Spark: The ID Convention

In my third year of Innovation Diploma, one of our facilitators tasked my team – Skylar, Melina, Mitch, Kylie, Anna, and Catherine – and I with hosting an event that brings creative people together for a talk. The goal of the internal design brief is to host an event entirely run by students and sponsor the ID name to hopefully get more design briefs from the wide variety of people that would come to this event. We started off thinking of creating another chapter of Creative Mornings to attach it to a well-known name, but then we pivoted into creating our own event called Spark to have more control and be confident in what we are doing. After pivoting, we put together a meeting with Mrs. Toller, who works at Mount Vernon, and can help us put on this event.
After talking with her, we created an executive summary that describes what our first opening doors event is going to be. Our goal is to plan an event that will bring in external experts from a variety of backgrounds who will have intentional conversations with each other about business, creativity, and education. We will be partnering with Allison Toller and Dr. Jacobsen and inviting two CEOs from the Business Chronicle’s 2017 Most Admired CEOs list to come and speak. We also hope to make connections with different companies and to advertise Innovation Diploma’s brand as a design firm to increase opportunities for future design briefs. Innovation Diploma members will be the students running, organizing, and hosting the event.
After creating the executive summary piece, we put together another meeting to show Mrs. Toller where our heads were at and how we were going to take the initiative in order to have this event become a reality. We also got together with Mr. Neylon to talk about potential places to host this event and how to make it look top notch. My team is currently working on a letter to send out to the CEOs that we are inviting and a landing page with an elevator pitch and a description. Our summary of the event looks something like this:
‘Come to Spark, a playground for intentional conversations, to listen and brainstorm ideas for meaningful speakers. Through this event, we will bring together a variety of students and adults from all over Atlanta to connect with and make an impact on your community.
Spark is an event hosted and created by students from Mount Vernon’s Innovation Diploma to bring a wide variety of students and adults together to enjoy creative talks. These talks will spark intentional conversations that will help brainstorm creative solutions for the speaker’s bugs or problems. Spark connects students with a wide variety of business leaders, non-profit organizers, and government officials from all over Atlanta.’
Working on this internal design brief has helped me not only appreciate how hard it is to host an event, but also how to go through the process of creating an event with a name, brand, or style. Even though this is tough work, my team and I are working diligently to get as much work done as possible to host this event as soon as possible. From this design brief, I have learned many different skills; from working in a big team setting to collaborating with important adults. I hope this event turns out to be as impactful and fun as I envision it in my head.

About the Author: Brady Vincent is in the Jobs cohort at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School and is very interested in becoming a serial entrepreneur when he grows up. He is passionate about the Innovation Diploma program and is also driven to be a maverick by challenging the way things are done.

Musk Cohort Update

In the Freshman, Musk, cohort we are building a costume for a boy named Jared. However, since Jared is in a wheelchair, his costume is special. Instead of making him an ordinary costume, it is more like a playhouse of wheels. For Jared, we are building him the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars. It is going to be four-foot wide diameter circle that he can roll into. On the inside, there is going to be a control panel with lots of buttons and lights that all make sound.

I am in the group that is making the frame for the whole thing. We are almost done with the whole project, but it has taken lots of hard work and we have had to overcome many challenges. There were problems with the material, the dimensions, the stability, and many more. After lot of thinking we were able to solve the problems. We are all very excited to unveil Jared’s costume to him later this month at Heros and Villians Con.

Jared is planning to take his costume to the Heros and Villians convention this weekend. This has put us on a very tight schedule. Being in the frame group, we have had a hard time staying on track of this deadline. There have been problems we have ran into along the way. At first, we didn’t realize the complexity of the engineering side of the build. Our first problem was finding the best material to use. We started with a plastic-like material, but it didn’t work because it was too flexible. Then we tried using expanded PVC but again, this material was still too flexible, so we moved on to using plywood. So far, the plywood has been working great and we are about done building the frame. We are wrapping the frame in the expanded PVC to make a outer layer.

The last thing needed is all the lights and sounds. There are two other groups of people who have been working very hard to make the Millennium Falcon really come to life. There are going to be lights lining the inside of the main part and a dashboard with buttons and levels that make noise and music play. Since Jared is blind, it is really important for us to get all the sound perfect – just like the movie. The challenging part is they have had some issues getting the sound board to work right. Fortunately, it started working late last week and there has been a lot of work done on it since.

This has been an amazing project that I got the awesome opportunity to be a part of. It has taken us about six weeks and it has been a lot of work to get where we are now. We are all very excited to show it to Jared at the Heros and Villians Convention.

Author: Emery Hoffman, Musk Cohort

MLK Exhibit Reflection

It is hard to comprehend that one quarter of my sophomore year is already complete. It seems like just yesterday that I was sitting in the hive in the first i-Diploma class ever. Up to this date, I have not only learned many new skills, but I have also made new connections, created a Linkedin profile, gained knowledge on the DEEP process of innovative problem solving and started on my first official design brief. I was unsure what to expect when I started working with my team on the design brief for the Center for Civil and Human Rights; however, after a couple of days, my uncertainty was subdued. Our group began with the inspiration of making an exhibit about MLK, which will be shown to thousands in the Center for Civil and Human Rights. We quickly got in contact with the head curator and head of education at the CCHR. Centered around the narrative of MLK’s lasting impact on his “six pillars,” we were told to plan, design and install an interactive exhibit for May of 2018. The best way to describe the sensation is mind-boggling. I was blown away to think that we are going to make something which will be showcased on a world-class level. So far we have: assembled our team, hosted a client meeting, set expectations with our client, made a brief timeline, and done some initial surface level research into the topic. I am still wondering how we will get it all done.

All in all, I don’t think I could have asked for a better experience thus far. I love the Innovation Diploma and the people who are apart of it. I have grown a lot in the short time that I have been apart of this team, and I hope to continue to develop. I am very fortunate to be apart of this tight-knit community, and I look forward to the future and what it holds for me.

About the author: Oliver Schouest is a member of Innovation Diploma, currently in the Must cohort.

Georgia Farmer’s Market Association Update

At the start of this iDiploma school year, the cohorts got straight to work! After revving up our team by guiding our new members of the program through some short activities in design thinking, we transitioned into groups to start working with outside organizations. My team has been collaborating with the Georgia Farmer’s Market Association (GFMA), which began with a meeting to focus our work. When GFMA spoke about their team, goals, and upcoming events, we talked through current needs and ideas for the future of the nonprofit. To target the essential tasks for our team, we combined the products of two Rose, Thorn, and Bud (pros, cons, and potential assets) charts. So far, the focal point of our work has been the upcoming Food for Thought conference that GFMA is hosting at the end of November. Once this has passed, we hope to redirect our attention to expanding the “buds” and clipping the “thorns” that we identified in our first meeting.
For the Food for Thought conference, my team started by creating an image overlay for its social media campaign to create a consistent theme. We are currently designing a rack card to spread information about the dates, speakers, and how to sign up. So we can become more involved, our small team is trying to coordinate our own attendance for the conference, hopefully hosting a short session and meet-up with GFMA’s members and network.
Since boosting membership is connected with the conference participants, we’ve also started providing website feedback to work out some kinks in its smoothness and navigation. To further the quality of our input, one of our goals is to go through the experience of signing up to be a member of the association and undergo the signing up process. We also believe it would be beneficial to interview members and potential members as empathy work, allowing our team to gauge GFMA’s audience and associates.

About the author:

Eliza Bruno is a tenth-grade student at Mount Vernon Presbyterian School who is currently in her second year of the iDiploma program. She enjoys creative writing, solution seeking, and empathy research, for which reasons she entered the program. She hopes to pursue a future which allows her to engage in real-world problem solving and continue expanding her network.

Flying Wheelchairs: A look into making wheelchairs more exciting

People ask me all the time about what I do in iDiploma.
I always answer, “Where do I start?” Then, I say that we are building a costume for a wheelchair. They will think about it for a few seconds and then ask me how I plan on completing it.
I reply, “I don’t plan anything myself, we – my cohort – do.” My answer spawns a whole list of questions and answers, but long story short, we are building a wheelchair costume.
I would like to provide a little backstory on this project. For the past semester, we were learning about observation, how to be a leader, and other things that we would use as a tool during the upcoming weeks. Up until the middle of October, iDiploma was all about learning, but my cohort and I were itching with anticipation to go and make something. That was when we got our assignment.
Magic Wheelchair is a non-profit that makes costumes for wheelchairs so kids with disabilities can feel a bit more welcomed and happier with their wheelchair. Ryan Weimer assigned our cohort to a boy named Jared. Jared can’t walk or move his legs, he can only use his left arm, his vision is limited, and he loves Chewbacca. Our assignment: to make the coolest, most epic Millennium Falcon wheelchair ever.
To start, we needed to check in with Jared, find out what he wants, and find his limitations. When we found out what he can and can’t do, we split up into three teams: the hull, the control panel, and what I like to call the “make this wheelchair as epic as possible by adding lights and sounds and cool buttons to press” group. And that’s where we are now, finishing prototypes and starting to make the real thing come to life. We are coming for you, Jared. Be prepared for the most awesome Millennium Falcon wheelchair ever! “RAWRGWAWGGR!”

-James Tiffin

Experience Sharing

This year in Innovation Diploma we’ve been doing a lot of branding/rebranding, networking, and overall development work in order to better define ourselves as a design firm. But, along with these different tasks, we developed a total of 4 different flash labs that we then lead the iD freshman through, and ultimately the entire freshman grade through. The first round of flash labs included 4 different topics with 4 different small groups of iD members. When we moved on from the iD freshman, and to the entire freshman grade, we decided on just one topic to focus on TRASH, my groups’ original topic. The round 2 of our flash labs had a total of about 12-13 students per group, and I actually had the opportunity to lead my own group!!

Finally, after our second round of flash labs with the freshman, we heard about an opportunity to actually lead this same TRASH Flash Lab with Georgia Tech students. This opportunity came from Anya, my older sister who graduated from MVPS and iD just last year, who just joined a group called Engineering without Borders, and a sub-group within it called Wish for WASH. Through her involvement in Wish for WASH Anya saw that there was a learning opportunity for both her fellow classmates and her former classmates. She emailed the facilitators and asked if a few of us would be available on Friday, September 29th to come down to Georgia Tech and facilitate her team in a quick flash lab, just to get them more familiar with the process of design thinking. As soon as I heard about this amazing opportunity, I jumped on board and we began to speed prepare for what would be our final time facilitating this flash lab to a group of students.

On the Friday of the flash lab, we were all bursting with excitement and nerves, which was fully understandable since 3 out of the 5 of us going were underclassmen who had never gone outside of Mount Vernon to facilitate anything. We were all hurrying to go over our slides in the car, but once we got there we all seemed to suddenly become more chill. A somewhat lengthy and confused walk got us to the building where we should have been, and as we entered the room I think it all became real. For some reason, I wasn’t thinking about the fact that there really weren’t going to be that many people that we were leading, and I also didn’t think about the fact that they were just college students, nothing fancy or scary like businessmen/women would have been. Most of these students were only a few years older than me and yet I was the one teaching them something. I think one of my favorite things about this experience had to be the fact that our facilitators who drove us down to GT, Andres and Tedwards, didn’t actually stay in or near the room during our flash lab. They felt confident and comfortable enough with us leading that they left to go get food and talk to other recent graduates who also attended Tech.

Throughout the flash lab, I definitely felt pretty nervous, but I got more comfortable where I was the longer we were there. We had music playing in the background and we were wandering around as they completed each page in our DEEPdt Playbook. I found it much less nerve-racking and really just more fun to explain what we were doing as a whole or to help facilitate some of the students either individually or in pairs rather than to the entire group. With all those eyes on me, it was definitely pretty nerve-racking, but I think the more I do it and the more I practice my public speaking skills the easier this flow will become and the faster I’ll be able to move on my feet as I go through flash labs, presentations, etc.

Overall, this experience was one that could not be replaced or recreated. It allowed me a chance to fully practice what I know about design thinking and facilitating a flash lab, and it also allowed me to fully experience what it’s like to co-facilitate with other students. I am so glad that my fellow students and I had this opportunity and I hope that it won’t be the last time I go off campus in order to spread my current and growing stockpile of knowledge about the process and benefits of design thinking, or human-centered problem-solving.

Thanks so much,
Kylie Smith-Wolfe
Class of 2020
Member of Innovation Diploma

Our Work

Fire and Ice

Wow iDiploma is busy! We are doing so many different projects and design briefs right now it’s almost hard to keep up! We started off with a lot of internal design briefs designed to boost the iDiploma image. We had briefs focused on revamping the brand, enlarging our network, serving our community, figuring out how to tell our story, and transition iDiploma from a “start-up” to a design firm. I have been in the branding group, and we so far have come up with tee-shirt designs, business card prototypes, and remodeled – and rebuilt – our website (new website coming soon!). The networking group has created and expanded our social media presence – from Twitter, Instagram, email, and more, iDiploma has become more of a presence. Other groups have begun to blend together as their purposes become aligned. The branding and networking groups, for example, are working closely together. The other groups are exploring…

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Frazer Center Reflection

Megan Lienau

From October 2016 to June 2017 I worked on a design brief in conjunction with the Frazer Center. As a part of the Experiment stage I orchestrated meetings between Frazer faculty and the faculty of other forward thinking schools in Atlanta with the understanding that partnership between these organizations would be incredibly valuable for all parties. Our team was able to see the beginning of such a partnership through a couple of professional conversations and a flash lab design thinking workshop.

I held a joint visit to the Turning Sun School in December 2016 with Director of Turning Sun Alicia Karpick, and Director of the Frazer Center Paige Kubik as a follow up to a previous visit our team had in November. The conversation that took place during the joint visit was extremely beneficial to both sides as they were easily able to communicate in detail their problems and get…

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Inspiring Minds United At Last

The Life of Pinya

What happens when you take motivated students from unique schools across the east coast and bring them together for a conference? Mind-blowing awesomeness!!!!!

I’m currently in Washington D.C. for a 3 day conference called SparkHouse run by Education Reimagined. To be honest I don’t entirely know what’s going to happen these next few days, but today was the initial dinner meet up and it was fantastic!

Everyone here (students and teachers, and it’s mostly students on purpose) is just great and very open and clearly creative and passionate about how education needs to change. I feel like I’ve known these people forever because everyones so easy to talk and relate to. Plus everyone comes from a school doing awesome weird stuff, so it’s been super interesting learning about the different school styles. It’s actually become a joke that the way we introduce ourselves and our starting conversations are based on, “So why…

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Learner-Centered Commonalities

The Life of Pinya

I don’t even know where to begin to describe how awesome today was!!! Learners from around the country gathered together talking about our unique learner-centered educations, and the conversations were mind blowing.

After sharing short presentations about our schools, we specifically focused today on what things are similar and different across the 15 different schools in order to get a clearer idea of how to describe learner-centered education by distinguishing traditional vs non-traditional (learner-centered) school aspects.

When trying to figure out what makes a learner-centered school my team came up with these commonalities:

  • hands on learning in the real world
  • self-paced learning
  • strong relationships between students and teachers
  • different forms of assessment then just a 0-100% scale
  • an emphasis on skills not just content learning
  • interacting and engaging with the community
  • students take ownership and are passionate about their work
  • flexible and interactive learning environments

However, I also noticed…

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