Design Project Process (example)

There are several Design Projects on offer (see all projects) but we can look at this example here. The young people respond to this advertisement:


Venture Capital and Project Management


A major Australian University has completed a research project that shows evaporation rates can be reduced by about 70% from water storage areas covered with floating plastic domes.

Campbell Fletcher & Associates are seeking proposals for the design (including prototype) of modular water storage covers.

Interested persons are invited to register their interest:

A Project Specification will be sent to all persons who register before Thursday 18 February 2010

Campbell Fletcher & Associates 29-31 Downing Road Baulkham Hills NSW 2153

The 'registration of interest' includes the writing of a 'vision statement' - what skills/attributes they could offer the team - and project information including a Project Specification is sent to them to consider. This message thanks them for their interest, and includes the statement that they have been shortlisted. They are later sent the URL's for several online personality and learning style questionnaires with a request that they summarise the results and forward them to the 'project manager' (their teacher). Pretty real stuff, and the amazing thing (to those of us who have not 'played' a range of roles in computer games that is) is the extent to which the young people take the 'selection process' very seriously. It is clear they don't want to 'miss out' even though they realise they are all doing the projects anyway.

Teachers who were involved in the pilot project in 2003 were convinced the kids would not take it seriously. "Why apply for a place on a team when they know they are all going to be doing it anyway?" they asked. Well, the teachers learned a good lesson - the sweat on the brow of the young people as they presented their designs to a panel of strangers or prepared to teach teachers, was very real. The current generation is used to playing all sorts of roles as if they are real. Playing video games often requires someone to take on a persona and think like a drug runner, a soldier, or a special operations team. This is thinking and learning at a very sophisticated level, and we do well to recognise the value of duplicating this virtual environment for the development of creative thinking.

During the design and construction process, the teacher can access a range of tasks related to the project, all to be completed 'as if' the students are actually contracted to your company. The extent to which young people develop their 'project persona' (a virtual identity; the qualified and experienced person who is doing the project) and respond to realistic project-related tasks has amazed teachers. Some typical examples.

The Design Projects are unique in a number of respects. One is the focus on process, not product. Few classrooms can facilitate the construction of full size projects such as these panels. If, however, the finished result is an image presented to a review panel, the project can be part real and part digitally manipulated image. This overcomes the issue of storage, because the several modules manufactured for the above project could be held in one hand, even though the images show many of them covering an area of water.

Another aspect is the use of simple plastic forming equipment, an oven and a vacuum cleaner can turn any ordinary classroom into a facility capable of producing quite amazing design options. And before you start thinking about the skills you think you lack, remember this project work is being done in primary and secondary classrooms all over Australia by teachers who claimed to have no hands-on skills. Supported by an extensive set of online resources, they have surprised themselves, and discovered the benefits of learning by doing.

The presentation of their completed design provides an opportunity for developing emotion management. Young people can be daunted by presenting, without notes or cards, the explanation of why their design is worth considering for full-scale production. To be able to understand emotions, and practice strategies that high performing presenters use is a very worthwhile exercise, and one the young people take seriously. Some stay 'in role' (presenting as their virtual identity) for the entire presentation, including answering questions from the panel that can't be rehearsed beforehand. Others move out of role at the end of their prepared speech, and answer the questions as students. The panel need to be briefed beforehand about the process, and experience shows that they learn as much as the students. As you can see, the program is about tapping creative potential.