Important Project Starting Points

Yay all of my routines went well this weekend!!!! It was a tiring weekend between and coaching and preforming at the meet, but competitions are officially over for the season and soon summer camp stuff will start up.

As well as being at the gym all day, I started reading “The Art of Innovation” yesterday. So far it has been pretty good, and like most books I enjoy, it has made me think.

The beginning of the book was talking about IDEO’s beginnings and a challenge they were tasked with to redesign the shopping cart in a week and present it on national television. While this would be a daunting task for anyone, IDEO’s team took up the challenge. Author Tom Kelley noted on multiple occasions how they had a very diverse team for this project and did a large amount of field work to empathize with people using shopping carts. This made me think of two different connections to school:

1) The idea of a diverse team made me think about school teams and how they operate. Most everyone knows that a great team is composed of many different people with different talents and background knowledge. However, in high school for the most part people in your grade all take the same classes and thus are exposed to the same background knowledge.

When talking about college you often hear of great projects being started by a random team that includes a variety of different majors like an electrical engineer, a business major, a fine arts major, an interior designer, and a bio-chemists.What’s cool about a team like this is that everyone has clear different skill sets and tools that they have learned to use in different projects.

HMW create high school project teams with clear defined roles? I wonder this because I think high school is a time where you can start to develop your passion and students start to explore in different areas on there own, so I wonder how this exploration can further penetrate into the school walls.

2) The book made me further think about the importance of field work. People often have a hard time telling you what their problem is or what they need. This is why it is important to go and observe people to discover what they really need for them.

With this in mind I was reminded of a science project I did last year in biology class. We were working on a prosthetic project that each group designed individually, but the problem that my group had and I would assume others did too, was that we didn’t know anyone that needed a prosthetic. Thus we didn’t know what problems there were that we needed to design for and we couldn’t get any feedback since there was no user.

I hadn’t thought about this project in a while, but today after thinking about it I realized that I had a similar problem with the original Big History project (the attacked link is not solely about this project, but it gives a good summary of it in the post). The problem being that I didn’t know what the purpose of the project was, and I now think that was because what I needed was a user which didn’t have.

This made me think, “Well how would I redesign the prosthetic project if I was to do it again?” Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was a great project idea, and I still remember having fun trying to stumble around in the peg leg my team created. However, from seeing how one group did that actually had a user, I think all of the teams would have benefited if they had a user, but not everyone just happens to know a person in a particular situation for a project.

What if this project started with a field trip to a recovery hospital for people going through physical therapy with prosthetic? I don’t know if that specifically is a thing, but the idea would be to go somewhere to observe people that use prosthetics and potentially talk to them some to develop a level of empathy.

By going on this field trip at the beginning, students would hopefully have a clearer idea of how to go about their design challenge of designing a new prosthetic.

I think projects in lots of classes would be made more meaningful if students got the chance to go on field trips to really observe and empathize with people outside of hypothetical situations in a classroom.

Every day new observations just make me realize even more how important it is to have a diverse team and a user when working on a design challenge.

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