Great #designthinking and @littleBits prototyping workshop led by @lesheepo at @beamcenternyc tonight! 

I had a great time participating in a 2.5 hour design thinking exercise that included a rapid prototyping experience with littleBits (@littleBits).  Special thanks to Nancy Otero (@LeSheepo) for leading the free event and inviting educators to attend. http://beamcenter.org/connectedteaching

The Beam Center in Red Hook, Brooklyn is a large Makerspace which boasts woodworking, laser cutting, tools, and experimenting facilities with space for classes and instruction.  Tonight’s plan was advertised as an introduction to the Stanford University/IDEO method of design thinking. Participants will engage in a project-challenge using the tools and attitude of d.thinking and build their prototype with littleBits.

The problem we tackled was to rethink the gift-giving experience. First we interviewed and re-interviewed each other using questions to gain empathy with our subject. We used a d.school worksheet, Interview for Empathy, to inspire our queries. The purpose is to understand “a person’s thoughts, emotions, and motivations, so that you can determine how to innovate for him or her. By understanding the choices that person makes and the behaviors that person engages in, you can identify their needs, and design to meet those needs.”

Next we brainstormed with our group an ideal user with a specific need based on our insight. This is the Point Of View Madlib that reframed the design challenge into an “actionable problem statement that will launch you into generative ideation.”

We crafted a user who is a “mild control freak who wants to give/offer gifts that she could enjoy with the recipient as a shared experience.” To that end, our prototype consisted of a machine I dubbed GIFTR which allowed both parties to decide if the experience would be mutually appreciated before moving forward (a little Tinder, a little Pinterest, a little Love Connection). We used a “double and” bit, two dimmers, a synth but, and a servo motor. Thus, both people could decide how much a particular activity appealed to them. Only when they were both at a 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5) did the synth bit light up and power the motor to clink together two bottles, as in the act of toasting or cheering each other.

Per the Beam Center’s website:

Beam Center is a Brooklyn-based community of learning where artists guide young creators aged 6 to 18. Our hands-on programs in technology, imagination and craft help young people build their character, courage to think for themselves, and capacity for collaboration and invention.

The Beam Center grew out of the Inventgenuity Festival, which we first held in 2010 at Brooklyn’s Invisible Dog Art Center to introduce families to Beam Camp. The popularity of that event led us to build a set of interconnected programs in New York that all share the basic philosophy of Beam, which celebrates the special alchemy between instructors who are passionate experts in their craft and young people who are given space and encouragement to invent and create.

Beam Center’s core programs are Inventgenuity Workshops, after-school programs for young people in grades 2-6; BeamWorks, in which teams of high school students collaborate with master practitioners of design, craft and engineering; and the WindowShop Residency, which offers artists both a high-visibility storefront space and an opportunity to share how they make things with the kids of the Beam Center community. We also host community events where kids and artists learn from each other.

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