Giving a S***: Design for a Better World (Final Report!)

Fall of my freshman year of college, I joined the Wish for WASH team at Georgia Tech. I showed up to the Engineers Without Boarders info session because I had remembered listening to one of the founders of Wish for WASH, Jasmine Burton, speak at my high school about the original design project she embarked on to create a low-cost toilet for a community in Zambia. When I heard that the team was going to be partnering with a local private school to lead a design thinking and sustainability class for high school students, I knew I needed to apply to be a part of this journey.

Joining this team was one of the best decisions I made all year!

I posted a lot about the process of creating and conducting this month-long “short-term” class at Paideia High School, and now I am excited to share our final report of the project!!! (As the lead for the education sub-team, I created a lot of the content for this write-up, so I’m overjoyed about how this turned out as well as the class itself! Also, I’m so grateful for all of the work the rest of the team put in– The class wouldn’t have been the same without everyone who helped along the way and I’ve never had a final report look so pretty!)

Overall I’m so proud of everything we accomplished and can’t wait for what adventures are in store for me next on this team.

(Click here to learn more about the Paideia class partnership, and other projects from Wish for WASH!)

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Back to Reality

Today was my first full day back in Atlanta since mid-June. It was a fairly standard day for me being at the gym most of the time and then crashing my brother’s tap rehearsal.

Being back in Atlanta though, it hit me today how close it is to the summer being over. It’s about time for next semester to start and I don’t feel the least bit ready. It’s about time for classes, and projects, and coaching, and acro, and tap, and maybe theater though looking unlikely this semester sadly.

It feels like summer flew by and now it’s back to reality time of needing to get ready for the rest of this year.

I’m not really looking forward to going back to school which is kind of disappointing honestly. I feel like the past few years I’ve always been at least somewhat excited for school to start, even if just for the sake of seeing friends and teachers and a few classes and clubs I knew I could count on being great like Latin and Innovation Diploma. Nowadays though I don’t feel like there’s much I’m looking forward to in regards to school. It was kind of a sad discovery to have as I looked at my messy room and realized it was time to start packing, so now I’ve been trying to really process what might be a positive thing about going back to school but still struggling some…

I think I’ll be closer with my roommates this year which could be fun. I’m moving to the advanced tap group which is kind of exciting, though I still kind of feel like a bit of an outsider at times with the tap troupe because most of the people were besties before forming the troupe. Theater I don’t foresee me being as involved with this semester just due to time commitments with actually working a fixed schedule at the gym this year plus 18 credit hours of classes (which I’m really not excited about especially with still taking so many core courses still); I am excited though to do A Mid Summer Night’s Dream again in the spring. Engineers Without Borders will be interesting considering we’ve finished teaching the class with Paideia, which was what I had joined the team for in the first place, but we’re hoping to continue the education team we just haven’t worked out details so I should get a lot of leadership with that. I’m somewhat excited to start taking psych classes this semester, but “intro to psych” is considered to be sometimes a hard weed out course which makes me a little less excited.

So I guess really I just have a lot of mixed feelings about school starting so soon. I’m not really sure how to feel about some things, meanwhile not excited about most of my classes whereas I use to have more classes to look forward to. My conclusion at this point: I wish higher ed was more learner-centered.

Inspiring Perspiration

Yesterday was a crazy day ending with a gym sleepover I worked for 50 some kids ages 5-15, so sadly I couldn’t blog until tonight.

It was the last full day of two big events I was working: the Olympic Gymnastics Camp (OGC) and the DT/sustainability course I was co-teaching at Paideia high school.
Last days can often only be described as being “happy-sad.” I was so proud of how far all of the kids came, but it was also sad to think our time together is over now. The OGC kids I may see again next year at camp, or at gymnastics meets throughout the year, but for the Paideia kids, who knows if I’ll ever see them again.
After 18 days working at Paideia, we successfully ended the course with each team having a prototype of a composting toilet and a deeper understanding of design thinking!!! I had to miss a few days during the last week due to working OGC, but I’m so glad I made it to their final pitches because they turned out really well for first-time design thinkers.
While we obviously had a schedule planned out before the course started, I was still a little nervous about if we would really be able to get all the way through a design challenge with newbies in only 18 days of about an hour and a half meeting each day. I was even more worried when we didn’t have full attendance until day 4… But we powered through!
Internally, I think we did a great job of really inspiring the kids early on and making sure to get everyone connected with each other to feel more comfortable before tackling some uncomfortable topics and situations- like talking about toilet habits.
Honestly, that’s probably one of the greatest takeaways I’ve had from this course: to have perspiration you need inspiration, and with the right inspiration, anything is possible.
I am planning to do a follow-up blog post after my Wish for WASH team who taught the class gets together to have our internal reflection meeting about the course. There are things I would change if we were to do it again, things I would like to further explore, and things that I was surprised about, etc, but I’ve not had a good chance to sort through all of my opinions just yet.
For now I just want to think about how crazy it is to believe we are finished, and how proud I am of the high school learners and of our Wish For WASH team for accomplishing our big goals: the learners built their own composting toilet prototypes that a panel of experts were interested in and they demonstrated a deeper understanding of design thinking and sustainability topics through their final pitches and reflection surveys.
#ProgressBell !!!!

It’s Plausible

My mom and I saw the movie “Ready Player One” today and while it was by no means the best movie ever, we both agreed it was pretty good. We had some laughs and some jumps and were forced to think a little which are all respectable things for a movie to make you feel.

If you haven’t heard of this movie, it is essentially a dystopian story about virtual reality. Imagine 2045 where the world is run down and piled high with trash and poverty and whole trailer parks stacked on top of each other. The quality of life is so poor that practically everyone spends most of their time in the virtual reality world of the Oasis where you can do anything and everything and life is like a game. However, when the game creator dies he sets out a challenge for one lucky winner to inherit his share of the company and control of the game, then all of a sudden this becomes a business endeavour. It’s a fight between big business and the people for who will take control of this central part of everyone’s life.

Like I said, the movie itself got pretty cheesy sometimes and wasn’t the most advanced plot development, but the concept of the movie was what was really intriguing. It’s a very plausible scenario when you think about it. With the rate virtual reality is being popularized and the rate in which we’re polluting the Earth, just how far-fetched is it to imagine a world where people are having their time consumed by “living” in a virtual world? It’s kind of scary how some of these dystopian stories become more and more realistic and possible futures every day.

Leader of the Day

If we were to replicate the course we are currently running at Paideia, one of the big things I think we need to spend more time on is team roles. I think I forgot that most students haven’t worked on design teams before and aren’t quite use to the unique dynamics of this kind of work.

I remember before I was introduced to design thinking, and even afterward sometimes, if I was working on a project with a bad team, I would just make sure everything got done in the end. Maybe I would talk to the teacher at some point, but overall the norm would be to just work with the people actually working.

However, in a design team, we try to encourage the ideology that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and is a valuable member of the team. With that, we want project leaders who not only lead by example with getting work done but also try to pull in their distracted team members to include them in the work.

Today we made a point of sharing about this kind of leadership because we had a 3D printed “trophy” we were giving out at the end of class. I think making this point helped a lot because today both teams really made an effort of keeping everyone involved in finishing up our toilet prototypes.

It was great to watch!

Needing a Mix Up

I ended up falling asleep early last night while reading for my online course. I guess this month has just been wearing me out.

It’s weird because it’s summer, and yet my life is still very scheduled and repetitive, unlike other years: I get up around 9:30, eat breakfast, do school work for about an hour, get ready for the day, check to make sure I’m ready for teaching at Paideia, eat a quick lunch, drive to Paideia and do some design thinking, drive to the gym, coach gymnastics for a few hours (or do acro practice like today), then come home and help make dinner, do a little more work, maybe watch something with the fam, then go to bed and repeat.

I’ve never had a summer where I’ve been working so much. Typically I’m still in school till about this time of year, and then I have a few weeks before fuse and then I head off to camp or traveling of some kind and I typically hop around between family members and am maybe home a few or two all summer. I realized only the other day that this is probably my first summer being home for basically all of June since 6th grade; that’s crazy!!!!

So much has changed in this past year not only with college but apparently with summer too. I’ve been enjoying teaching and coaching more, but man it’s exhausting at the same time.

I want to challenge myself to mix it up a bit more and not get too stuck in this same schedule, because to me that’s what summer is all about; exploring new things and having time for the things all school year there doesn’t seem like time for.

Brainstorm to Rainstorm

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From brainstorms to rainstorms, it’s been a day.

I feel like I’ve been going non-stop from 6:30am until now which I haven’t done in a very long time. My day started with a 3.5-hour brainstorming vision meeting this morning, then teaching at Paideia, then coaching at the gym, then ended with getting dragged along to a baseball game that got stormed out without starting.

I’m not very wet and very tired.

I don’t know how I use to maintain this kind of stamina in high school. It’s crazy to think this use to be a norm for me of getting up at 6:30 and going to bed at midnight with so much in between. Now I wake up between 8:20-10 typically and I always feel so much more well rested to the point where now I especially just can’t handle early mornings.

It’s crazy what we expect high school students to cram all into one day. That’s not even getting started with diving into the topic of how much content we try to cram into every hour, day, semester, year, etc. Who said in just 4 years so much has to be learned and decided on?

More Sticky Notes

Today was a big day for our Paideia students because today was the day we interviewed users!

It seemed as if we might not even have any users to come in to be interviewed with the amount we had to search to find people interested in tiny houses and sustainability who were also available to meet today during the class time. However, somehow we managed to get 4 interviewees, one of which was virtual, who came in today for 15-minute interviews with each of our two teams.

I was incredibly impressed with how far these kids have come with their ability to ask questions. On day 2 during our Flashlab, we were a bit worried because there were a lot of yes or no questions and short, often changing, conversations happening. However, after just a week and a bit they have grown so much! 1334x1000.jpeg.f4cd3a6a28024abe9c5c51eb31c06aec.jpg

Today the interviewees left commenting on how much they liked the teams’ questions and we were having to cut off deep conversations happening due to timing, which was hard to do because it was so wonderful to overhear!

Honestly, what I’ve enjoyed most about teaching this course is seeing how design thinking really affects the lives of students.

Most of these kids didn’t know each other before the class and now we know all sorts of random things about each other; from how we got our names to stories about sibling tensions when the whole family got food poising and were sharing a bathroom.

Plus, Sparks have become a daily norm where we all laugh at how confused the neighboring classrooms must be when they hear us chanting “Jump in, Jump out” or reciting different ice cream flavors, or announcing our superhero names.

1334x1000.jpeg.05f3a73409e1486cbad36c70939e688d.jpgOn the way out of the classroom we’re always told thank you and “can’t wait to see you tomorrow” and one student when doing I Like, I Wish, I Wonder feedback said, “I wish we had more than 18 days in this class!”

They have become learners who question everything, even the challenging topics like “Can you vomit in a composting toilet, and would it be a solid or liquid when separating it into a compartment?”

And they can take those questions and turn them into insights, such as realizing how a toddler might actually be the most receptive family member to adopting a composting toilet because of how the mother said the toddler loves helping out and the ability to take ownership of a process.

I can’t wait to see what insights are found during our unpacking session tomorrow, but first, we need to get more sticky notes- we ran out today…

 

First HW Assignment

Last night, in an attempt to get closer to becoming composting toilet experts, we gave our first “homework assignment” for the Paideia class.

We had every individual pick a different composting toilet brand and label all of the different parts and functions of that particular toilet. Additionally, they were asked to create a pros con list for their toilet. This information we then used today as a springboard to discuss what are necessary pieces required in a composting toilet versus where are areas we can brainstorm creative new ideas for.

When I announced the assignment I was expecting detesting remarks about how they were getting homework after not having it so far in the course.

Surprisingly though, no one even questioned the assignment. I couldn’t believe how calm everyone was because honestly, I was nervous about announcing it. Especially since it was a day-of-pivot we made because we thought it would be helpful for the students to more deeply explore different composting toilets currently available after hearing an external expert talk about a few different toilets.

I suppose they also all understood the purpose behind the homework and knew it would be beneficial to their teams and maybe that was why no one was shocked or annoyed with our ask of them. Sure I’ve only known these kids for a week or so now and maybe this is how they always respond, but maybe it just goes to show how when work has a clear and meaningful purpose, it’s less likely to cause tension and complaints.

Design-Engineering

Over the years I’ve been exposed to a lot of different design thinking processes. They all have the same basic components just maybe with different wording or descriptions but at the end of the day, every design thinking process is just another way to visualize and work through human-centered problem-solving.

2250x1687.jpeg.fb397ed778a54598a13237c793491d20.jpgSomething I’ve found to be really cool about our course with Paideia and Wish For WASH is that there is no set design thinking process associated with our organization, so we don’t have to contain ourselves to one methodology. Instead, I get to pull from all sorts of different tools I’ve used to help coach our learners through the process.

I’ve used DEEPdt as the base because that’s what I’m most familiar with, and the DEEPdt playbook is a convenient way to facilitate newbies through the process. However, I’ve also pulled in tools or even just coaching ideas from the Stanford d.school process, the double diamond method we used in Grand Challenges, and some tools used in a mechanical engineering core class.

Today was one of the first days for me trying out one of the engineering tools which was suggested by another Innovation Diploma graduate who is also at Georgia Tech the year above me. The tool is called “The Function Tree” and I think it was a really good tool for our design challenge since it is product design oriented. The tool is about breaking down the different functions your design needs to be able to accomplish by getting more and more specific about what the sub-functions are that have to be accomplished first.  For example, a toilet must contain waste, well a composting toilet must first separate waste, which also means there needs to be a way to contain the waste, etc.

1136x852.jpeg.63bcfa55c7e34ff19ecdc62f218f960eI’m still learning how to best use and facilitate some of these tools that are newer to me, but I’ve really enjoyed the process of combining different methodologies; it’s helped me identify gaps, weaknesses, and strengths in different methods and tools.