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Ready, Set, Prototype!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

DT Philly students rolled up their sleeves and embraced hands-on learning last week during our first ever Prototyping Skills Week.  Coming just as students enter the final phases of their design thinking projects, the workshops provided a refresher on how to use rapid prototyping to explore questions of form and function while bringing an idea to life.

Under the expert guidance of visiting designers Eric Schneider, Chelsea Saada, Chris Clark, Peter Fleming, and Tom Chaffin, our middle and high school students prototyped products and systems, responding to prompts such as “design a better way to transport your things between home and school” and “design a better way to get your food at lunch time.”

For each scenario, the students began by breaking down the way things work now and identifying frustrations or problems with the current state.  After determining the pain points, students sketched or outlined their ideas for improvement, getting feedback from their peers and DT Philly guests as they thought through how their ideas could work.

The next step was to create rapid prototypes using very simple materials.  Our visiting designers helped students by sharing construction techniques, asking guiding questions, and troubleshooting.  As students got their ideas out of their heads and into the real world, they began to see which aspects of their designs they could execute and which did not work as they had imagined, leading them to modify their work as they went.  Before long—and to their delight--the students produced testable models of their ideas.

Asked to reflect on the experience, students expressed surprise that they didn’t need fancy materials to prototype and observed that the very act of building rapidly advanced their thinking.  One student also commented that prototyping a system was hard work because you have to consider every last detail about what might happen.  Important takeaways, one and all.  As we packed up our supplies at the end of our last workshop of the week, we overheard a student say, “That was fun, why can’t we do that every day?”