To stimulate interest in our latest grade nine unit on sustainable lighting, we began with a "fast build" - a quick, adventurous exploration of a design possibility. The ability to explore an idea through quickly building prototypes is an essential skill for designers. What we have discovered as we have used this tool more and more is that a fast build is as much about communication as it is about making something quickly.
The Fast Build Protocol in our studio has evolved to emphasize the following:
- Exploring a design idea by taking creative risks
- Using a low-fidelity prototype that can be put in the user's hands
- Prioritizing communication of a concept
The fast builds are fun activities where students can take risks, build quickly, focus on communicating their thinking, and generate possible avenues for design exploration. Its amazing to see how quickly ideas are generated and explored. In this particular activity, students worked to a 20:15:10 ratio:
- 20 minutes to build a low-fidelity prototype using a limited range of materials (in this case, an LED light, CR2032 battery, cardboard, and tape)
- 15 minutes to document and complete a parts-purposes-complexities thinking routine
- 10 minutes in groups to give feedback and discuss possible design directions
Fast builds are opportunities for the students to practice communicating their thinking in a variety of forms. Students communicate their idea through a prototype that can be put in another person's hand. The parts-purposes-complexities thinking routine provides students with a written outlet of communicating their idea. Finally, the discussion and feedback sessions give them a chance to discuss in depth the ideas and listen to feedback from peers about possible directions they can take their design.
This emphasis on working quickly de-emphasizes the preciousness of the object--Students see the fast build prototype as a tool for communicating their idea in order to further their inquiry.