Philadelphia’s B.Phl Innovation Festival

A few weeks ago one of the students in NOVA Lab informed me of an innovation festival being hosted in Philadelphia.   After checking it out on the web, I was convinced this would be a place for our students to learn why innovation and design thinking were so important to the economy they’d soon be entering.

But after investigating cost, it was soon clear that we’d never afford the tickets.

Undeterred, I wrote the email below:


I am a teacher at a high school about 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia.  This year I am piloting a problem-finding/solving for social impact class called inNOVAtion Lab.  Your festival has several great events that would really help us build out and understand the work we are doing/want to do.  However, there’s no way we could afford a $250 registration/person, and our students’ e-mail addresses are “.org” addresses as we are a public school.
We were looking at coming down for just one day, as the 15–17 timeframe impacts our school day.  
Is there any chance we might be able to get student registration fees for the students and myself?  Not all the students (there are 54) would be coming, but if I could get a list together, would you consider such a reduction in registration?  
If you are interested in the class and what we’ve been doing (as well as a bit of history of our thinking on this matter) you might start at our current website: .  You could also read a few testimonials on the benefits of such a class from a former student here.

Within a few hours, I got a reply.  (See below.  However, let me say that what I learned from a former student, who was able to get a local philanthropist to fund her debate competitions on the national circuit simply by telling her story of accomplishments and needs…yeah, what I learned from her…it paid off: “If you never ask, you never know.”)

Hi Garreth,

Thank you for your interest in B.PHL, Philadelphia’s first citywide innovation festival. After looking through your website and learning out what the inNOVAtion Lab is about, we would like to offer you free badges, enough for your students and faculty. The link included below will grant you 70 badges. Each person should register for their own badge so they receive it to their emails. They can also use the code: *********** to get access to the tickets through the BPHL website.

In the ensuing weeks, I’ve booked 35 of our 56 students for a field trip for this coming Thursday.  We’ll be listening to former Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney,  Duncan Wardle, we’ve also managed to get a free tour of the Independence Blue Cross Innovation Center, and seats at an exclusive “Innovation Excavation” with Duncan Wardle, as well as a few other insightful presentations.

There’s plenty of criticism, some of it legitimate but not nearly unique, about the overuse of the word “innovation” in the world today.  But I just returned from a day on my own at the Innovation Festival, and if what I heard from speaker after speaker is true, there’s little in the business world that’s currently as important as being able to innovate your way to a prosperous future.

In session after session today, my own studies of and writings (here and here) about innovation have been legitimated. From the importance of civil discourse and how design helps students develop key communication skills to the benefits of storytelling and learning from failure, I heard members of the business, higher-education, design and communication fields tout the importance of innovation and entrepreneurial mindsets.

Why are things the way they are...NOVA Lab was designed with two key questions as its foundation:  Why are things the way they are?   How can we make them better?  The class is an embodiment of my belief in the power of education, and in design and innovation to elevate the power of the liberal arts and empower students to make the world a better place.

Thank you, B.Phl Innovation Festival.

Students and I will blog more on Thursday after the sessions.

*featured image from

Published by Garreth Heidt

Designerly Minded High School Humanities and Liberal Studies Teacher Faculty Mentor FIRST Robotics Team #7414--PV Retrobotics. Constantly learning, trying to be more a maker and less a consumer of culture. I believe in the infinite value of a liberal education and the power of design thinking to help make the world a better place.

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