Design Thinking, Jr. A USA TODAY NETWORK Innovation Challenge for kids

On Thursday, April 27th 2017, over 100 children gathered at the USA TODAY NETWORK headquarters in McLean, VA for a full slate of Take Your Child To Work Day activities and celebrations.

As part of their schedule, they participated in an Innovation Lab-facilitated design thinking workshop. Of course, we didn't tell the kids it was a "workshop". To them, it was a fun and cool way to ... "BECOME AN INVENTOR IN 45 MINUTES!"

What ingredients did we have to work with and what were our goals?

Three waves of 35 kids. Four teams of 8-9 kids per group. 45 minutes. A problem to identify. A table full of craft supplies. Imagination and teamwork. In the end, a fully-realized solution prototype.

"In order to create a solution, you have to identify a problem."

The Lab began each session with a cheerful greeting and a brief explanation outlining what we do. But this was all about the kids, so we moved quickly to focus on their day-to-day lives. A question was posed to them all: can you identify a problem that you or your friends run into all the time? The answers came fast and furious!

"We don't mind school work, but we don't like doing it at home. Is there a way to prevent homework?"

"We don't like the taste of vegetables, but we can't have dessert until we clear our plates. How can we make veggies taste better?"

"Our parents say it's too dangerous to play on the playground after dark. Is there a way that we can make the playground light up at night so we can keep playing?"

"We love playing video games but our parents limit the amount of time we can play them. Can we develop a way to convince our parents that gaming is good for us?"

"Can we develop a way to deal with annoying people?"

Teams immediately chose their problem and began brainstorming as many solutions as they could come up with. Our chaperones made sure that all team members' ideas were being heard and helped keep the conversations on track!

Teams had to vote on their top three ideas and then immediately select one of those as their prototype concept. Some members advocated heavily for the ideas they liked best!

Tables were filled with a flurry of cutting, taping, talking, and laughing. These kids were focused and began working hard to make their prototypes a reality.

Sure, there was an occasional roadblock.

But ultimately, innovation and collaboration overcame everything that got in the way of these teams.

Each team proudly presented their prototypes to the panel of Innovation Lab and chaperone "Sharks". From the "Homework Robot"... "Little Sister Repellent Earmuffs", each of the prototypes was fantastic and unique! (Look closely - the message on the earmuffs reads "SHH...I'm reading, so go away!" Straight to the point and genius, right?!)

All of the pitches were brilliant. Creativity and enthusiasm ruled the day.

Some of us even took an opportunity to prove that innovation can be highly fashionable!

And, oh by the way - full disclosure: the panel of sharks may have promised to invest $1M in each of the 12 prototypes!

The Innovation Lab had a great time working with these teams of young design thinkers and we can't wait for the next opportunity to help folks of any age put on their inventor hats! Until next time...



Created with images by paperelements - "homework boy child" • G & A Sattler - "ICK01-at244by-Anna Sattler" • kadams54 - "Playground at Dusk" • StartupStockPhotos - "children win success" • russelljsmith - "Ben & Allison's Wedding" • frankieleon - "Grab that cash with both hands and make a stash"

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