Kelly Zheng

Americas, industrial design co-op student

Award-winning innovator

Allegion recently partnered with the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to lead an industrial design project called T-minus 151 hours. Students were assigned to create a door lock handle to improve the lives of elderly users. Student Kelly Zheng’s team won the Most Innovative award. This summer, she is completing a co-op at Allegion’s Carmel office.

We asked Kelly about her experience with the project and how it brought her to Allegion.

1.      For your T-minus 151 hours team, what was the biggest challenge of the project?

The biggest challenge for our team I believe was to figure out a creative and unique solution under both extreme design constraints and time limitations. We realized that most of other teams’ ideas were going to heavily rely on technology such as cell phone, sensor, wearable devices, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. However, my team decided to get away from technology as far as possible because the older generations would have difficulty accommodating and trusting these high-tech products, according to our research. As a result, it became very difficult to come up with a solution under this type of constraint in limited time.

2.      How did the experience change the way you look at locks / door handles in your daily life?

Right after the kick-off event for T-minus 151 hours, I started to pay extra attention to the doors and levers.  First of all, I was surprised by the number of doors I need to pass through every day. Furthermore, I started to notice they also have very distinct styles in terms of coating, material, and form according to styles and functions of places. Opening a door used to be a very unconscious motion to me, however I have definitely put more thought into this simple move. Does that lever feel comfortable in my hand? Is the style of a lever consistent with its interior design? Is the lever easy enough to operate not only to me but also to children and elders? I would never be able to truly understand how much research, engineering and tests needed to be done in order to design a good lock/lever without the T-minus experience.

3.      What was the biggest lesson learned from the project?

This project got me to notice “invisible” objects and unconscious experiences that we come across every day. It makes me appreciate the details and intellect that went into creating such modest designs.

4.      What drew you to Allegion for your co-op?

Allegion totally broke my stereotypes about a lock company. It is a lock company with a well-designed website, also a good taste for products, which convinces me it has a good design team backstage. In fact, it surprised me when I got to know a lock company was going to be this year’s T-minus sponsor which means this company is drawn to creative vibes. During the T-minus project, I got to know about Ted (Roberts), who is a very friendly and easy going design manager, which is another reason why I wanted to work here.

5.      What have you been working on at Allegion and how is it going so far?

I have been with Allegion for a week now, and it has been a great experience so far. The design team I am working with is super friendly and easy going, they have helped me with my sketch development and presentation on the u-lock project for Kryptonite.