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Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

IDEO Workshop Addresses Social Issues at Dartmouth

By Anna Fiorentino
May 2014 • CoolStuff

At an IDEO innovation workshop in April, approximately 60 undergrad and grad students from Thayer, Tuck and Geisel schools arrived at the Couch Project Lab to learn new ways to frame and solve social issues at Dartmouth. Working in small groups, they developed and proposed a wide range of ideas from an activity bus to electronics-free rooms and a community service graduation requirement.

“The value of the exercise was to make an opportunity for students from all over campus to work together in a highly collaborative way and to enjoy the experience of creating unexpected and original ideas in the short span of the workshop,” says Associate Professor Peter Robbie, who organized this and seven other Dartmouth design workshops over the past 10 years. “Our goal is education—to invite students from all disciplines to experience the excitement and power of design thinking as a method of collaborative, creative problem solving.”

IDEO workshop
Malika Khurana '15 (left) and Kelly Brait '14 at the IDEO workshop in April.

“We felt the workshop theme was timely for the current Dartmouth climate since many things seem to be coming to a head and starting to change all at once, such as the new Living Learning Communities (which utilize residence halls as integrated learning spaces to promote the personal and intellectual development) and zero-tolerance sexual assault policy,” says Thayer student workshop organizer Malika Khurana '15. “I personally feel that one of the greatest things about Thayer is that it does feel like its own small community where you know everyone who is working in Couch—so we want to make sure that isn’t lost when we expand.”

Organizers are hoping to continue fleshing out the ideas introduced by students at the workshop in a design group they plan to start. Meanwhile, Khurana believes students may implement their IDEO Innovation ideas—many that wouldn’t require much infrastructure or resources—through their own avenues.

“It’s likely that some participants will bring the ideas they came up with to their respective communities and extracurricular groups to make them into a reality,” says Khurana, who not only planned but also participated in the workshop.

Khurana, for example, already introduced in her sculpture class her group’s idea formed at the IDEO workshop to make pop-up play stations around campus, like mini fab labs, where you might build something with blocks, do a puzzle or make pipe cleaner creation to encourage spontaneous and playful interactions and help reduce stress.

“Now I'm working on an interactive sculpture with the same play station concept,” says Khurana.

Past Dartmouth IDEO workshop themes have included healthy eating on the go and ways to make the best of winter in Hanover. This year’s event was led by Dartmouth IDEO staff Maura Cass ’10, who holds a degree in anthropology and a minor in Health Care Public Policy, and Brian Mason ’03 Th’05, a mechanical engineer who is now director of medical products at IDEO.

In addition to the buzz filling the room long after the workshop’s scheduled ending, students came to Robbie with positive feedback after the event.

“Design thinking can provide a common language and intellectual framework to support group collaboration necessary for creative problem solving,” says Robbie. “Everyone can use these methods to help envision the change they seek.”

Tags: alumni, design, extra-curricular, faculty, innovation, leadership, projects, students

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