What happens when 30 middle school students visit an innovation and development agency? Our Radius team in Chicago was honored to lead a workshop for Project SYNCERE (Supporting Youth’s Needs with Core Engineering Research Experiments) this past weekend. Founded in 2009, the mission of Project SYNCERE is to prepare the minds and create pathways for underrepresented and disadvantaged students to pursue careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) by providing a curriculum that integrates these subjects through the use of project-based learning.

This was a perfect opportunity for our team to inspire a bunch of Chicago kids by sharing the skills we practice everyday. We divided into teams and worked through each stage of the product innovation process – the Radius 4D approach; Discover, Design, Develop, and Deliver. The goal was for each team to design the ultimate backpack to meet all the needs of different user personas.

Far from the stereotype of distracted middle-schoolers, these kids focused on learning the process and delivering amazing ideas. The level of detail in the final presentation was impressive. Students used materials we had gathered along with their vivid imaginations to prototype ideas around user pain points. Team Artist created a wearable workstation – even including an easel! The Gamer configuration offered easy phone access for Pokemon GO and integrated a large gaming screen on the back of the pack. While the Radius team expected to inspire the students, by the end of the day, we were the ones who left truly inspired.

The challenges we face as a society are growing more complex than ever. Creative problem solving is a required skill in this new era, one that is often overlooked in the traditional model of education. We felt lucky to help these kids see how creativity is a valuable skill for them to nurture far beyond art class.