Finding a Home in Boston

At the beginning of the semester, we were visitors to Boston—students passing through for several years before moving. Looking at Boston’s iconic harbor and skyline, we felt more like tourists than residents. After spending four months working closely with the incredible public servants in Boston’s Fire Department (BFD) and Boston Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT), we no longer feel like transients.

Now, when fire trucks pass, we know they are crewed by people like Lieutenant Brian Sellon—our primary contact at the BFD, a 20-year veteran of the force whose hard work, insight, and assistance proved invaluable. We think of firefighters like Captain Mark Corwin, the cancer survivor whose moving story inspired us to focus on the carcinogen-exposure project.

We know that even seemingly simple civic actions—a pothole filled, a trash can emptied, or a safety inspection completed—have a talented, dedicated, and inventive supporting cast behind them. We are energized by the ground-breaking work of DoIT, whose CityScore dashboard is allowing Boston’s leadership to quantify, track, and improve services across the city, making the city of Boston safer and smarter.  

To our team, Boston is now a home, and the dedicated public servants that keep it running are our friends and colleagues. In closing the semester out, we wanted to leave our new home slightly better off. Above all, we wanted to leave the city with practical, actionable recommendations that outlast the class. Using human-centered research, design thinking, and agile prototyping methods we have come up with a series of recommendations that will help the Boston Fire Department reduce hazardous exposure while streamlining reporting. These recommendations have been packaged into several different artifacts, with different audiences and purposes for each:

  1. Final Presentation: Designed for a general audience, our presentation discusses the two challenges that we have focused on this semester—hazardous exposure and data reporting—and the prototype that we hope will serve as a useful model for improvement in both issue areas.

  2. Policy Recommendations: This report, written for our partners in the City of Boston and the Boston Fire Department, includes action items we believe the City can undertake to continue their pioneering efforts to enhance firefighter safety while improving reporting and analytics.

  3. Technical Spec: This document contains detailed guidance for the City of Boston’s DoIT on what we believe it would take to scale our prototype into a working product.


It was truly an honor for the team to spend several months learning from the selfless firefighters of the Boston Fire Department and committed civil servants of the Boston Department of Innovation and Technology. We look forward to witnessing further advances as Boston—one of America’s most historic cities—continues to reinvent itself as one of the most innovative.

Sean Cochran, Neel Mehta, Algirde Pipikaite, Charlie Sellew, Chanteclaire Swett