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Forty students in eight collaborative teams presented their designs and inventions to a star panel of Silicon Valley experts, fellow students, parents, and community members on Thursday, November 30, in the Writing and Research Center at Bay Meadows. After a five-minute presentation by each team that included a key problem, market research, and current prototypes, the members fielded questions and received feedback.

“From a smart stress ball to relieve social anxiety to clothing intended to give homeless women a sense of safety, students have been working all semester to design for a better world,” said Connie Liu, teacher of Design Engineering for Social Good and leader of the Nueva Invention Studio afterschool program. “This evening allows students to get feedback and share their ideas publicly. We want their solutions not only to live inside the classroom, but also inspire others. The many attendees all help the students build better solutions.”

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Panelists included Rachel Adenekan, mechanical engineering PhD student; Dominika Blackappl, designer and partner at Y Combinator; Nayantara Patel, technical program manager at Intuit; and Julia Popowitz, technology angel investor. Feedback ranged from product design considerations to suggestions regarding possible strategic avenues to pursue.

Presenting students were from grades 9–12, and all are currently participating in either the Design Engineering for Social Good elective or the Nueva Invention Studio. These popular opportunities draw students excited to bring together their commitment to social change and their passion for design.

Connie said students bubbled throughout the evening and into the next day, happily sharing their new ideas and discussing how they were going to launch their projects. “This sort of excitement and confidence in making an impact is exactly what I hope to see,” she said.

Tenth grader Justin Z. expressed this by saying "The design review was a great and exciting experience. I was especially wowed by the projects of my peers — the designs were well thought out and authentically useful for the people we are trying to help. My team got very useful feedback from the panelists and audience and can't wait to take our project to the next level!"

The Design Thinking techniques and mindset are embedded in Nueva’s culture and woven through the curriculum of all grades. These upper school students began by identifying a real-world issue they cared about, and through empathy, deep listening, research, and prototyping they generated possible solutions to the problem.

Projects at this showcase included Zoo of Rights, a picture book aimed towards educating foster children about their basic rights in a fun and approachable way, and Ecobowl, an eco-friendly produce bowl that implements zeolite to preserve fruit and keep it fresh longer.

“I love invention as a way to learn, because it’s a way for students to make a difference while building new skills,” said Connie. “We need more people in the world equipped to tackle complex problems like homelessness and poor education, and this gives students a chance to become those people.”

December 6, 2017




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