Students use design thinking to solve industry problems
Making breakfast and keeping the coffee coming for a room full of industry partners and Wintec staff was one of the easier challenges given to the first intake of students at Wintec’s Design Hub. The students were asked to cater for an industry breakfast to present the Design Hub, a new kind of creative environment where students with varied skillsets solve problems presented by industry partners.
The Design Hub launched this year with 12 students who study Wintec courses from engineering to digital design. They are all in the final year of their degrees. Design Hub director Margi Moore will further develop its innovation activities over the next few years as a problem-solving project based at Wintec.
“We decided to start small to test our approaches, gain confidence and learn by doing,” she says.
“We have based our teaching model on the global network of design factories that began in Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. They have a great track record for innovation which focusses on creating a solution through human-centred design, progressive teaching in positive learning environments, and working together with industry partners.”
Industry partners Paul King and Russell Kean from Opus International Consultants challenged the students to come up with low-cost solutions to enable the remote monitoring of water supply networks. Paul says the experience was rewarding for the students, who put forward many smart solutions.
“The student groups were given several significant real-world problems which they approached with both a professional attitude and great gusto. Without the shackles of a traditional design process (driven by cost), their concept proposals explored new themes that challenged the usual paradigms,” says Paul.
“Opus International Consultants was delighted to share its expertise with these up-and-coming designers and engineers. We see this partnership as a fundamental part of growing New Zealand’s pool of future talent,” says Russell.
The concept which engages students in design thinking, operates in a dedicated space that is open 24-hours a day. For the students, it’s a new learning concept which operates away from the traditional classroom-based learning. It’s also an opportunity to work in ways they never have previously and prototype new approaches to problems they may not encounter in their chosen field of study.
In their first semester, Wintec’s Design Hub students are working in teams to solve industry problems for Opus and Waikato District Health Board (DHB). For Waikato DHB this includes how students can look at new ways to create interconnectedness online with patients through technologies like SmartHealth, and how Midland Trauma Systems can explore different ways to reduce quad bike incidents on farms. Of all quad bike injuries in the Midland region between 2012 and 2015, 76% were males, 70% occurred on farms, 10% on the road and 76 people sustained spinal injuries.
The walls of the Design Hub room are covered in groupings of Post-it notes, ideas are formatted into groupings and inspiration is flowing. There is already a sense of belonging and connectedness in the space and anticipation of problems to be solved.
“We’re looking forward to our future conversations with community groups and businesses to find those ‘wicked problems’ that face our communities, businesses and society,” says Moore.
The Design Hub bridges the gap between Wintec and industry, challenging students to think, learn and collaborate in new ways. As the project develops, Wintec’s aim is for the Design Hub to be invited to join the international Design Factory global network.
If you are a business or community group and want to know more, contact Margi Moore.
Find out more about the Design Factory Global Network.