Summer Projects

Working on a design/project team over the summer can be very challenging. The hardest part is trying to make sure everyone is adhering to deadlines and being able to communicate well with each other even without having consistent times where the team is face to face and without having everyone on the same schedule and sometimes not even the same time zone.

It can be hard enough working on a non-school specific project during the school year while everyone has various assignments and other activities going on, then it seems summer comes and everyone really just wants to take a break which makes it even harder to keep working on a project.

As we get ready for Trailblazers Issue 3 to come out (later this month!), our team has been struggling a little with communication and getting those last tasks done. We did a much better job communicating with our spotlight learners to make sure we got their drafts and edits done in a timely fashion, now we’re just working on those last design edits which can sometimes feel tedious. It’s amazing how all the little changes together make a big difference in quality, and when your lead designer ends up in Japan it can make for some interesting challenges which our team has been working through.

I’ve been trying to brainstorm ways we can make the process of going from working on article edits to design edits smoother because it seems to be what’s gotten us stuck most this year.

For one matter, hopefully, we can finally keep the same platform to create our magazine on because so far each issue has been on a different platform which wastes a lot of time trying to transfer and learn how to work the new platform.

The reason we keep switching platforms is that most high-quality magazine design platforms cost money, or at least the premium version which has the functions we would like costs money. However, at this point in time Trailblazer’s is a non-profit, and no one on our team has had real experience with trying to turn a project into a for-profit or even just experience with raising money to fund a project. We wanted to make sure we were really committed to this project before trying to worry too much about money, but now it seems we’re at the point where we may need to start spending some brain power designing for that challenge. I’m hoping as we get two new members joining us this summer for the coming school year, the enlargened team will allow us to divide up roles in a way to take more time brainstorming this platform challenge. (We’ve already created the roles, now we’re in a process of accepting applications for the team.)

Another thing I’m hoping will help our design process, is to create a “Trailblazers Brand and Style Guide” this way it is easier for every team member to know what fonts, colors, pictures, page layouts, etc. we use in the process of developing each magazine. This way it will make it easier for our future lead designers to know what the standards are for our brand versus where there can be created with the design and will hopefully make the process more efficient of getting the articles into the magazine format.

We have already started to discuss work on that and the goal is that we will have this document ready for the next school year, and therefore, before issue 4 of Trailblazers begins production in the fall.

Despite the current challenges we’ve been facing internally that have been rather stressful as a team leader, I’m really excited for Issue 3 of Trailblazers to finally be published later this month! I know it’s going to be great and I’ve loved seeing how our team has improved efficiency and quality with each new magazine!

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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!

Diving In

Running a gymnastics meet takes so much time! I mean I wasn’t really “in charge” of anything, but because we were the host gym I was working my butt off all day since 9:30am until we left the gym around 8:30pm.

After coaching my little ones (during their first meet ever!!!), I was manning the score table for the last two sessions.

Running the score table is an interesting mix of calming steady organization work and then super stressful and time-sensitive work when that last rotation brings in their scores and you have minutes to get everything rolling out to the MC to announce awards. I’m not even going to try and begin to explain the complicated process we went through trying to record scores from four events for five age groups with two ever-changing levels while trying to figure out who didn’t show and labeling stickers to ribbons with ranks.

On long days like this, I’m especially grateful for my amazing friends who are willing to give up their Sunday to come help me and my family even when they know hardly anything about what they’re getting into. (It never hurts to also include the offer of free food involved with helping.)

18 Days for Impact

For the past year, I have been working on the Georgia Tech Engineers Without Borders team called WISH for Wash.

“Wish for WASH is a social impact organization that seeks to bring innovation to sanitation through culturally-specific research, design, and education because #EVERYBODYPOOPS” – wishforwash.org

2.5 million people do not have access to basic sanitation needs which is the moment of visible empathy that WISH for Wash was founded on; however, it’s important to note that sanitation problems aren’t only a global issue. There are sanitation issues in our own backyard.

Here in Atlanta, we are running out of water and yet our population size is constantly growing. We need to find a way to reduce our water usage, and one place we use a lot of water is in our toilets.

This was the train of thought that a teacher at Paideia School had when he approached the leader of WISH for Wash curious about a collaboration between our two organizations.

This teacher has a five-year plan of developing a tiny home to be put up for rent that will be entirely sustainable; this home will be created by students in different phases over the course of these five years during various “Short Term classes” at Paideia.

Meanwhile, our WISH for Wash team is currently doing research on compositing in order to build our latest prototype of a composting toilet.

The trade-off: our WISH for Wash team is conducting composting research in Magnus’ backyard in exchange for us leading the first of several short-term classes contributing to this tiny home. This course, “Giving a S***: Design for a Better World,” is all about design thinking and sustainability with the goal of having two prototypes of a composting toilet by the end of the 18-day class. The key part of this design challenge is that the composting toilets the students’ design should be a toilet that a family in Decatur (potentially their own family) would be willing to use.

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This partnership is actually why I joined this team back in the fall in the first place; I love working on innovative education endeavors and this team needed someone who had experience with curriculum planning and facilitating design thinking.

Since joining the team, it’s been a crazy process because it’s the first time I’ve ever taken lead on developing a large-scale design thinking curriculum. I’ve helped with workshops and conferences, but I’ve always been working alongside very experienced facilitators. Going from that kind of advanced team to now leading a team who has had minimal design thinking experience has been a big change, to say the least.

We’ve come a long way since the fall though, between having Innovation Diploma members lead us through a Flashlab, creating multiple iterations of our outline, getting feedback from various DT facilitators and then today, leading our first day of the course!!!

To be honest I was low key terrified for today. The stakes are high on day one because if you can’t get kids hooked on day one then you’ve basically lost them already and it’s hard to get them back.

Luckily for us we ended day one on a very positive note! The seven students, four girls and three boys 9th-12th grade, admitted that most of them joined just because they thought the title of the course was amusing and the description seemed intriguing and different from other courses offered. (Different due to it being lead by Georgia Tech students and hinting at very interactive and interdisciplinary learning.) However, by the end of the day, we had everyone pumped about discussing toilets and excited that the work they will be doing is hands-on and has a larger purpose and impact. (They told us this themselves at the end of the day when we asked why everyone joined the class and what their expectations are after what they learned today, so this isn’t just me putting words in their mouths based on observations.)

To me, that means day one was a huge success because everyone is excited about our work moving forward, and I couldn’t be happier about it!

17 days left to go…

 

Zooky Zooky

Well tonight was our banquet so it’s official, I have finished my first year as a member of DramaTech!!!

I’m forever grateful that even at a tech school there are so many passionate and talented artist that I’ve gotten to know and work with this year, and I’m excited for many more years! Growing up should never be an excuse to not continuing to follow your little passions and I’m glad that I didn’t let college stop me from acting.

It’s been an amazing year, though at the banquet tonight, I realized that I could’ve been so much more involved than I was and I hope that next year I start to find more ways to be engaged in the theater here at GT. Time is obviously always a struggle to find, but I think I could have done more to try to help with the tech side of shows that I wasn’t in so maybe next year I’ll take advantage of those opportunities more.

I’m most excited though to hopefully be cast in A Midsummer Night’s Dream for the 4th time and would love to reprise my role as Puck one more time. So here’s to another year of revolting props, dirty costumes, clickity taps, dusty black boxes, great laughs, big applauses, crazy stories, and fulfilling bows!

Real Work Now

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I love a good productive day!!! (#ThursdaysRock) Today we had our first official client meeting for PB;J our project team in ID that is working with the City of Sandy Springs to decrease traffic.

For the past few weeks the team has been working on data collection and research, and today our goal was to present to our clients the information that we have gathered and make them aware of our next steps in the process. I’m pleased to report we blew them away!!! They even said:

“The work you guys have shown us is amazing is amazing despite the fact that you are students; it’s honestly better than some of the other work we’ve been presented with from adult consultants.”

The pictures above on this post show a map that I created that pin points where all of the 662 MVPS families live to help us figure out how people get to school and what roads get most congested. They were very impressed with this visual and found it very powerful, so powerful that they want us to take it even further so one of my next steps is going to be adding onto this map where the locations of different public transportation systems are.

This was a mutually beneficial meeting, because it helped everyone get clarity on the potential and path that this project is taking. We were able to define clear data that we’ve collected and also work with our clients to determine goals for our November meeting:

  1. further develop the map visual to include public transit
  2. identify some focus groups to get the community involved with ideating and getting on board with the importance of reducing traffic to gain early support
  3. continue to work on our digital tool for counting the number of cars coming in and out of MVPS on a daily basis
  4. reach out to specific external experts we’ve identified on the topic to help further our work

To be honest our team felt greatly un-prepared all week. We had to have some serious hard talks as a team about everyone not being on the same page and needing to really step up to be ready for today. Even this morning we were stressed out getting last minute things together. I think what was most helpful to our team was our quick feedback session we set to have with the full ID cohort about 45 minutes before our meeting. This session allowed us to get that last minute feedback we needed to feel more confident in our work and make sure we were communicating in the best way possible. Somehow our team pulled it together and I think this successful client meeting has helped to clarify our internal vision and set clear goals for us to work on in the coming weeks.

I’m so proud of our team, and still so pumped about how excited and impressed our clients were about the work we’ve been working on in ID!!! Students CAN do “real world” work NOW- and do it well!  

Many Roles

One of the most interesting parts about the theater is how everything always seems to somehow come together in the end.

I had another day of rehearsing for “PAINted” today (well technically my aunt’s show is called “The Gender Police” and the whole event is “PAINted,” but that’s just a technicality). Rehearsal was still al little rough today, but it get’s better each time and we all know tomorrow will be great when everything comes together.

I also saw “Finding Neverland”  today which was as magical and inspiring as you hope for any good musical to be. What really intrigued me about the show was actually the casting. Four of the leads are young boys, so there are actually seven boys in all that rotate threw all four parts. I just found that crazy because that means the boys each know four different characters, harmonies in songs, blocking, and choreography, which just seems crazy to think about how rehearsal must have worked. Most people have hard enough time learning one part and maybe an understudy for another, but four different roles is crazy!

The four boys I saw today were amazing as was the entire cast and crew. With each new show I see, I just get even more excited for next year’s theater season at MVPS!! I guess I should probably finish my college essay drafts, so I feel excited and prepared for next year to start…

Different Communication

imgres.jpgI’ve talked to dozens of people about “real world skills” and despite all the debating in terms of which words are the best ones to include on this metaphorical list, good communication skills always seems to come up.

You could be the greatest genius this world has ever known, but if you can’t communicate what you know to others, than your knowledge is relatively useless.

Every  job, every aspect of life is going to require communicating things to other people. From describing how you want your hair cut, to proving you solved the worlds  hardest math problem, everything is communicating. There is no one that works 100% independently in our inter-connected global world. At the very least, there is a conversation between a supplier and a consumer.

With the clear demand for good and diverse communication skills, it’s amazing how many people still struggle with communicating. I’ve talked to countless people that say they wish their employees were better communicators, which isn’t surprising since teachers often note that their students can’t all communicate their ideas effectively.

The problem is clearly identified, so now how do we solve it? How might we create better communicators; people who can explain their thoughts in a number of different ways? Because part of being a communicator means you have to be adaptable to working with different types of people. Not everyone understands best from a written essay, or a lecture, or a presentation, or even a prototype. Everyone has a different way they learn best, and thus the best communicators are ones that can teach in different ways.

In school we tend to focus on academic writing, but there are a myriad of other ways to write, teach, and communicate. I for one have never taken an art class since 6th grade other than band. If someone learned best from seeing a drawing, I would be at a loss. And I know plenty of people who can’t send a good email to save their life, which will soon become a large problem for them. Furthermore, besides the alphabet and a few random words, I wouldn’t know how to communicate with a deaf person through sing language what so ever; that makes 70 million people I can’t communicate with past a kindergarden level. Even writing college essays is a huge problem for many students because they aren’t well versed in talking about themselves.

If communication is such an important skill, if we’ve identified we value it so much, it seems essential that we start putting a greater emphasis on learning to communicate in different ways.

Documenting My Work

Happy belated 4th of July! I spent this weekend with family in Tennessee and accomplished several things I’ve been working on recently: I made good progress on my 5th book of the summer, I finished choreographing more routines for next year, finished an application essay for a weekend program at a college, and I finally got all of the spring showcase routines I choreographed onto youtube!

So now I can finally upload and thus document my work on my blog (The last 5 I am in! And I know one of them has a different background, that’s because I don’t have a recording of the routine done at this meet but it’s the same routine and I still only just got it on youtube recently.):

Strengths

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While this isn’t from today, this actually is a picture of me and my middle and top. (I’m the one holding the other two.) Acro rocks!

It’s acro camp week at Jump Start!!!!! I may not be great at gymnastics anymore, but I’ve loved learning acrobatics these past, as I recently discovered, about 5 years almost now.

I love having one of my groups advance over months of work so that we can increase our difficulty and work on new harder skills. But I also enjoy occasionally working in new groups or pairs, which is what acro camp week is all about!

I like working in new teams sometimes because I love seeing how different people  work together. Every person on the planet is unique in their own way and has a different personality with different talents to bring to a team. Therefore there are an infinite number of combinations of people that can create a team, and every single team will be a little different.

I think my fascination with how different people work together is my individualization strength showing; I’m pretty good at seeing the different talents of others and pairing people based on who might make a good team based on their different skill sets. I think this strength helps me also with creating choreography that’s specific to each girl for gymnastics, and for acro and group routines makes sure each girl looks good alone and as a group.

Ever since taking the Gallup’s Strength Finder quiz for ID I’ve been very intrigued by how I, and others, keep noticing our strengths showing in various aspects of our daily lives.