Over the last week of Term 4, students in Years 7, 8 and 9 have undertaken our STEAM Week challenge for 2020; designing a product that solves a need for one of 7 marginalised user groups inspired by the ABC’s television program “You Can’t Ask That”.
This year’s format is slightly different to our usual collaborative ‘STEAM city’ task which has students thinking critically to design and create a scale model of a fictionalised town, powered by Arduino circuit boards.
STEAM Week 2020 was redesigned to have students collaborating in smaller groups, with greater autonomy over their projects but with the same sense of creativity and user-led design theory behind the final products.
Students worked within their homerooms, dividing into teams to create their product for one of the following user groups:
- Disaster survivors
- Blind People
- Wheelchair Users
- Autism spectrum
- African Australians
Students then watched the “You Can’t Ask That” episode featuring their chosen user group to gain an insight into the everyday challenges that each group faces in their day-to-day lives.
A problem-based approach is one of the key elements of user-experience design that has informed the curriculum behind the project. Empathising with the user group prior to initiating the design process ensures that students are creating products to respond to a genuine need, rather than an assumed need or desire.
Once all the research and planning was complete, participants were then encouraged to create a prototype of their design from recycled materials found at home to bring their ideas to life.
With their critical-thinking caps firmly on, we were delighted to see some fantastic projects that clearly empathised with each user group and delivered a truly innovative final product.
Projects included a smart watch for blind people that assisted mobility using echo-location, a change-table attachment for wheelchair-using mothers and a village-style alternative to Australia’s detention centres (created using Minecraft!).
STEAM Week is always a fantastic way for our Junior Secondary and Middle School students to end the year with a bang; counting a new set of skills in their repertoire and wrapping up one last project before they relax over the Christmas break. We’re delighted that despite the challenges of 2020, STEAM Week has been great success for yet another year.