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Backpack Design Challenge in 6th Grade STEAM

STEAM class often asks students to employ design thinking, an iterative process of human-centered innovation which asks them to empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test a given item. In 6th Grade STEAM, students are currently in the prototyping phase of a backpack design challenge in which each student creatively reimagines the typical backpack construction, tweaking it to suit the specific needs of their partner.

To familiarize themselves with those needs – and develop empathy for their user – partnered pairs of 6th Graders interviewed each other on their current backpack models and their organizational preferences and habits, drawing out as much useful information as possible by asking why and inviting further elaboration. The notes from these interviews were used to create a clear “Needs Statement” that guided students’ work as they brainstormed different designs that would meet those needs, and finally identified a design on which to base their prototype.

Once these initial prototypes are complete, partners will regroup to provide each other with feedback, which will be used as the basis for further design adjustments.