FIT Senior Sarai Maman Wins Competition, Shoots for the Moon

Landing on the moon requires more than technical skill. You also need cooperation, perseverance, creativity and the ability to dream, says Sarai Maman, ’22, a winner of the 27th annual Planning and Visual Education Partnership (PAVE) Award.  Her work is “a perfect showing of what students in the Spatial Experience Design program can do combining narrative, graphics, place and spacemaking,” said Craig Berger, Chair, Communication Design Pathways.

Sarai Maman’s PAVE award competition submission

The PAVE “Meet the Street” award competition, sponsored this year by CallisonRTKL, attracted students from 40 colleges in 14 countries and involved concepts in retail planning, interior design, architecture, visual merchandising, branding, and similar disciplines.

The competition challenged students to design a small-scale project that could be incorporated into any community to address a problem using aspects of retail, scalability, materiality, technology, accessibility, and sustainability in their concepts.

Sarai Maman, a PAVE “Meet the Street” Award winner. Photo by: Diana Nyland

Maman’s winning project envisioned six separate, small mazes arranged in a circle around a model of a real moon landing craft, launched by SpaceIL an Israel-based company, the first private non-profit non-governmental organization to get to the moon. In this playground design, six participants, one per maze, each needs to have a specific skill — mechanic, engineer, astronaut and so forth — to get through his or her maze. The mechanic for instance, gets through by unlocking a tool box and using the tools from the box to open the door that leads to the central area where the moon lander model is.

The SpaceIL Labyrinth can be moved easily and assembled on any small, flat park or playground

Once they are all through, each participant grabs a rope connected to the spacecraft model. They have to coordinate their efforts on the ropes to land the spacecraft successfully on the moon.

Maze walls are 4 feet high–short enough for adults to keep watch over the participants.

The real SpaceIL craft achieved lunar orbit in 2019, but the landing attempt failed. “Despite the disappointment,” Maman said, “SpaceIL did something incredible. It brought people together and got the Israeli public, especially children, excited about space exploration. It also taught us that failure is just another step in the journey to success.” SpaceIL is working on its next moon attempt.

Here’s a walk-through inside the model:

Her “SpaceIL Labyrinth” doesn’t take up a lot of room on a playground. It can be moved easily and assembled on any small, flat park or playground. It doesn’t require a huge amount of supervision. It uses inexpensive, durable materials like plywood and Tyvek (Maman provided a materials and supplier list in her entry).

Inherent in the design is that not everyone has to be a superstar, even when reaching for the moon. There are jobs and needs for every kind of talent.

Space specialist patches designs

“I have always been intrigued and curious about outer space and its mysteries, but unfortunately, I utterly failed the school’s physics exams,” she said. “And yet, as a designer, I found myself researching and designing this.”

Challenges inside the astronaut’s maze
Challenges inside the astronaut’s maze

“My project presents children with both an individual journey and a collaborative task. It simulates real life because some challenges have to be faced alone, while at other times we need to rely on each other,” she said.

Maman speaks five languages: “My native language is Hebrew. I acquired English in school. Italian, Turkish and Spanish, I learned by watching foreign television and movies.”

“Learning a foreign language also means learning the culture of the people who speak it, their traditions, history, and context,” she said. “Every project targets a different audience. My job is to tailor the best design solution for that audience. It wouldn’t be possible without studying and researching those audiences.

The final task–a collaborative effort to land the spacecraft on the Moon

“The VPED program is a collaborative and constructive environment. Students habitually share knowledge with one another, and I feel comfortable asking my peers questions, speaking, and exchanging criticism. It is an essential part of my learning process, and I am grateful for my friends and professors who grant it.”

Maman also credits VPED with sharpening her critical thinking skills. “I’ve learned to analyze and evaluate situations, products, brands…to break down all the bits and pieces that compose those factors and determine the problems that I need to address in my design.”

She also credits the programs with the skill of “future telling,” or “learning to recognize emerging trends, to adapt, and to initiate, because as designers we need to constantly be ahead of the game.”

Sarai Maman in a VPED classroom. Photo by: Diana Nyland

Maman added, “Space exploration is critical to humankind because it helps us understand and solve issues on Earth. Now as we face catastrophes from global pandemic to global warming, we  need to ensure the future of our home planet. SpaceIL’s educational vision is ‘to encourage the next generation to choose to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics’ (STEM). My project is designed to take this conversation outside the classroom to a physical space where children can enjoy the learning process.”

Is there any chance of turning this project into a reality? “I would be very pleased and proud if it would. I have contacted SpaceIL to share my work with them, and I hope they will get back to me soon.

From Maman’s early hand sketches of the SapceIL Labyrinth model
More of Maman’s hand sketches

“New York City is the leading design hub in the world, and I was looking to learn from the best. As a young Israeli girl, I thought I could only dream of working side by side with designers like Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia, who are FIT alumni. I would hear the name of FIT in movies, but it looked like a distant star. As I grew up, I began to realize that the world isn’t as big as it seems. When I finally gathered my courage and moved from Israel to America, I had no intention to compromise.”

SpaceIL Mission Accomplished

Said Maman, “I learned at FIT to dream big. I engage my biggest fantasies in my school projects and choose the topics of my projects following these fantasies. While many of our projects are conceptual, I hope to see these fantasies come to life after graduation.”

To see more of Sarai Maman’s work go to her design porfolio. Follow her on Instagram @saray.maman.

To learn more about the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design program go to: VPED at FIT.

Photos of Sarai Maman taken by Diana Nyman, ’22.

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