Dina El-Zanfaly is a designer, maker, architect and educator whose research introduces new methods and machines that make computational design and fabrication more accessible to a larger audience, bringing humans back into the center of the making process. She is a doctoral candidate in the Design and Computation group in the Architecture department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the United States, where she also earned her Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) in Design and Computation while being a Fulbright scholar.
She is also a co-founder and co-director of Fab Lab Egypt (FLE), the first community maker space in northern Africa and the Arab world. FLE provides both virtual and physical making environments for young Egyptians, fostering creativity and innovation. Moreover, She worked on integrating two fabrication labs, in two STEM schools in Egypt under the USAID, and she helped in integrating the fab lab in the STEM curriculum.
Since her graduation in 2006, Dina has been teaching several workshops and courses for graduate, undergraduate and K8-12 students. This semester she leads a new course at MIT, Computational Making: Light and Motion. Furthermore, she organizes this year the Computation group lecture series, in which she invites prominent speakers from academia and industry who had great influence on the field of design and computation. Dina led the Design and Computation forum and the reading seminar on “Computational Making” for two semesters in 2014. She has recently co-organized a workshop in the design Computing and Cognition Conference in London. She also holds a MSc and a BSc degrees in architecture from Alexandria University, Egypt, where she taught for three years. She still holds a teaching position in the university, but she’s currently on a study leave to finish her doctoral studies. She worked professionally as an architect on urban planning and architectural projects before joining MIT for three years. Her projects won several national prizes. Dina has several publications, the most recent are two chapters in a book published in 2013, Unconventional Computing. Dina worked as a research assistant at Archnet at MIT, an international resource focused on architecture, urbanism, environmental and landscape design, visual culture, and conservation issues related to the Muslim world, which provides academic material for scholarship and professional work. Dina is also an invited critic in different schools including MIT, BAC, AUC and RISD.
Dina has also extracurricular activities in the education field. She was the students representative in the design and computation group for two years. After organizing several events through the Egyptian student association at MIT, she founded and structured a board for the association in 2012. She set the vision of the association’s board to establish the MIT-Egypt Seed Fund program in less than five years, which the succeeding board launched and will start this Fall.” Additionally, under the support of MIT, she toured the Middle East to give talks and advice to youth on how to apply to MIT and top US universities.
Her work eliminates these obstacles by helping users collaborate with fabrication machines, utilizing their computational power and precision in concert with hands-on engagement with materials. I believe that creative modes of production should be as easy as knitting on a loom or clay throwing on a potter’s wheel. In other words, how can machines learn from us and how can we learn from them? How can we work together to create and improvise? How can we empower individuals and communities with these technologies to be collectively independent by producing instead of consuming?