “Married Life” by Michael Giacchino, a song from “Up.” Colors correlate to the emotions of loneliness and isolation.

“My design brings seniors together, providing them with the comfort that they are not alone in these feelings. It also inspires compassion and empathy in younger generations,” Aviya wrote of her design. “This will raise awareness and motivate young people to connect with seniors. Regardless of gender, race, or religion, my design can bridge generations.”

Aviya’s visual art and physics classes at The Grauer School helped give her the knowledge and skills she needed to develop her design.

“Aviya exemplified The Grauer School’s core values of intellectual curiosity and compassion in the development of her competition entry. She is one of those students who also embodies these values on a daily basis,” said Grauer Assistant Principal Alicia Tembi in a news release. “She did an incredible amount of work in her free time over the span of several months, solely because she wanted to delve deeper into the process of designing graphical representations to call awareness to an important social issue that impacted her neighbor.

“This is a perfect example of the intrinsic motivation and project-based learning that allows Grauer students to develop their personal passions.”