Kids design technology tools for social inclusion

How do you get young people from across Victoria engaged to create rather than consume technology? How can we empower students to carefully consider user needs and develop working prototypes for social good – all in the space of a few hours?

Using a human-centred design approach, the Scienceworks WeSTEM Design Sprint saw the creation of inclusive social networking apps, virtual reality spaces tailored to the needs of students’ Autistic classmates, and translation devices for recently arrived friends at school. Inspired by personal experiences shared through story, and an introduction to inclusive design, 15 teams of students in years 3-8 became Design Sprint experts. They learned about putting the user of their design front and centre throughout the design process and the value of empathy in the creation and use of technology.

Highlights of the morning included an introduction to inclusive design from Jane Hadjion, a professional engineer, a talk on human centred design from Hadi Hazara, an engineering student who came to Australia at age 17 as a refugee, and our very own Jan Molloy from the Immigration Museum speaking about belonging. The day also included a session from kids teaching kids, who prepared teachers to support student leadership in STEM upon their return to school.

Some teams tackled the accessibility of buildings at their school, while others created a smart device to remind a younger student at their school to drink water regularly. Another team used ultrasonic sensors to create a navigation device for a blind friend, and still another team created a smart device to help their aging Nonna. All students left on the day with a plan to run their own Design Sprint, for their teachers, classmates, or another year level at school.

Teachers said, “I had a lovely experience, and thoroughly enjoyed the day. More importantly there is so much I can take back to our little rural school and build on with the other students.” The Design Sprint had three rural and regional schools attend, out of 11 schools total.

Students said, “I loved working together as a team. I also loved making the app on Marvel” and “The awesome thing about today was making a product to help people.”

WeSTEM is a strategic partnership between Museums Victoria and the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria. The program aims to support teachers in the implementation of digital technologies and cross-disciplinary STEM, with a view to the Catholic ethos of social justice. The Design Sprint upskilled teachers in the

crossover between STEM and the Humanities whilst empowering students to develop a sense of agency and become peer leaders in STEM.

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