Workshop addresses community on campus

At a weekend IDEO innovation seminar and workshop, participants proposed projects including a traveling activity bus, electronics-free rooms and a community service graduation requirement. Over 60 students attended the event, held at the Thayer School of Engineering, which asked participants to design a product or opportunity that would strengthen personal connections and relationships on campus, as well as create a more caring and collaborative Dartmouth community.

Engineering professor Peter Robbie, who helped organize the workshop, said that event organizers chose the topic in response to an article published in The Dartmouth’s weekly magazine insert, The Mirror, titled “Afraid to Care: A Culture of Apathy” (March 6, 2014).

“It provided a very compelling view of how students think about Dartmouth’s focus on personal development and the fact that there may be some opportunities to connect students,” Robbie said.

Student organizer Malika Khurana ’15 said the this topic is relevant to current discussions surrounding campus climate and community. The topic’s breadth made it open to wide interpretation, she said.

Participants included undergraduates and students from Thayer, the Geisel School of Medicine and the Tuck School of Business, and were organized into 14 teams of four to five students. The teams were required to work together and follow a design timeline, comprising five stages: research, synthesize, ideate, prototype and test.

During the event’s first session, held Friday evening, participants started the research phase by asking students and community members what they thought about Dartmouth’s community and for ideas on creating a more caring and collaborative environment.

Participants then made “how might we” statements to show the conclusions they drew from their interviews, Robbie said.

On Saturday morning and afternoon, the participants met with their teams, discussed what they learned from their research, brainstormed ideas and picked one to develop. After choosing an idea, each group built a prototype using Play-Doh, M&M’s, cardboard and Post-its.

At the end of the day, each team presented its project to the other groups.

Khurana said she hoped the event would motivate participants to improve the College in small ways.

Workshop participant Amelia Mann Tu ’15 said the experience gave her a new perspective on how to impact the space she lives in and how to apply brainstorming and prototyping skills outside a professional setting.

Mann’s project was about the creation of “no-screen” rooms, in which the use of laptops and cellphones would be prohibited. These spaces would foster dialogue between strangers and a more inclusive community, she said.

“I wanted to create a safe place focused on the relations between people and not on our academics, extracurriculars or careers,” Mann said.

Adam Grounds ’16 said his group’s idea for a “social bus” was based on spontaneity. Grounds said students would be able to “jump right into the bus” without knowing its destination, meeting new friends along the way. The bus would provide a space for both academic activities and nighttime parties.

Kayla Kesslen ’15 advocated for a community service requirement, which she said would allow four to six students from different backgrounds unite for a service project. She said that service opportunities would come from groups like Dartmouth Dining Services, Facilities Operations and Management, the Tucker Foundation and other administrative departments.

“Students want to see more empathy around campus, and I think community service projects will be a good way to show it,” Kesslen said. “This will also bridge gaps between class years and give freshmen an outlook for what they can achieve at Dartmouth, something that currently does not happen.”

Robbie said he helped organize the event because he wanted to provide an opportunity for students to use their creativity to improve Dartmouth.

“Innovation has always been part of Dartmouth’s DNA,” Robbie said. “In the past decade there has been a realization that design methods used for commercial products could also be used to solve social needs.”

Matt Ross ’15, co-founder of the entrepreneurship group Mitosis, said students are full of ideas for new companies. He said he wanted to provide a space where innovation could be supported with financial and technical resources.

The workshop was sponsored by the innovation and design firm IDEO and directed by IDEO co-workers Brian Mason ’03 Th ’05 and Maura Cass ’10.

Past IDEO Innovation workshop topics include projects for on-the-go healthy eating and making Hanover winters warmer and more bearable, Robbie said.

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