Entrepreneurs deliver keynote, workshop at 2014 symposium

Sandra Richter

Jutta Friedrichs

Learn more about the College of Architecture's 16th annual faculty research symposium.

Texas A&M’s 16th annual faculty research symposium, “Natural, Built, Virtual” Oct. 27, 2014, featured a keynote address and workshop by entrepreneurs who head Changing Environments, a Boston company that develops “smart,” solar-powered public spaces that cater to mobile device users.

The company has developed the Soofa, a solar-powered park bench that charges cell phones, monitors noise levels, air quality and weather and wirelessly uploads the collected data to the Internet.

Sandra Richter, co-founder and CEO of Changing Environments, presented the symposium’s keynote address, "Deploy or Die: Public Spaces as a Test Platform for Designers and Entrepreneurs to Invent Future Cities" in Preston Geren Auditorium.

Named to a list of the 100 most creative people in business by Fast Company magazine, Richter demonstrated the Soofa to President Obama in June 2014 during a Washington, D.C. event celebrating businesses with innovative products.

She believes in using technology to help provide solutions to enduring problems such as urban mobility and growth.

“For example, there are sensors in our phones and in the environment,” she said. “We can react to that and make smarter bus schedules and understand where we need to build schools and infrastructure.”


She has some provocative ideas regarding increased urban bike use. In a project to learn why New Yorkers commute by automobile instead of riding a bike, she found that fear of injury was to be the biggest factor.

Richter concluded that a greater emphasis on cycling in pairs, not bike helmet laws, would make cyclists feel safer. She cited research showing that drivers are less likely to hit bicyclists without helmets, because they give those cyclists a wider berth than riders wearing helmets.

 “If you're wearing a helmet, you're in more danger," she said. “I’m totally against bike helmets.”

Before earning a Master in Strategic Communication degree from the University of the Arts in Berlin, Richter worked as an international market researcher at KPMG, one of the world’s largest auditing firms.

Jutta Friedrichs, co-founder and chief development officer at Changing Environments, will lead a workshop, "From Idea to Product Validation," for student entrepreneurs in the Technical Reference Center.

Using design thinking principles for product prototyping and the business model canvas to validate a product’s market viability, Friedrichs will demonstrate how to turn great ideas into viable products.

She has more than 10 years of experience in creative strategy, multimedia production, design, manufacturing and product management in the U.K., China and the U.S.

Friedrichs cofounded a design studio and Mu Gallery, a furniture design studio, in Shanghai before earning a masters’ degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.

Since then, she has cofounded NGIN Workplace, a Cambridge, Mass. - based workspace and network for global entrepreneurs. Friedrichs has earned multiple international design awards and serves as an art and design critic at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Department of Architecture.

posted October 21, 2014