design thinking education at innovation eventOn a late Thursday morning, nearly 75 sixth graders from multiple schools in the Forest Hills School District (FHSD) left their buses and filed into the Anderson Center. They would soon embark on a day full of Design Thinking education and innovation activities.

These kids are part of the Extend Learning Opportunities (ELO) program, a service specifically designed to meet the needs of high-achieving students in seven FHSD schools.

design thinking education at innovation event

Members of the Kaleidoscope team, professionals who work in the new product development environment on a day-to-day basis, had a blast teaching all of these 75 kids about an innovation process commonly used in product design firms.

(On a personal note, as a resident of the Forest Hills School District myself, I was excited to see the impact of the ELO’s innovation event on students at our local schools. We saw the next generation having fun learning and applying principles regularly used by designers in the workplace.)

Design Thinking Education, “Shark Tank” and the Quacker Picker-Upper

Design Thinking Education at Innovation EventAt the Anderson Center, students split into groups of roughly 25 students. They then participated in three rounds of innovation-centric activities.

One event operated similarly to the popular television show Shark Tank. (Hey Mark Cuban, check this out!) Students presented their business ideas to a panel of adult judges for review.

During a second activity, cleverly called the “Quacker Picker-Upper,” students designed an apparatus to pick up a rubber duck.

Kaleidoscope led the third innovation challenge. During our challenge, kids created drone concepts to help solve problems faced by real people and TV show characters, by using a Red Robbin brainstorming activity.

Designing Drones for Pokémon and Minions

design thinking education at innovation eventIn Kaleidoscope’s exercise, facilitators challenged each person to create an idea for a drone. Their drone’s mission? To solve a problem faced by a character or person, like a minion, Ash Ketchum from Pokémon or pop singer Ariana Grande.

From there, each table created a concept poster showing their drone’s purpose, as well as special gadgets and features.

Winning Drone Concepts

Drones spanned all different styles and purposes, such as:

  • design thinking education at innovation eventThe “Unshreddable” Drone: Helps train athletes on TV show American Ninja Warrior by scouting the course ahead and teaching how to overcome obstacles in the best possible way. Maximum height of 2,000 feet. Indestructible and adaptable to any area.
  • The “Escape Rescue” Drone: Straps onto someone’s shoulders to help them pick up speed and navigate the terrain on Mars.
  • “Drone Partner”: Brings tools to construction workers, and can get an aerial view of the construction site. Special features include a basket where it carries tools and a camera, and a smiley face logo.
  • design thinking education at innovation eventThe “Poke-Drone”: Drops Poké Balls on the Pokémon. Includes a camera that can track the Pokémons’ location. Stores Poké Balls along the perimeter of the drone.
  • The “Shell Shock” Drone: Has a body like a turtle’s shell, that is bullet-proof with a built-in alarm system. Features include eyes that function as cameras, a rocket launcher that folds inside of the shell and wings that can stay hidden inside of the shell. It functions like a turtle and can tuck in its head and legs and remain protected by the shell.
  • The “Tranquilizer Drone”: Used to help a police officer like Judy Hopps. Uses a tranquilizer gun attached to the bottom to help stop criminals.
  • design thinking education at innovation eventThe “Quidditch Pro” Drone: Comes with a speaker to play tutorial if still learning to play. Adaptable to any environment, such as a backyard, etc., because makes holograms during tutorial of what you might see on a Quidditch field. Can also watch Quidditch Live, similar to sports broadcasting, and can replay matches to find mistakes or for entertainment. Fully equipped with an engine and made out of strong, bludger-resistant material.
  • The “Guy” Drone: Made specifically for vloggers, follows you around all day through a wireless connection through a wristband that you wear. Can monitor the drone’s energy level and camera through wristband. Slogan is “The Hands Off Camera” since it follows users around.
  • The “Banana Bot” Drone: Cuts bananas off of trees and makes banana ice cream for minions (and people).

Students Inspire

Students incorporated design concepts like biomimicry without even realizing it. And young people’s imaginations are often much less bridled than that of most adults, so they quickly generated ideas and outputs.

Needless to say, Kaleidoscope found the event mutually beneficial. Students learned about the Design Thinking process from Kaleidoscope facilitators, and facilitators felt inspired by students’ creativity.

Kids’ Responses

  • design thinking education at innovation eventDrew: “It was really fun to have you share about your job and do an activity with us. I had a lot of fun doing the activity. I think it was a good idea. It was cool that you made different cards with different things so we didn’t have to do the same idea.”
  • Reilly: “It was a really fun experience. I had a lot of fun doing the activity with making up drones. I like your process of your thinking and how it inspired creative thinking. I liked how we all passed the papers around and so eventually, with all of our ideas combined we made a epic drone.”
  • Noah: “When I grow up I would like to work at Kaleidoscope. It seems cool to be making inventions everyday. The activity that we did was super fun too.”
  • Talley: “Thank you so much for spending half of your day with us to tell about your job and to have us do a design thinking activity. The activity was super fun! I think that your job is very cool and one day I might want to have a job like that.”
  • Jack: “Your company is very cool. It was awesome for you to come in and share your company with us. I hope your company is doing great today! Your company, Kaleidoscope, is awesome!”

Community Connection

design thinking education at innovation eventAt Kaleidoscope, our roots run deep when it comes to community involvement. Our organization often engages in local community outreach events. For example, our employees all took a half-day from work to volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House. Members of our team also presented at and supported several UC events, and we provide ongoing support for the locally based nonprofit social innovation firm Design Impact.

Ultimately, community outreach matters because people matter.

At Kaleidoscope, we want to use our skills, design-related or otherwise, to provide real value for people. That might be through using the user-centered (or, human-centered) design process for the products we help create, working diligently every day for our clients, or sharing knowledge with or serving our community.