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Student Journeys with Design Thinking

Design thinking has helped me understand the other person better in any situation in life.

Akshat Khanna – May 2020 graduation | Hometown: Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India

Majors: Computer Engineering (College of Engineering) and Computer Sciences (College of Letters & Sciences)

Future Plans: Working as a software engineer, user interface/user experience designer or product manager. After a couple of years I’ll pursue a managerial role or get an MBA and become an entrepreneur. My ultimate goal is to be interdisciplinary and know a little of all three—engineering, design and management—to be proficient in a leadership role.

Class: Design Thinking for Transformation.

During my internship as a mobile application developer, I realized I empathize with the user and care a lot about an interface’s usage and design. Exploring human factors engineering and human computer interaction, made me like user-centered design even more—and Design Thinking is all about creating for the human users.

Key Points & Skills Gained: “You are not the user.” It’s expressed often, but I think professionals often ignore it. Prioritize design. Good design tends to be the last task for most engineering projects. Good design should lead a project, with design-related decisions being made throughout the process. New skills: Using technologies and machines that are in the SoHE Makerspace—CAD, laser cutting, CNC router, electronics and more. My takeaway: Use the Design Thinking process wherever I can.

The value to me: It really has helped me in all aspects of life, especially to understand the other person better in any situation. Interacting with non-engineers academically made me a better communicator and designer. Career-wise, I’m now eligible for more positions, and I’m more attractive to recruiters—including for software roles.

My design thinking project: Topic: Improving the farm to table experience. Team: Quite the mix: an engineer, a designer, an environmental scientist, and a business major; one person was even 40 years old. It was really interesting working with and learning from each. Ideas explorations: After a lot of research and brainstorming, we concluded that children need early education on farming practices and where food comes from. Outcome: A build-able modular aquaponics system for primary/middle school students. {insert hyperlink to project page} Our circuit board/Lego like design makes learning about it fun.

Coolness factor: A group mate and I received the Wisconsin Ideas Fellowship grant, which gives us course credits and funding to work on our project for a year.

It’s a great way to get comfortable with creative thinking.

Nadia Tahir  May 2020 graduation | Hometown: Burr Ridge, Illinois

Majors: Interior Architecture, School of Human Ecology

FUTURE PLANS: I hope to be part of the first cohort for the Design Thinking Master’s Degree Program.

KEY POINTS + SKILLS GAINED: The confidence to put my wild ideas out there. I can now apply them to other forms of design. Helping people keep an open mind. The two engineers in my group often shut down ideas. I encouraged them instead to say, “Yes, and… .” It helped others feel validated but also gave opportunity for more ideas to be added on. Delegate. Do this based on skills. Think fast. I learned to problem-solve quickly.

DESIGN THINKING IS VALUABLE TO: My academic career: It has taught me how to push boundaries. It gives me process to turn to if I feel discouraged about my creative ability. My career: It will set me apart significantly. It’s an up-and coming-field not many people know they need. My life: I often use it in my daily life. It is problem-solving—and I enjoy finding different solutions! Often I will use my creative thinking to solve problems where others get stuck with logical perspectives.

MY DESIGN THINKING PROJECT: Topic: Celebrate farmers market vendors’ product displays while streamlining their already established process. Understanding the problem: Vendors waste a lot of time loading and unloading their produce into and out of cartons multiple times. The work is strenuous, which could lead to later health issues. Outcome: Produce Pal, a bin with dividers for organizing produce, a kickstand for propping it up to display, and an evaporative cooling system. Check it out!

FAVORITE PART OF THE DESIGN THINKING PROCESS: Ideation. We start with clear and basic ideas, but through the process develop very unique ideas. Each member’s strength comes through in this stage.

DESIGN THINKING WORKS BECAUSE: It involves a variety of disciplines, preventing us from continuously looping with similar ideas.

WHY TAKE A DESIGN THINKING COURSE? It’s a great way to get comfortable with creative thinking.

Whether you are a designer, engineer, scientist, or psychologist you are always prompted with a problem that needs a solution.

Jordan Kyhos, BS 2019  | Hometown: Mosinee, Wisconsin Majors: Interior Architecture, School of Human Ecology

FUTURE PLANS: I currently work in Healthcare Design—to continue would be ideal. Dreaming of moving someplace warmer!

KEY POINTS + SKILLS GAINED: Do not assume the first idea is the correct solution. There are steps to be taken—and for all the right reasons. It is necessary for everyone who is working toward a solution to brainstorm, prototype, brainstorm again, prototype again. Diversity is crucial to success. Being able to work with a diverse group of people who have completely different ways of thinking is a challenge, but it’s so important for almost all careers.

DESIGN THINKING IS VALUABLE TO: My academic career: It’s an extra tool in my belt—the drill. A screwdriver lets you do one thing, and you might need several sizes. A drill has different bits and settings—allowing me to do more with just that tool. My career: It benefits me in how I process designs, information and problems. My life: I can use it for all the challenges that are tossed my way every day.

MY DESIGN THINKING PROJECT: Topic: Creating awareness for the LGBTQ+ community. Understanding the problem: Society labels and breaks down people without actually knowing them. The LGBTQ+ Community wants to share how they want to be known, and stop being victimized or dismissed. Outcome: Breaking Down Stereotypes video, sharing the personal stories and insights of LGBTQ+ individuals. The video was created by and features the stories of those who have suffered from and been limited by stereotypes. Watch it.

FAVORITE PART OF THE DESIGN THINKING PROCESS: Prototyping. You get to see ideas come to life and see if they work or need major alterations or minor improvements.

WHO NEEDS DESIGN THINKING: Life throws complications at you constantly and things need to be resolved. Whether you are a designer, engineer, scientist, or psychologist you are always prompted with a problem that needs a solution. Design Thinking allows you to be open-minded about everything and to realize there are many solutions to a problem.

COOLNESS FACTOR: Met some amazing people, learned life-changing knowledge, made a difference.