Design Challenges

The Straw Challenge

For this challenge, we were put in pairs, then given a package of straws, a pair of scissors, and tape. We had a total of 60 minutes to build the tallest structure possible that could support a cup of Play-Doh. The time was broken down into segments: we had 15 minutes to make a plan, without creating anything. Then, we had 30 minutes to build, taping together our straws and creating a (hopefully) stable structure. Finally, we had 15 minutes to test and redesign anything that wasn’t working the first time. Our instructor went around and measured each structure with a ruler. Here’s some of our final creations!


Maker-Hub Orientation Challenge

For this challenge, we were tasked with creating a vehicle that could travel the farthest distance, that had to include a balloon. We were given an array of materials, including wheels, a cup, rubber bands, paper clips, etc. We had a time constraint of about 45 minutes, and this included planning, building, testing, and rebuilding. The testing period proved to be very helpful: one group’s vehicle went much farther than the other one. By the end, the team that failed the first time ended up figuring out a trick: using the rubber band to project the vehicle the farthest. Here are some pictures from the challenge!


The Gumdrop Challenge

To do this challenge, we had to work with gumdrops and toothpicks in order to create a bridge that could span the farthest length between two tables. We had about 45 minutes to come up with our models!


The Gift-Giving Challenge

Another challenge Joel tasked us with was recreating the gift-giving experience for another person and designing it to be more enjoyable, effective, and meaningful. We started off by getting in pairs, and then we essentially went through all six parts of the Design Thinking process with each other. It was narrated by two scholars from the d. school in Palo Alto, CA, who played on a Youtube video in the background as we worked and followed their instructions. We interviewed each other about our most recent gift-giving experience, captured our findings, took a stand on the problem, sketched solutions and got feedback, and finally reflected and generated new solutions, building a prototype of this new experience.


The March for Our Lives Challenge

On Friday, March 16th, the day before Spring Break for our design thinkers, Tyson Glover and his dad Bill came in to give the studio a design challenge. Tyson was a student in the Design Thinking program last year, and he wanted to give us a situation to try to solution. The premise was the upcoming March for Our Lives rally. He split us into pairs and gave each team a different user to work with: one was a 55 year old farmer named Ben who is going to the march with a handful of his buddies. The other was a 30 year old elementary school teacher named Claire attending the march by herself. The third user was a 20 year old Political Science undergraduate student named Tom, coming with 100 other students on a bus from their university.

Tyson then gave the students the reasoning behind each user’s motivation to go to this rally. Tom’s goal was to just have open conversation with people at the march and to understand more about the issue and why it’s so polarizing. Claire’s goal was to have her voice heard, and to be seen by her students as fighting for them and their safety. And Ben’s goal was to fight for his right to own rifles and guns, and for that viewpoint to be seen and heard.

Once the premise was laid out, the teams each had to go through the design thinking process to come up with a way for each user’s needs to best be met. They empathized with the person, defined their problem, ideated on solutions, prototyped different ideas, and finally tested out their products/end designs.

The team working on Claire came up with a giant red apple costume for her since she’s a teacher- the idea being to make her so big and visible that she can’t be ignored. The team working with Tom decided to create a color-throwing activity where him and all the other students would wear white t-shirts and then have a sign that says “why are you here?” Based on their answers, the people they had conversations with would splatter paint onto their shirts, eventually showing everyone at the rally how participants were there for so many different reasons. Finally for Ben, the team came up with a giant cow float that him and his farmer buddies would carry down the street at the march. It would once again give them visibility and encourage people to come up and talk to them.


The students all had a great time learning from a previous member of the Design Thinking Studio cohort, and it was a great last class before Spring Break!

Trogdor Challenge

What is Trogdor? A place? A saying? A disease? A thing? None of the members of our cohort had any clue—and that was the point. This was a challenge in communication and listening. We were split off into three teams: one team of three and two teams of two. Each person within the team was given a role—either instructor or artist (the team of three had two artists). The instructor’s job was to describe the picture (as shown below) so that their artist(s) could draw it. Each team was given different rules. The team of three was told that the instructor must face away from the artists, and the artists must only ask one question each. Another team was told that only the instructor could speak, miming was allowed. And the final team was told they had no restrictions. However, none of the instructors could show the picture of Trogdor to their artist(s).

When the results were displayed to the rest of the cohort, it was interesting to see how each inhibitor (or lack thereof) affected the artist’s drawing as well as the reaction of the instructor. See below!

Original picture of Trogdor.
First team’s Trogdor part 1.
First team’s Trogdor part 2.


Second team’s Trogdor.


Third team’s Trogdor.