Design Build Challenge: Weltanschauung–Design as World View

“We teach to ensure the world can be better than we found it.”

Were I to found a school for those who sought to be teachers, this would be a mantra. And yes, it is aspirational, but nations who have no aspirations, or who have lost them due to their own selfish desires…who have no foresight or care for the damage they inflict today? These nations will perish, and cause others to perish with them.

We can be better than this. Almost a decade ago I gave a presentation at the Industrial Designer’s Society of America called, “S.T.E.A.M. Power for a Better Future.” I began in similarly aspirational ways by claiming that design and design thinking could help save the world.

I was naive, smitten with the insight and beauty of the mindsets that populate design thinking. I realize there are no silver bullets that will save us. It will take hard work, at all levels, to assure that we actually reach the 22nd Century. But I still believe Design Thinking will get us there.

Apparently Serena and her classmates in NOVA Lab think so, too.

Serena C., Senior

So far this process has been an obvious enlightenment for my peers and I, seeing that this design sprint is our first purposeful project in a gradeless class. As Mr. Heidt pointed out in his usual attention grabbing manner as he spoke in German, he reminded the class that this project was not only important for the client on the receiving end of our innovations, but it was also providing us with a Weltanschauung, a “world view or outlook” unlike any other we were used to seeing. Today we elaborated upon that outlook by bringing our prototypes to life and tying up the loose ends of our presentations.

Testing and Practicing

After a small prologue in the beginning of class, groups were unleashed to work on concluding the test/pitch phase and preparing for final presentations that are now less than 48 hours away. In a gradeless class, trust and honesty between the teacher and students is key; we’ve already proven ourselves in the past, making this innovation process much smoother and easier for each group to take control of their own responsibilities. The path to success is already paved. The only difference is that as groups, we now have to help guide each other in our own decisions instead of looking to the teacher for answers to regurgitate.

However, there was no doubt of the rising tension in the room. With groups racing to Mr. Heidt and to their peers to receive feedback in hopes of reaching peak performance, the idea of a design “sprint” seems to satisfy the environment and paint the right picture. The space was filled with emotions as nervousness, excitement, and a little bit of tiredness were all swept up into a whirlwind. Everyone is scrambling for the final pitch on Friday at Flux Space, and for that final relief and payoff of all the hard work we’ve dedicated to this project for the past couple weeks.

Homegrown Design’s vision for a Community Park for Sixto

Although today’s work didn’t entail much new material, I was able to take away the important aspects of presenting as we added in the final components of our slideshow. My group finished all of our work and already had the beginnings of external feedback from other groups, so we dedicated today’s time to making our visual clear and aesthetically clean. We also divided up responsibilities of the presentation, which was executed better than I had imagined. It’s obvious how much time and effort everyone in the group spent towards this design challenge when they all demonstrated their pronounced base of knowledge through their connection with the client.

Now that we have all the information we need, it is evident that the storytelling of our presentation will most likely be the determining factor in audience engagement and the lasting effect of our innovation. Our story is going to be vital for connecting the audience to our client and keeping them engaged throughout the pitch. We’re coming together as a group with an immovable deadline driving us to the finish line, which seems daunting, but it only motivates us more. 

Looking forward, I’m beyond excited to share our innovation with the “real world”. This class has given me the opportunity to apply my ideas beyond grades in a system, and I finally get to see the work that matters to me have an actual effect outside school walls. Not only am I excited to introduce myself and my personal contributions to the world on Friday, but I’m eager to hear and learn more about innovation. The Build Design Challenge taught me a great deal about the design process, yet I still find the desire for knowledge and personal improvement knocking at my door every day.

The world can be intimidating, especially in today’s modern age, but we are the next generation. Despite the hesitation among the stubborn who refuse to open their minds, we have the power to make a difference and change the status quo. We can help those who struggle in a world where it’s easy to drown, and we can do it through human-centered innovation processes exactly like this one. We can be the ones who finally create meaningful change, and it’s all starting in a high school classroom.


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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