Okay guys, here’s the low down on our first project. It’s a major one! It will be challlenging and a lot of fun. It will take weeks to complete.
SMART BIRDHOUSE PROJECT
We’re each going to build a smart bird house to take home when completed and put up somewhere in our yard. And, then, to observe the behavior of our local birds toward this new home. Do they like it and use it, or not?
This won’t be an ordinary bird house. For consturction we’ll need to use wood and metal construction. It should look really cool, so it will need to be decorated. And, it will be smart. What do I mean by smart? Well, it will have electronics that will send us a text message or tweet each time a bird enters the bird house.
We have two main goals for this project.
First . . .
to develop your skills in working with a range of tools needed to work with wood, metal, and electronics. Computer coding will also be involved. Don’t worry, we do not expect that you will know how to do everything. That’s what us mentors are for.
Second . . .
to introduce you to the idea of design thinking. Usually when people use the word design they are referring to how something looks. But design thinking is more than that. Design thinking is about wanting to do something and then figuring out how to do it. Design thinking requires a problem solving mind set. Design thinking follows a very specific process. You will be learning this process and applying it in the Smart Bird House Project.
So What is the Design Thinking and the Design Thinking Process?
Design thinking is user-centric; it’s about understanding the needs and motivations of the person or group that is being designed for. It’s collaborative and requires conversations, brain storming and team work. It’s experimental because it creates a space to try something new. It gives you the permission to unlearn, fail and to make mistakes and come up with new ideas. Getting it right the first time is not essential, or even expected. But learning from your mistakes and correcting them is an essential part of Design Thinking.
In short, design thinking incorporates three main components:
It’s centered on the user.
It is collaborative
It is experimental.
To achieve all the three goals we all have to openly participate in the creative process. There’s no such thing as a wrong idea so we can’t worry about that. In other words, we can’t worry about the fear of failure. And to be experimental. We have to innovate. We have to think different.
We’ll use three words to describe phases of the design thinking process: Immerse. Invent. Implement.
When we start with the process of design thinking, the first phase is Immerse. Immerse has two steps — Understand and Map. This phase is about research. Talk to experts, use the internet and map to understand who we are designing for. We can’t solve problems to satisfy everyone so it’s vital that we define our stakeholders – the group we are designing for. We need to build what is called a user profile by focusing on the WHO – who is the user we are designing for?
Now we’re ready for Phase II, Invent. Here we need to define the problem clearly and create potential solutions. The invent phase has two steps – Define and Ideate.
Define means to arrive at a clear understanding of the user and his or her needs based the understanding gained by doing research into the problem and targeted users. Then comes Ideation. Thinking of solutions is what most of us love to do and cannot wait to jump into. The important thing to remember here is without a definition of the problem we are trying to solve and a clear understanding of the intended user, even the most creative ideas don’t have any meaning. It's not enough for something to be cool. It has to be cool to our target audience (birds, in this case). Sorry but it doesn't matter if you think it's cool. The birds have to agree with you for there to be success!
Ideate is a fancy word for the creative process. It answers the question: what are the possible solutions to solve the problem and to meet the needs of the user. The goal of this step is to come up with any and all possible solutions to the challenge.
To Implement means to create working solutions and get user feedback. Here we must select among the ideas we have considered and select the one we feel is best. Then we build, first, a prototype. Following the protiotype (and perhaps revisions to correct mistakes and/or to incorporate good new ideas) comes user tests.
The word prototype refers to mock-ups, functional solutions, etc. but for us makers what prototype means is building anything that you can receive feedback on. Prototypes lead the way to the user test. It is sometimes hard to conduct user tests as it will be with our birdhouse project before it is completed. In this case, we will need to consult experts and looks at similar projects that have already been done. This phase should not be bypassed if at all possible. It is one of the most critical steps in the design process.
After reaching your goal don’t forget to look back to determine how far you have traveled and judge the value of the journey. We can keep revisiting the Immerse, Invent and Implement phases, as this methodology does not necessarily follow the linear process.
It is a journey to train oneself from being a designer to a design thinker, but this process does not confine itself only in the realm of design. Design thinking can be applied to solving all manner of problems. If you do only one thing in the MakerKids program it should be to learn and understand design thinking. It is a very powerful tool for learning that can be applied to many things.