Students from Arizona State University (ASU) have partnered with, and travelled to, the University of Newcastle to learn from experts in design and health.

While down under the 17 students learned skills that would help them design a new facility for charitable organisation Native American Connections in Phoenix.

“The goal is to understand the health and wellness needs of Native Americans, so we looked at different countries that can help us look at the same problem from a different perspective,” ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts design professor James Shraiky told Downtown Devil.

The organisation focuses on the behavioural health, affordable housing and community development for Native American people.

While students learned about design, the Aborigine culture and behavioural health, they also picked up real world experience. By learning about a group of people who are similar to Native Americans, the students were taught how to ask the right questions and approach projects with no preconceived notions.

Upon returning, students were able to discuss client needs and create a design which fit within them.

Students researched the old facility and created spaces that would be better for the people using it. They created a room which would necessitate an easy talking environment by making it wide – allowing for a talking circle – and with high windows, so people would not be distracted.

Construction of the new facility is expected to be completed in 2015.

Students in the class were from the five disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, design research, exercise and wellness, and biomedical informatics.

Shraiky co-led the course with Jack Debartolo III and Gerri Lamb. It is the fifth year the class has assisted a charity with students in the course having travelled to Rwanda and Dubai previously.