students with their project in the Operation Ideation Program

How would you prevent Humpty Dumpty from breaking each time he fell off the wall? That was one of the problems students were challenged to solve at the Operation Ideation summer program. The sixth through eighth graders spent the past month learning about design thinking and applying it to solve real-world problems.

The framework teaches the students to first empathize with their client and define their need before working on a solution. With the example of Humpty Dumpty, the students recognized that he still wanted to sit on the wall and they worked to figure out a way to get him off of it safely. The most common solutions involved surrounding Humpty with pillows or having him land in a soft substance like Jell-O.

A fifth grade student said her favorite project was designing a dream pen for a specific profession – a nurse, an astronaut, an architect, a contractor or a musician. The students collaborated and used their creativity to design a pen specialized for each profession. The process of design thinking develops students’ creative confidence and helps them exercise critical-thinking skills in order to find new solutions to today’s problems.

Their final challenge was to focus on a problem posed by excess plastic in our environment and to design a solution. One group created the Eco Friendly Net-Filter – designed for riverside communities to clean river water and protect wildlife. The net would help capture plastic in the river but allow the river water to flow through. The students presented their solutions to their families as their pseudo-clients to gain feedback in the last week of the program.