Oh How Far We’ve Come

C4y7nuiWMAMPqgN.jpgI always love Thursdays because they feel so productive. Until 1:10 I get to spend my day working on Innovation Diploma related things, and with such a large chuck of time, I often have my most productive meetings, brainstorms, and build days on Thursdays. This past Thursday was a really interesting day because our newest members of the Innovation Diploma (the Gates Cohort) experienced what it was like to give a pitch to a client for the first time.

C4zAo-fWYAEiFFd.jpgThe Gates kids have been spending the last few weeks working on what we call an adVenture. An adVenture is a design challenge where someone in the immediate MVPS community is the one to initiate the problem being investigated. Based on my understanding, the Gates kids were tasked to come up with solutions for Mr. Edwards (Tedwards) to help better organize the HIVE (our maker space) and get more people into the space.

These teams of 3-4 people then gave their final pitch to Tedwards as well the 2nd and 3rd year ID kids (Pixar kids) last Thursday. They were far from perfect, but what amazed me is that they were lightyears ahead of what the inaugural cohort was doing the second semester of our first year.


screen-shot-2017-02-22-at-12-14-06-amIt was crazy to sit there and think about just how far the program has come in the past 3 years since the Innovation Diploma began. These newest members had slide decks, story lines, and prototypes that were just about at the professional level, and it was also satisfying to hear the quality feedback they received from the returning ID kids because there was a true sense of wisdom to it.

What really impacted me the most was when I realized the lessons that Gates kids were learning in an internal environment:

  • Pre-planning is mandatory: When you have a client coming, you have to think about more than just what you’re going to present. You also must consider: how you are going to set up the space? When you will get tech situated? How the client will check in? Who will meet the client at the front and take them to the space? What would you say when meeting the client? Etc. 
  • The story is key: Giving a good pitch is often more important than the quality of the prototype, and the way you give a good pitch is by taking the audience on a journey. You must explain what the problem is, what insights you discovered from users, how your prototype meets the needs of the users, why your prototype is the best answer, what the next steps are, and how you can help make the prototype come to life.
  • Take pictures throughout the process: The story is the most important part of the presentation, however, pictures and slide deck quality is what makes a good pitch into an incredible and professional looking pitch. To get these pictures, you really have to take pictures of everything along the way, otherwise you’ll start your slide deck and just realize everything you missed a great picture of.
  • Redefining “low res”: Every prototype has different stages. After a quick day long brainstorm you can expect a few prototypes made of construction paper and popsicle sticks; this is not the prototype you present to your clients. By using digital technology we can make relatively fast prototypes that have a much better quality appearance.
  • Always rehearse: The best pitch you will ever give will never be your first. The more you practice and receive feedback, the better a pitch will get. Teams often get feedback on their prototypes, but not always the presentation, but the presentation is critical as mentioned before. If you plan an internal practice pitch a few days before the actual pitch, you can receive game changing feedback that will take your presentation to the next level.

These are just a few of the lessons I heard the Gates kids discuss as takeaways from their first pitch. The crazy thing is though, that while the Gates kids discussed their takeaways, all of the Pixar kids just looked at each other in amazement because we had to C3xAbL6W8AEW556.jpglearn these lessons the hard way- while in front of an external client… It’s so incredible that now first year Innovation Diploma kids are learning these lessons. By the time they’ve had the experiance of a few years, who knows what these kids will be doing.

The program is getting better and better each year, and a lot of it is because of what we’ve learned through trial and error with past cohorts. As a member of the inaugural cohort I have faced a lot of challenges within the Innovation Diploma, as any pioneer must face when embarking on a new adventure; however, I wouldn’t trade the role I’ve gotten to play in the program in order to have been entering after some of those initial kinks have been prototyped for. By being a first year member I’ve worked through the hard times and learned so much from our fail-up experiences, and now I get the extreme pleasure of looking at these new members and seeing just how far we’ve come as a community. It’s incredible.C3xAbK4WQAALlIX.jpg

When I walked away from the pitch on Thursday, I couldn’t help but think about further feedback for the Gates kids, but I also couldn’t help but just smile for the past and the future of this incredible journey I’ve been on with the Innovation Diploma.  

“I’m Fine” Live Read Through

At the end of Junior year I had an idea about how I wanted to end my last theater season with the MVPAllstars. For my last year I really wanted to do a powerful show that left the audience contemplating life as they walked away.

A show like this requires a certain type of experienced cast though, so who better to perform it than all of the senior members of the Thespian Society?

I then talked to each of the other five senior Thespians at the end of last year about this idea of mine and everyone agreed, so to make sure we got this last theater moment, we formed “The Senior Theater Project.” Since the end of our junior year, the six senior Thespians have been working on writing, directing, and performing our own show and with first semester now over, I thought it was a good time to reflect on the progress so far.

Semester one was really focused on writing the script. We knew that we wanted a theme around identity, and after some summer interview work we were able to develop a clearer vision during our first semester meeting. The show is about the struggles that students face that don’t really get discussed at school or on social media; the idea is to demonstrate how much goes on in students lives that we don’t always know about.

At the end of first semester we had a live read through of our script in order to gain feedback about our story thus far. This was a hard goal to meet-having an entire script done to a point where we could share with an audience-and we even knew that it wasn’t finished when we presented; however, I’ve learned over the years how important it is to get feedback early on if you want the best possible final product.

Our team was working until the last second, literally creating the title, “I’m Fine,” for the show about 30 minutes before going on stage. It wasn’t perfect, but it was a complete story that made sense, and the feedback was amazing!

Everyone in attendance seemed to really enjoy the show and where it is headed, and on top of boosting our confidence, they also provided helpful feedback about things that they still didn’t quite understand and suggestions for our next edits. It was useful having outside people give feedback on our show, because those of us who have been writing the script have been so involved in the world of the show that we don’t know sometimes if we are showing enough backstory on parts of the story and characters.

Since then we have been continuing to meet and plan because we officially have less than 20 days of rehearsal left before we perform the show in full! It’s been a crazy process so far, and it’s insane to think how little time we have left. While the show doesn’t go on stage until April, we only meet once a week until two weeks before preview night so we’ve been trying to think through everything from blocking to set building to our photo shoot. (Sometimes I forget just how many little things have to happen for a show to be put on stage, but being the director and co-writer of a show makes that impossible to forget…)

However, despite how stressful it’s been at times to try to work on our show on top of school, college, and other theater productions, we all know that come this April when we take those last bows, it will all have been worth it. To be able to say that we created our own show and it actually went well, will be amazing! It’ll be even more amazing knowing how much work we have put into this brain baby of ours.

2 Years of Blogging Later

images.jpgWhat started as just a fun challenge to create a blog and post for 100 days in a row has now become an integral part of my life. Blogging may not be for everyone, but for me it has helped me clarify some of my observations and thoughts on different parts of my daily life, and the best part is that I’m able to track and record my reflections, insights, and key learning moments throughout each year. With it being about the middle of summer now, and with the fact that I won’t have access to much internet or phone service for at least the next week, I find that it’s a great time for me to zoom out and reflect upon my key learning moments from the past year as a whole about myself, utilizing the design process, and the future of education.

This past year I have significantly expanded my understanding of these 5 ideas:

  1. The need for flexible schedules  
  2. The role of teachers
  3. Prototyping and launching
  4. Sense of self
  5. The future of student voice

In the “real world” people do not work on a bell schedule that has obscure periods of time that go from 10:15-11:05. This past year I have started to do even more “real world work” where I’ve found myself struggling to find times to meet with people due to my odd school schedule. However, within my project based learning time, I have wider chunks of time where I’m able to get ample work done. I’ve written a few times this past year about how we’re often just waiting for Thursdays when we have so much flexible time- the first half of the day- to really get deep into our work by going off campus, interviewing people, working on prototypes with tools, etc: “Sometimes it feels like we’re just constantly waiting for Thursdays, because those are the days we always leave feeling like we actually were really productive and successful in making progress towards a bigger goal in our journey.” — Waiting For Thursdays 

And imagine with the amount of work that can happen during half a day, when given a whole week I got the opportunity to travel with other members of the MVPS Innovation Diploma cohort to San Fransisco to work with Stanford students at the d.School on design thinking challenges: ID at the d.School If we hope for students to be doing work with companies within our communities, than we need to support this type of work by having school schedules that are more flexible to allow for meetings, and off campus work, and time to really get into a flow of working.

The biggest adventure of this year for me has to have been the AP Lang Collab Course which has allowed me to take ownership of my learning in a way never before experienced. This past year a partner and I created and participated in the first ever student designed AP course which we called the AP Lang Collab Course. We created this course because we wanted to challenge the education status quo, have the opportunity to test project ideas we’ve had over the years, and have the freedom to take control of our learning as we explore our interests through the lense of language. For this to work we had to be the student, teacher, facilitator, coach, mentor, everything all in one, and with this newfound ownership of our learning I developed a better understanding for how I envision a 21st century teacher. “I can teach, mentor, coach, and facilitate, but when I’m in a class I want someone who can bring their past experiance in to help constantly change between all 4 of these roles and more when needed. I want a guide in the classroom. Someone to teach me skills, and mentor me through stress, and coach me to be confident, and facilitate me and my peers around common challenges. Most importantly though, a guide occasionally let’s it’s followers explore the woods and decide what path to turn down. A guide helps students along the path they choose and points out the important landmarks along the way.”— Taking Ownership 

Another huge project for me this past year was my work with the ReSpIn Organization which strives to Reduce waste, Spark conversations, and Inspire change around 21st century sustainability. Our team was formed because we observed that while MVPS teachers, students, faculty, and parents all observe the importance of recycling and being an environmentally sustainable school, more can be done to make MVPS a leader of environmental sustainability. So we explored the question, “How might we make sustainability a part of our DNA at MVPS?”

The first product to come from the ReSpIn team is called the RISE Sustainability System. This system is a learning tool for teachers and students to use in order to help facilitate conversations and activities around sustainability. The product is a space saving waste and recycling bin in one made out of PVC, wood, and zip ties in a way that allows for anyone, of any age, to set up the RISE bin on their own. This clever design allows for classrooms to set up their own RISE bin and use that experience to jumpstart the learning on sustainability. For this project we created dozens of prototypes, and had many moments where we struggled with taking the RISE bin to the next level. This struggle though, is truly what happens in the “real world” with product designs; they take time and lots of prototypes and feedback. The most inspiring piece of feedback that we were given was from a little 5th grade girl who told me, “This is the best design challenge we’ve done, because we never get to see a project like this get this far.”- RISE to New Levels. My work with the ReSpIn team isn’t complete yet, but after this year I’ve learned the true value of prototyping early and getting feedback from a myriad of people in order to push ideas forward.

Amongst the things that I’ve learned about school and design thinking, I’ve also learned a lot about myself over this past year. I’ve always been a person with countless interests, passions, and after school activities that have consumed my “free time.” I’ve often thought of this as a problem because I can’t make up my mind on how to spend my time because I get too interested in everything simply because I’m curious and love learning. Then I watched the Ted Talk, Why some of us don’t have one true calling, and it was possibly the most moving TED Talk I’ve watched yet, because Emilie Wapnick introduced me to a world of people just like me and helped talk about the positive side to being what she calls a “multipotentialite”:  

  • Idea Synthesis: bringing together seemingly different concepts together to find the intersections where great ideas come from.
  • Rapid Learning: getting deeply curious about one thing and learning a ton about it before moving on to the next thing to also learn a ton about.
  • Adaptability: being able to put on different hats in different situations where different roles are necessary.

I’ve been discovering a deeper sense of self which is an essential part of learning. I’m a person with many different interests, but I can also find the connections between these diverse topics easily which helps me to build project teams and relate things like gymnastics and education transformation.I’m A Multipotentialite 

Learning more about myself has also helped me learn more about ways that I can contribute to the movement to transform education. This year I served as an MVIFI (Mount Vernon Institute For Innovation) Fellow which opened up a number of opportunities for me where I would be leading all kinds of educators in conversations and challenges. In design thinking we highly value and work with our users. The main users of schools are the students. So it only makes sense that for us to re-design schools, we need to value and work with students. Not only is it helpful for students to provide feedback and be involved with ideating on projects, but it also is a huge confidence builder as a student to be talking with external mentors on “real world” issues such as education transformation—External Mentors Make Things Real 

All of these key learning moments from this past year have been made even greater in my mind because I was able to reflect upon them on my blog. Blogging has given me a place to share my story in a way where I can also easily look back and find trends and connections between my observations. Plus on top of everything, I’m constantly expanding my network and getting new opportunities. I know I’m not the best writer in the world, and I know it’s an area that I could most improve on, but since I’ve been blogging I’ve grown a new confidence and joy in my writing. Writing helps us think, reflecting helps us grow, sharing helps make the world a better place, and blogging is all 3 in one!

No More Hesitation

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New faces, new stories, new possibilities; fuse16 day 1 is done and it was such a great hit!

For those of you that didn’t get to join in on the fun this year, here’s a quick summary of today’s flow:

We love to throw people right into the deep end by starting this morning off with a design thinking flashlab, where we went through an entire lap of design thinking in just a few hours. From there we had lots of opportunities to eat, question, and mingle and finished the night with some powerful MoVe (moment of visible empathy) talks given by our 4 non-profit partners and 4 people from MVPS.

One of the things I love most about fuse is the opportunity to meet so many new passionate people in one place at one time. I had so many MoVeing (I crack myself up) conversations with people today about all sorts of things from blogging, to theater, to foreign language, to gymnastics, and then of course many conversations about design thinking and how it’s impacted my life. (Especially after giving my MoVe Talk: Thinking Like a Designer— this is actually last year, but it’s the same talk minus one slide and a years more worth of public speaking and natural improv with the audience.)

I love the chance to network with so many people and I’m honored that so many people care about my opinions. What I’ve realized from today is that even in just the last year, I’ve grown to be so much more comfortable with design thinking and the language that accompanies it.

While coaching I’m not always turning to another to ask a million questions about it I’m going about things right; instead I’m being asked questions. In conversations people have caught me saying “design slang” terms like “I wonder” and “what if” and “discovery and empathy work” naturally in response to questions not necessarily about DT directly. Being one of, if not the only student, in the room has become normal to me; in fact, today I was actually pushing my little sister to go join in with the adults since this was her first time in a situation like that. (I also told her to get use to it since she’s joining ID next year.)

In my MoVe Talk I mention how there is no perfect designer, but the best we can do is to continually practice and you will find yourself more naturally feeling and acting like a designer. I wrote up this MoVe a year ago when I had first noticed myself subconsciously thinking like a designer, and now, a year later, I feel this statement is even more true. Last year I was just realizing that I am a designer and everyone else can be one too, and going back to freshman year I was just learning what design thinking even was. The year before that, I couldn’t tell you the first thing about what it meant to think like a designer. But now, in just 3 years, I don’t think I hesitate at all to say that I’m a designer. All that’s changed is that I’ve had more experiences to build confidence and competence.

It’s always nice to get a reminder that makes you look back on where you were to make you realize just how far you’ve come.

 

Prototyping Routines

images-2.jpgFor the past few years now, I’m constantly having moments where I catch myself thinking like a designer. Today I observed this happening while choreographing new gymnastics routines.

Creating a new routine is dependent on good prototyping. If I hear a song a couple of times, I can just get on the floor and improv a routine fairly well; however, more often than not, my first creation is not my best work. I can spend hours on one routine fine tuning every movement and still end up deciding on a different idea just moments later. In order to fully figure out what works best, I have to constantly test out the routine to see how even little adjustments affect the routine as a whole.

I have also found, like any idea, time is often the secret sauce that makes an idea great. I have to constantly have a song running through my head and mull over a routine for a few days if I wish to really get my best work. Furthermore, sometimes it’s a matter of waiting for inspiration; sometimes I just find myself so absorbed in a song that I have to choreograph a routine because it’s just bursting out of me. If you don’t act upon the inspiration, then the idea will be lost which would be a terrible set back.

A gymnastics routine prototype also has to be heavily user focused because every gymnast is different. When I create  a routine I can no longer be myself, I must imagine myself as the user and create the routine according to that child’s strengths and style. Then in the end, after a routine is finalized, it still may not be perfect and I can’t know until I start teaching a gymnast and seeing how the routine “fits” them. Sometime this means that I have to make on the spot changes because parts of the prototype just don’t work the best with that gymnast; everything is always in the best interest of the user, otherwise the product is no good.

I am a gymnastics designer; routines are my prototypes and gymnasts are my users, and with time, empathy, and iterations I help create something beautiful.

ID and the d.School

Happy Pi Day!!!!  12814732_1506744409355007_4470129584779643494_n-1.jpg

It’s been a busy few weeks.  Since I last posted I’ve been working at the Stanford d.School, wondering the city of San Francisco, at a Disney hotel, exploring Universal, sick in bed, discovering new facts at interactive museums, catching up on reading, and in general having fun with family and friends relaxing and trying not to worry about school. I’ve dropped the ball on blogging for various reasons, but that is irrelevant right now because inspiration hit me and I’ve finally reached a point where I simply must write.

While in San Fran (though really I was in Palo Alto most of the time…) I did write some posts, but due to internet issues at the time they never made there way online yet.

Rather than multiple posts I shall put the summaries here of our work on the design challenge “HMW establish friendships and build community at Stanford?”


San Fran Day 1

CcWIqrQWIAAwCux.jpgToday was our first day in San Francisco and I’m so excited to be back here again! The city is so much fun! All the bright colors, interesting street people, and pretty scenery just makes me so happy.

Today was our “chill day “ since we only just got into the city and everyone is still adjusting to the time difference. We did a lot of exploring today. We started out just doing a lot of walking to our hotel and then to the pier to visit the Exploritorium. We came to this same interactive museum last year as well and it’s really cool to get to play with all of the science, math, and psychology interactive exhibits.
CcU_AhQUUAAse33.jpg(Small tangent, this place also has one of the biggest Pi Day celebrations in the country at least, and there is free admission and a bunch of pi activities to do. One year I would love to be in San Fran for Pi Day just to see this supposedly epic event. This year is actually the 28th time they are celebrating apparently.)

One thing at the museum that I didn’t notice last year is that they have a moving sign up front that is constantly changing what it says. At one point in time, it read, “You can’t fail a museum.” I really liked this because it showed how the Exploritorium is really meant to be a place to wander and wonder and simple have fun learning about new things. There is no number or letter attached to anything. TherCcVjr92UUAAmzLY.jpge is no sense of “failure” because no matter what you do at a station, you will either learn what works or 10,000 ways that don’t (just like Thomas Jefferson inventing the lightbulb.)

 I wonder what schools could learn from the design of the Exploritorium. I know we need to have some form of feedback at school, which is not present at the Exploritorium, but what if we had a section of school that was more like a museum with various interactive exhibits set up. A place where you could wander in everyday and learn something new. Learning without the stress of grades is great.


San Fran Day 2

IDEO and d.School all in one day!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Today was fantastic so many great ideas in such a short amount of time! CcZkU3SXIAEP3TT.jpg

We talked about everything from a bathroom note board, to a hackathon bike race, to how to build trust between high schoolers and college reps.

I think what I enjoyed most about today was giving feedback to grad students on their prototypes for trying to figure out how to relieve stress from students trying to go to college.

It’s cool to see ideas that other people have about education transformation and I was making sure to take notes on ideas that connect to ours.

I’ve noticed that most ID members have gotten a lot more comfortable with giving feedback which was very evident today. Everyone was “in the zone” so to say; we seemed comfortable and confident with what we were talking about and how we were explaining our thoughts.

It seems like we gave valuable feedback, but I wish we could have gotten to hear their team’s meeting about what they thought after our feedback. I would like to know if our feedback was actually valuable to them rather than just basing it off of our own observations.

CclIt1oWwAEADMZ.jpgWe also did some quick interviews with people today around campus. That was particularly interesting because we don’t often get to experience what it’s like to go out into the “real world” and just ask strangers questions to try to empathize better with our users. Usually it’s someone we know that we’ve been emailing with for a while and then finally get one 30 minute conversation with. There was no real planning on our part with these interviews though (the facilitators at the d.School had talked with the dorm leaders who had talked to the student, but we personally had not connected with any of the students before). We talked less and did more and it was fun, informative, and got us moving further faster I think.

Overall day 2 was fantastic!


San Fran Day 3

Wow today was a full day.

We were talking with college students, doing fun team building dances, unpacking interviews and working a lot on trying to find insights.

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We saw David Kelley!

It was tiring.

While there is a lot I could talk about tonight, what I’d like to dive in on is how I realized how important it is to have breaks in our day.

When we’re always working non-stop, then it can be hard to really process everything, and your energy level slowly dies down. We’ve had some long days this week so far, and while I’ve appreciated the amount of time we’ve had to work, I wonder if we will have more moments this week where we break out from working. Times to just do weird fun stuff as a team.

We did a dance exercise today, which I can only describe as a leadership exercise that forced us to be goofy and follow each other anyway. We were working with our teams and changing up who was the leader to lead our team in dance moves. This was so much fun and I think we got to know our mini teams better, but I hope we get to have similar experiences with all of the ID family. I think every group can always grow with their understanding and comfort level with each other.


Now I didn’t keep up with blogging after day 3, so I’ll just do a quick recap of my overall thoughts.

To be completely honest (as I like to be), I had many points of frustration. I think this is natural, I’d be lying to say that everything was good and dandy 100% of the time with anything I do. I think the hardest part was being in a place where not everyone sees the same potential in a group of high schoolers as our facilitators and teachers at MVPS do. We are given so much respect at MVPS that it’s hard to leave that environment and remember that not all of the rest of the world thinks of high schoolers as active and involved members of a community. This struggle personally came up for me a few times along with the normal working on a team struggles.

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Paper plate awards for everyone! (I got the “mathlete” award cus I was memorizing pi all week, but also playing some intense ultimate frisbee; which I learned at nerd camp!) 

However, these were all minor things compared to the over all experience and everything we gained from it.

The theme of the week was “fail forward” which reminded me of a MVPS phrase we like to say, “fail up”; they essentially mean the same thing, which is a reminder that you have to learn from failures, in order to achieve success. So don’t shut down when you fail, instead lean in and like a clown at a circus, even when you fall you get up and say “ta-da!” I thought it was really neat to hear someone else talk about a mindset that we also have as a norm when doing work.

Some other big take aways were how we learned a lot of new helpful tools and coaching prompts for going through the design process. Another big success was that a lot of ID members seemed to take on new roles while we were at Stanford, and really come out of their comfort zones in positive ways; several people also had “aha” moments where they maybe understood a part of the design process better than they once did. I also think a huge take away was just the number of great ideas generated while we were there. I hope some of these ideas will maybe be adapted a little and implemented at MVPS.

I could tell that all of these take aways helped bring our ID family closer together, and I

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We got official d.School pins as well as our own awesome mustaches as inspired by David Kelley. 

hope to see some of these take aways help inspire our work as we continue this year and beyond.

What’s really blowing my mind still is that we had this opportunity. Ya we are a bunch of high schoolers, but we are a bunch of high schoolers that just spent a week with Stanford students thinking up big ideas to problems that are affecting real people. Too bad this wasn’t school all of the time.

Full Scale Prototyping

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Today was a productive day for my design team. Our healthy living design challenge moves forward in ID and my team has been working on our full scale prototype of our 2 in 1 recycling and trash bin for the last few days and we are almost completely done!!!

The entire structure itself is now finished and in testable condition, and this include our accompanying poster that helps describe in limited words why we should recycle and what we can recycle. All we have left now is to set up our Makey Makey device (I can’t even describe in words how awesome Makey Makey is!) so that we can count the number of people that use our recycling bin in the middle school once we put our prototype in the 8th grade locker bay for our first big experiment.

It’s important to actually build a full scale prototype to then experiment so that you can observe how users interact with your design. It’s amazing how much you can learn about improvements that could be made on your design simply by building and testing it. Part of why it has taken us so long to even finish the prototype was because as we built it we discovered design problems with pieces being too big or small or functionality problems like how our doors will open and how the bins will angle out as the door opens. And even from the few pieces of feedback we’ve found by users interacting with the design had to do with us needing to better label the door you use to recycle or throw something away, appose to the door custodians can use to get the bins out. We also have realized that we need to adjust the inside so that it is easier to take the bin out without getting tangled in the ropes for the doors. One idea that has come from this is to 3D print some of our own parts.

Next steps for this prototype experiment will be to move it into the 7th and 8th grade building. We have discovered from observation that the middle school building currently does not have recycling bins in the classrooms, which isn’t setting up the conditions for students to think about recycling. Furthermore, after talking to some 8th graders, we discovered that most of them only realized that the recycling bins were gone due to the one in their locker bay no longer being there. That recycling bin seemed to get more traffic, so we thought we would first put the bin in that room before trying out other locations.

I’m so excited to get our prototype into experiment mode!!! Tomorrow it WILL be done and set up for testing– we are determined!!!! (Cue pump up montage music!)