Smart Prototype of the NYU FREEdge

Prototyping Testing in March 2017 and April 2017:

We haven’t updated the blog in a while,so I decided to add the events and developments that happened before the work began on the newest prototype since the day after the NYU Tandon Research Expo in on April 21st 2017.

The following is what we did between March 1st 2017 and April 20th 2017

After going through the first project critique in March 2017, we removed the Card Swiping lock system from the refrigerator. We introduced a colour coded sticker system. Based on this, those that shared the food only had to put one sticker on the food container. Below is an image of all the food before the sticker system.

How did we make sure that the food was still safe after more than one week?

That is the solution! If the sticker was still on a container for over a week, the container and the food was discarded. Every week day, one person from the team made sure of this.

Monday: Red
Tuesday: Green
Wednesday: Yellow
Thursday: Blue
Friday: Purple
Saturday: Pink
Sunday: Orange

If this sounds confusing, let me give an example: Simon was in charge of this duty on Tuesdays. The sticker associated with Tuesdays was Green. The sticker associated with Wednesday was Yellow. So Simon would remove any containers that had a Yellow Stickers. Of course he would also have to remove all empty containers and food that might have gone bad.

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Now, in the first week of April 2017, we had our second DFA NYU project critique. Here we decided to test the smart aspect of the refrigerator and count the number of users and how it the students used the NYU FREEdge.

The second prototype had a Raspberry Pi touch display which tracked how many users interacted with the refrigerator by taking the count of how many students opened it. It had another feature: take imaged of the food when someone closed the refrigerator. These were the smart features of the NYU FREEdge.

We did a pilot drill so that we can be sure of not damaging the coolant circulation in the refrigerator. Finally, we decided to add the display on the Freezer door, as it was not used by students.

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The sticker system remained while we used this prototype. Adding the smart component gave us a valuable data. We found out that at an average 83 people have used the NYU FREEdge each week between April 15th 2017 and May 16th 2017. However, the images were very dark, as there was not enough light to identify them. A lot of stickers were used during this time. (Even though a new refrigerator had been purchased on the 21st of April, this prototype was operational to get a better quality of data)

Below are two image comparison. The one on the left was taken when the display was attached, the one on the right taken on June 2nd 2017 (this prototype was on hiatus since May 16th 2017), showing that Friday was the day when most food was shared.


This was quite a successful iteration of the prototype. Now the team is working on a new prototype.


Small Update

It’s been few intense weeks in the semester already(phew!), and we at Team NYU-FREEdge have been figuring out how to and what to prototype this semester. And so, the mantra this semester for us, as our Anne-Laure and Hannah suggest is “Prototype, prototype, prototype!”.

We have also been identifying functions within the team to accomplish the goals for this semester. The Blackstone Launchpad Training has been super useful to gain insights too.

The bigger update for NYU-FREEdge has been that we just got featured at NYU Entrepreneur’s blog: Here!

More detailed updates after the first Project Critique of this semester this Friday,  March 3.

Overcoming Obstacles

Welcome all to the spring semester. With classes driving into full gear, so is the NYU FREEdge. Starting next week, the FREEdge’s progress will be entering a rapid prototyping stage, where we will consider and compare all of the prototype options that we’ve developed in the fall semester and have yet to test. Jumpstarting this effort, the grant (and invaluable Blackstone coaching) we are honored to receive from Phase II of NYU’s Prototyping Fund, will help us pursue our ultimate goal of expanding a successful prototype to NYU’s Washington Square campus.
Despite our efforts, however, a technological hurtle has halted our current prototype, using a touchscreen-enabled Raspberry Pi to conduct our “smart” user experience. We are unable to connect to NYU’s Wi-Fi network, rendering our data and live feed of the FREEdge purely local. As a result, we cannot currently provide live coverage of the FREEdge to Share Meals, as we had anticipated. Nevertheless, we are not deterred. Roadblocks allow us to take a step back and reassess previous problems and their solutions to improve upon the model in a way that resolves both current and previous issues; we WILL resolve the connectivity problem. We will retest our user interface with an iPad, which will allow us to bypass our current connection issues, as well as redesign the U.I. with a more streamlined experience.

The second Sandwich Packathon, hosted by Share Meals at Kimmel Center this past Sunday, brought in over 50 surplus sandwiches, further emphasizing the need for the NYU FREEdge in advancing the impact of free-food and affordability initiatives. Therefore, we will move on to light prototyping and data collection with a simple sticky note and color code system. In the meantime, we will investigate workarounds for the Wi-Fi issue and pursue organizational sponsorships for more cleaning supplies, food containers, and additional refrigerators. We also need YOUR feedback. Let us know what you think about the cleaning and packing supplies mounted on the FREEdge, or let us know any advice or ideas you might have; we would like to hear everything! Feel free to leave us an email at or check out our Facebook page.

Project Critique at Frog Design Studio

Thanks to the amazing feedback and support from the community our project “The NYU Freedge” has made successful appearances in various events. One of them being the Design for America (DFA) Project Critique at Frog Design Studio. Well, to start with thank you everyone for all the love and providing us the opportunity to garner insights and expert opinions.

This event was a sneak peak to the NYU Freedge, and  an excellent platform for expert feedback and showcasing our prowess towards food insecurity. Like the last critique the audience consisted of DFA Teams  like FCA, SS Columbia, Med-line Project, Good Food Made Easy, Court Signage, Journalism Project, DFA Members, experts from Frog Design, NYU students and our lovely faculty mentor Anne Laure Fayard.

Our short demo of our Raspberry Pie System and a pitch about our idea was a hit. A constructive Q & A session that followed our presentation gave us valuable insights about wants and needs of people and possibilities of consideration. To sum it all it was a constructive critique that has fueled the fire towards our dream of accepting,sharing and connecting food with people even greater.

Here are few of the moments we captured from the event :


Our team is ready to take food sharing to the next level!


Feedback! Feedback – We value your inputs!

Check out the NYU Freedge at the MakerSpace at NYU Tandon School of Engineering| 6 Metrotech.

We look forward to hear from you, we welcome your comments, ideas and feedback!

And remember if you have food to spare, remember to share !

Our Freedge Kickoff Event!

Today is our kickoff event! We have officially rebranded as “The NYU Freedge”, we have moved our smart community refrigerator to The Makerspace, an area where people congregate at the Tandon campus, our touch screen interface is completed and it has been mounted on the freedge. Now we are ready to gain momentum and start a social movement around food sharing! Join us today!




N.I.C.E.’s Nice Advice

With both our first major event and the completion of our new Freedge prototype quickly approaching, we would like to take the opportunity to reminiscence on how we got to where we are now. We had the privilege of receiving the think-tank advice of NYU’s Net Impact Collaborative Experience (NICE). NICE is a highly inclusive consulting group aimed at advising startups and social ventures in a way that is both inquisitive and informational. Through their questions and answers to our questions, we have gained tremendous insight into some of the challenges that we might encounter, solutions to already existing issues, and altogether new, innovative ideas. At our meeting, we focused primarily on marketing, outreach, and user experience.

The exuberant group we met with provided a lot of insight into our graphic design. With their suggestions, we took an introspective look into what aspects of our current graphic design works and what doesn’t, noting that at first glance it is impossible to grasp our sustainability and affordability goals from just our project name and logo. This jump-started our redesign efforts. The first step was to rebrand. Project Avocado would remain as our team/organizational name and “Freedge” would become the title and descriptor of our refrigerator prototype. The much more intuitive and understandable name comes from our new friends over at UC-Davis, who created the Freedge brand also aimed at reducing food waste, but on a much larger scale. We also discussed ways we could improve our recognition – through an overhaul of our logo and motto, as well as the inclusion of plenty of info-graphs, a storyboard, various hashtags, and catchy phrases; in a cumulative and cooperative effort of the NICE group inspired the slogan “SHARE. ACCEPT. CONNECT.”

We also looked into how we might expand our audience and resources: distributing flyers, seeking partnerships and collaborations, expressing and spreading the need for sustainability and food security, acquiring additional food-space for other NYU facilities through company sponsorships and abandoned dorm mini-fridges, and acquiring additional food-resources through obtaining the surplus of farmers markets and free-food club events. The NICE group even highlighted specific NYU facilities that they felt might benefit most from our system, once we are ready to expand into additional locations.

NICE also helped us formulate a breakdown of how we would like our user experience to be with our system. Their advice allowed us to complete the transformation of our system from something that required manual labor and many, many sticky notes to a semi-automated system fully equipped with a touchscreen that allows the user to input food type and allergen information simply and easily –  eventually, along with a camera that provides a live broadcast of what is in the Freedge. The user experience was refined through hypothetical simulations of what the user experience would be like for varying degrees of automation. Ultimately, we gathered that near-full automation is ideal until we achieve the availability of resources necessary to hire students to manage refrigerators around NYU’s campus. This alternative will be less cost-effective than one that is autonomous, but having a Freedge ambassador present could allow the system to also build an engaged community around the Freedge – a goal that was encouraged and emphasized by the good people at NICE.

The group picked up on our initiative immediately without much prior information.
We are grateful for all the advice we received from this tremendous group.

Please feel free to check out their Facebook page and follow NICE for upcoming events, as we highly recommend it.

City Harvest Donates More Than Just Food

With our tech prototype coming together better than we could have hoped, we set out to settle our uncertainty around the legality and liabilities surrounding food sharing. If a generous student decided to share a peanut granola bar, would that student be liable if a peanut-allergic student accepts the granola bar? Essentially, we needed to be certain that any food sharing with harmless intentions would be met with unconditional support from the community (as well as legal support). Without any previous grasp of food laws, we sought advice from City Harvest, the widely-known “food rescue” agency based in NYC; noting the thoroughness and success of their enterprise, we safely assumed that they undertook such an investigation as the one we would have to undertake with our own, incomparable resources. With their help, we were able to confirm definitively that any and all participants who have chosen to share food and have done so without negligence or intentional misconduct are not liable for damage incurred as the result of someone accepting the food. City Harvest presented this information in association with Feeding America, a similarly-intentioned nonprofit, citing The Bill Emerson Food Donation Act and a portion of New York State Law which protect those who wish to share food. The federal Act is the 1996 affirmation of colloquial Good Samaritan Laws, which have popularly been used to protect generous people from unintended consequences, but have not until this Act been implemented concretely into official, permanent law. According to the enactment of:

Public Law 104–210 on Oct. 1, 1996

110 Stat. 3011

104th Congress

“A person or gleaner shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the person or gleaner donates in good faith to a nonprofit organization… A nonprofit organization shall not be subject to civil or criminal liability arising from the nature, age, packaging, or condition of apparently wholesome food or an apparently fit grocery product that the nonprofit organization received as a donation in good faith from a person or gleaner”

This definitively protects both those who wish to share food and us, facilitating the sharing. The only exception outlined in the law is if the ‘unintended consequence’ of sharing food is actually intentional and

“results from an act or omission of the person, gleaner or nonprofit organization, as applicable, constituting gross negligence [defined as “voluntary and conscious conduct (including a failure to act) by a person who, at the time of the conduct, knew that the conduct was likely to be harmful to the health or well-being of another person”] or intentional misconduct.”

The cited 1981 New York State Law (Article 4-D, Section 71-2) doubles down on this protection, stating that

“a good faith donor of any canned or perishable food or farm product … shall not be subject to criminal penalty or civil damages arising from the condition of the food … unless the donor has actual or constructive knowledge that the food is adulterated, tainted, contaminated or harmful to the health or well-being of the person consuming said food.”


Along with settling our legality and liability concerns, City Harvest aided our selection of food-inventory organization categories (based on food type). These categories are detailed below along with the parameters of “Unacceptable Conditions” that we will borrow from to form our own food sharing standards.


Project Critique Event

October 7th marked the first DFA Project Critique, it provided a platform for our team to share our ideas about Project Avocado and report the progress of our team. We received invaluable feedback from the audience, our team  mentor Hannah Berkin-Harper and DFA faculty mentor Prof.  Anne Laure Fayard. 

Our success in May’s prototype and the Green Grant on our side, the enthusiasm and thrust to achieve our dream of a food sharing community has been propelled three-fold. With a bigger team and even bigger ideas Project Avocado showcased its plan for the future at the Project Critique. With an action plan about utilizing the fridge donated by GE and the cupboard downstairs at the Green-house of 6 Metro tech and making it accessible to students, the team broke down their presentation into the following chunks:

  1. Smart-fridge
  2. Cupboard
  3. Enabling Technology

img_0783  img_0781

The team orchestrated their combined power and dedication towards achieving the food sharing dream. But with great power comes great responsibility. Our presentation attracted a lot of fruitful questions form the audience and a meaningful discussion with our mentors.

The troubles that come with this project are that of any endeavor that involves the management of food capital over human capital – as any supermarket owner would agree – you can ask an employee to work overtime, but you can’t ask an apple to rot any slower. So, we must develop a long-term system that is as automated as possible that can keep track of expiration dates and the likes. The system is simple enough writing on sticky notes the expiration dates of items stored, checking ritualistically the freshness of the refrigerator’s contents, as the initial prototypes were; however, we see more potential than that. The process of automation is twofold: prioritizing what needs to be automated on our end to maintain something self-sufficient and determining what needs to be automated at the consumer’s end to ensure a low barrier to entry. Then of course we must task ourselves with developing a system that incorporates both ends of optimization symbiotically.

We must also concern ourselves with food safety and food preferences. Having a surplus is a great sign for combating hunger, but it is a bad omen for food waste prevention. If more food is deposited than withdrawn consistently, the food that would otherwise be wasted will be wasted anyway. Developing a demand-based supply will help combat this dilemma, along with maintaining a strong variety of foods for preferences and allergens. Keeping a flow of gluten-free, vegan, kosher, halal, and various allergen-free foods will both that food safety is maintained for the consumer and that the demand is met but not too far exceeded. Along with a strong variety, we must also maintain branding and promotion that attracts more of both supply and demand.

Great ideas to build on: incorporating a social texting aspect to the Project informing people about the food available each week in the fridge were some of the great ideas from the enriching audience all gathered at the Event-Space to give valuable insights.

All and all it was an enlightening event that gave our team direction. A huge thanks to Hannah Berkin-Harper and DFA faculty mentor Prof.  Anne Laure Fayard and the wonderful audience and fellow DFA teams for their insightful feedback. Unfortunately we were so busy in our discussions we forgot to take a snap of our story board which was literally the fullest in the room with a bunch of feedback. Resembling like the one below:



Thank you all for reading this post & remember if you have food to spare, remember to share! Project Avocado is the way to a food sharing community!