Design Thinking In Action @D39C

At Design39Campus we believe that students can engineer solutions to real world problems through the design thinking process.  This style of thinking encourages outside-the-box thinking and creativity in a student centered approach to learning. 

The leadership team at D39C uses design thinking everyday as we tackle the challenges of changing the way we do school.  Through our first set of informational meetings, we entered the empathy stage of the design process.  We have been asking tough questions and collecting this data from the community.  We spend hours upon hours researching and collecting ideas of things that are working in schools already, communicating with schools from around the country, and talking with experts in education.  Problems are defined and we spend time ideating and brainstorming innovative solutions.  The next step is to create a model or prototype and to test our solution, always knowing that if something isn't working, we can always take a step back in the design process.  The design process is truly at the heart of everything we do.

Still not exactly sure about this whole design thinking idea?  Let us take you through a recent problem that the D39C team encountered and show you how we used design thinking to engineer a possible solution.


Because teachers at D39C will not have their own classroom space, we needed to design a way for teachers to be able to move between spaces and transport basic needs like computer, projector, and specific supplies/materials. As a team, we investigated products, looked through catalogs, used some sample products, and realized that all the products out there didn't meet our specific needs. 

With a little bit of design thinking, we should be able to solve this problem for Bret or any other teacher at D39C!

The team determined that the solution would need to fit within the following constraints:
  • It needs to be mobile.
  • It needs to fit through a standard classroom door.
  • It needs to have a surface for using your computer/device.
  • It needs to have a place to house a projector.
  • It needs to have storage for teacher items (pens, post-its, etc).
  • It needs to have storage for student devices.
  • It needs to be lockable.
  • It needs to be affordable.
  • It needs to be durable.
  • It needs to have a way for devices inside to be charged (holes).


What are some possible solutions to our problem?  This is where the team sat around the table and threw out some possible ideas. 

  • We could use a wagon or some sort of device for pulling.
  • We could carry all of our supplies around.
  • We could put mobile desks in classrooms.
  • We could put stationary desks in classrooms.
  • We could buy a device that doesn't exactly meet our needs.
  • We could use a rolling podium.
  • We could design our own rolling storage cart with podium.
  • We could have stationary storage cubbies in each room.
  • We could have mobile storage cubbies in each room.
 At this point, we decided that the product we may be looking for is some sort of mobile "teacher" cart.


Step 1: We discussed and decided on ideal dimensions.
Step 2: Bret drew out a detailed plan on paper of what the cart would look like.

Step 3: We needed some supplies for our prototype, so we went to our neighborhood Ralph's, Jimbo's, and Sears and they gladly donated large sheets of cardboard.

Thank you to 4S Ranch Ralphs, 4S Ranch Jimbos, and Carmel Mountain Sears for donating cardboard!

Step 4: Kyle and Bret built our prototype.


We tested and evaluated our cart to make sure our prototype met all of our requirements. We will live with the model in our temporary home at Del Norte High School and use it as we would a normal teacher cart at D39C. 


We sent our specifications and pictures of our prototype to possible vendors for them to price, create, and deliver.

This teacher cart challenge is just one of many design thinking experiences the D39C team has experienced in our work so far.  It is a fluid process that guides our work as we change the way we do school.  We imagine this as a powerful tool for students as they compose a piece of writing, respond to an environmental challenge, or even design their own learning experience.  To find out more about this process, visit the "Design Thinking" section of our website

Be sure to follow our Facebook page (search "Poway Unified School District New K-8") and follow us on Twitter @design39campus.

Bret, Karen, Kelly, Kyle, Megan, Sonya, and Tom
The Design 39 Campus Team