A big focus with our design program has been building projects and designs around the concept of empathy. To be successful designers, students need to understand and empathize with a user group and design for them. The concept of empathy for the user is central to Design Thinking, and connects well with our school's International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum.
One such recent project has been the microlight project. Students researched, designed, 3D modeled, 3D printed, and evaluated a design for a microlight. Each student was given an LED bulb and one battery. Their task was to identify a user group and design a microlight that fits their needs.
As we are an all-girls school, many students started to investigate the concept of safety at night, and how adequate lighting can contribute to that. Students explored different contexts such as campers and hikers, to city dwellers and even students who live on our sprawling campus.
The design above is by a grade nine student inquiring into a design solution for female campers. The design is actually two flashlights in one--the lights can be separated to share with a person, so that neither is left without light; or the lights can be combined to provide a brighter light.
Because we were using parametric modeling software (Autodesk Fusion 360) and 3D printers, students were easily able to iterate their designs and make small changes. In the case of this design, small changes were made to the switch mechanism to better accommodate the battery and make it more reliable. In this regard, the technology allowed students to explore possibilities and continually refine their design.