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.


Build Design Challenge: Testing–“A Little Help Here?”

Two days left. Presentations, Final Touches, Storytelling, Roles, Responsibilities…So much to do still. Luke R. picks it up from here:

Luke R., Junior

Presenting our prototypes to get feedback

Hello friends.  Today in Nova Lab, we were submerged in the Test phase of the Build Design Process, where each group refined and practiced pitching their projects to other groups.  My group first actively listened to a pitch from a few peers, and when they were done presenting their idea, the 3 members of my group gave them feedback on it.  One of my peers was adamant about speaking after the feedback, but she had to hold it in and accept what was given to her.  This helped her, as well as me, come to the realization that you know more than anyone else about your project.  If feedback is given to you about something that wasn’t interpreted right, then you as the presenter did not make it clear enough when pitching it.  This caused me to take a step back and think about what would be unclear to other people in my own project, and how I could take a step back and see from those perspectives to improve my work.

We pitched our project to another student, and the experience enlightened me that I need to work on my body language and flow of language when I speak.  I have to remain passionate about what I am explaining, so that I can instill passion into my audience.  After our presentation, we moved forward with the “prototype” phase, revising our idea.  We have most of our actual content figured out, at least the base level prior to revisions.  We have been working on putting everything into a slide show, creating a storyboard, and making our prototype, which was a drawing on a poster, more refined.  

This entire process has me extremely excited for our presentation Friday, and I think it is important to note that enjoying something makes it much easier to work towards.  During this project so far, me and my two group members have each had a moment where we say to ourselves or each other, “this is actually going to be really good.”  That sentence means a lot for a highschool student, because for many, school isn’t something people enjoy or want to work towards.  Just today, one of my peers in my group texted me about how this project was actually really exciting and that they couldn’t wait for Friday, and that made me super happy to see that it was being treated seriously, because I had the same realization earlier in this process.  

“I’m tired of people saying, ‘that’s not how it is in the real world’.

Mr. Heidt

Excitement needs to be a tool though, not a distraction.  It is important to realize that our ultimate goal is to help our client, and to learn while doing it.  Today Mr. Heidt said something that stuck with me.  “I’m tired of people saying, ‘that’s not how it is in the real world’.  We ARE in the real world.”  He’s right.  The world isn’t the same as it used to be, and in a week it will be completely different than it is now.  The real world is what we’re living in, and we have to take advantage of every opportunity, because opportunities only knock once.  

One last thing that I’d like to mention is that this project has helped me grow closer to my peers, especially the ones I’m working with.  I have friends in Nova Lab that I knew previous to the class, but the two people that I am in a group with, I did not know prior to taking this class.  I can now say that I say hello to two new people in the hallway when I see them, and that has been one of the most valuable aspects of this class for me.  Our group has merchandise, a solid team name, and the majority of the time in class is spent smiling and laughing, while getting significant work done.  Life can go by fast, but living in the moment with people you genuinely enjoy being around can help slow things down.  

Peace out innovators, go change the world.

Signing off, 

Luke (Team Bean)

Design Build Challenge: Day 8–Tightening up and Getting Loose

Most of our prototypes will be done and ready for testing on Friday. As well, short, story-based slide decks will be ready to go and practiced quite soon. With Friday at Fluxspace looming on the immediate horizon, we have to tighten things up in order to be loose and adaptable for our presentations. Jackson takes it from here:

Jackson B., Junior

Today, my fellow innovators and I continued prototyping our design, testing our design, and revising it to make it both aesthetically pleasing and realistic.  Evan and I attempted to discover a location for our park, which needs to be near the Hollywood/Los Angeles area.  While it has been difficult to find an area, we believe we have achieved this with a large empty grass space on West Cyprus Street, which is just outside the Compton Airport.  This is a massive breakthrough for our group as we have been attempting to discover a large enough area in the dense Hollywood to place a park, and we believe this street accomplishes that.  As we were accomplishing this, CJ began revising our original prototype to make it both more professional and aesthetically pleasing.  

This past week it has dawned on ushow meaningful this project is on both the life of Sixto and the community.  As an area that suffers from gentrification, discrimination, and possibly being a food desert, it is special to have the opportunity to provide the community with an outlet from these issues.  Our group is building a park with a stage and possible restaurant, but the community, and relationships that are built within the park are the bonds we are striving to create.  If Sixto’s community is stronger, it will be easier to push back against gentrification, discrimination, and help solve other social issues.  Knowing that our project may help Sixto’s community is a great feeling, especially knowing how much Sixto cares about this. 

Build Design Challenge: Day 7 Prototyping–Fail early, Fail Often

It’s hard to tell where all the time went. We’ve 4 days this coming week to complete our prototypes, test, reiterate if teams can split to do so, and then build out slide-decks for presentations on 11/12 at Fluxspace.io .

We’ve so many good ideas, but many are large scale. I’m not sure if that’s my own poor leadership at this juncture in this “new to me” project, or if it’s the nature of the challenge and its community impact requirement. Regardless, these designers are working to produce the best prototype they can for Friday. Here’s CJ to tell us about one such prototype:

inNOVAtor Insights

CJ, Junior

Finally, it is prototype day, we can spill all of the knowledge that has been building up in the empathisize, define, and ideate stages of our design challenge. If you, the reader, are familiar with the design challenge from previous posts it will come to no surprise that we are on a mission to build empathy within our client’s community. If this is the first post you are reading then let me give you some essential background information, our class was given the choice between four people that all are experiencing a different struggle in everyday life. We were told to choose the person that resonated with us the most.

I had chosen Sixto because I relate to how his life flipped upside down more than others during the pandemic (but also because of his unique name). Sixto is a Latino 32 year old Male that teaches to make a living, he is involved in his community but has a hard time getting over health, money, and racial problems. However there was no question to answer, in other words the problems he faces are widespread problems that many face everywhere, so my group had to figure out how to restore empathy in his community before we can begin to think about the bigger picture. That is when our group needed to define the problems and take a deeper look into Sixto and his community.

Now that you get the gist, my group has started with laying out all of the insights we have gathered via the interview videos provided. Everyone had taken notes on Sixto; he is a father of one with a second child on the way, he is part of a hip-hop music club, he relishes the importance of family and community, and he is facing problems with gentrification. Gentrification was a word I have never heard of until this class, it means that wealthier individuals change poorer areas in many ways. You would think that it is good but that makes everything more expensive, to wealthy people it isn’t a problem but to those less fortunate it forces them to move. With this information provided by builduniversity.org, we began creating a prototype. 

Now, it is definitely not the prettiest but when explained by our group it will make sense. Essentially we have designed a park theatre, in this theatre there will be entertainment on both screen and on stage live. The theatre will be non-profit accepting donations to families that struggle with gentrification. There will be food trucks of cultural cuisines that can let not only the Latino community but any culture shine. This would be a place for people to erase their mind of stereotypes and to let themselves have fun with whoever they want, no matter the race. The comic/storyboard follows a family that sees a flyer and they make plans to go to the event, the word is spread to others and they enjoy the live volunteer-based performances, cheap cultural food, and provided park swings, slides, and sporting equipment for the younger attendees. Our group thinks that this was the best way to combine our ideas and still hold practicality. We definitely feel as though this is a possible solution if everyone comes together with the sole purpose of living life without a grudge and having fun alongside anyone.

There are still challenges in this design project like finding a location in such a densely populated area (Hollywood, California). We look forward to presenting this idea at fluxspace.io on the 12th. I hope I can lead my group to not just a good grade but an outcome where people can see our work and be proud and inspired.

Other ideas for other clients:

Why Design?

I wrote this in 2016. Before NOVA Lab existed as a class. But the sentiments here, especially in point #2, are the ripples I was creating that grew into this wave we call NOVA Lab. So cool to be able to look back and see the way my thoughts have transformed and manifested themselves. Or to see how I set myself on this path, and the determination I had to make something happen. I know that’s not just me. We all do it, but I still think it’s cool.

Only Connect

I’ve written about this before, but the other day, as I was saying goodbye to my Design-Lab students, I was overcome with the feeling that what I was doing in that class was so right.  I mean this in a way that’s more like an old baseball glove than a mere, “good fit.”  Here I was, teaching something I’d studied on my own for over a decade but never had the chance to fully apply:  something I’d written about (see above) and presented on at conferences, but something I’d never had the chance to teach or facilitate in and of itself…something I never had the chance to dive into deeply with interested students.

And as the students left, the comfort of that situation, the way I could flex, and give and move with such a natural ease in that class…it didn’t leave.  It’s still here with me.

In 23 years of…

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