Timothy O'Reilly, an Irish-American author and publisher, once exclaimed, “What new technology does is create new opportunities to do a job that customers want done.” Similarly, Daniel Bell, an American sociologist and a professor at Harvard University, was of the view that “technology like art is a soaring exercise of the human imagination.” It’s this crucial relationship between emerging technologies and entrepreneurial mindset development that comes to mind while facilitating an effective high school product design and entrepreneurship course in Jeju, South Korea.
Product design and entrepreneurship rely heavily on design thinking practices as well as project-based learning. This requires students to think from the perspective of customers, define problems, ideate innovative solutions, prototype, and test their ideas. In order to effectively implement these approaches to learning, it's essential that students are introduced to data analysis and market research tools for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data related to user preferences, market trends, and customer behavior before they start prototyping their ideas into real models. Tools like Think with Google, Google Trends, Survey Monkey, Statista, and Qualtrics are excellent entry points to help students think about real-life problems and get feedback from their surrounding communities to make their products cost-effective, sustainable, and pragmatic. Products like customized glasses frames, earbuds, collectibles, and 3D printed footwear are some effective projects that students can delve into specifically for additive manufacturing.
Rapid prototyping with the help of 3D printers, laser cutters, or even embroidery machines is an effective means for students to develop sustainable business ventures and learn about the new technologies that can help to scale and promote their businesses. Computer-aided design software like Fusion 360 offer a plethora of online tutorial videos that can help students simulate the real-life impact of materials/structures on models and help them also think constructively about the practicality and dimensions of products. According to a report published by grandsviewresearch.com, the 3D printing industry is expected to grow at a pace of 23.3 percent until 2030. Introducing new materials like biodegradable plastic, filament made from coffee beans waste can help students think about sustainability and how they may use these materials effectively to create practical products.
Tools like Adobe Illustrator and Inkscape, are excellent for creating 2D designs that can be cut with the laser cutter and then assembled into a bigger product. Adobe Illustrator’s functions like “image trace” can help convert images into a .svg file format that can be infused with self-assembled parts to create innovative and aesthetically pleasing products out of the laser cutter. Assembling laser-cut clocks with the help of a few electronic components or a Bluetooth speaker, a mini drone, or even a lamp with sensors are some fun projects that students can create with the help of subtractive manufacturing. Features like drawings in Fusion 360 are excellent if students are trying to create a three-fold brochure to promote their products within the school community as they can outline product specifications and label parts as in a real-life brochure specifically on templates taken from Canva or a totally self-tailored one created via Adobe InDesign.
Julie Cottineau, the founder of Brand School, in her book Twist: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, emphasizes that “branding is your fundamental promise of whom you serve, how you make them feel and what’s different about how you deliver.” When it comes to facilitating the importance of branding to students, a sewing/embroidery machine in design labs can provide students the opportunity to create promotional/customized items like caps, hats, wrist bands, embroidered T-shirts that can carry the company’s logo as well as their company’s catchphrase which can help them to create brand awareness and advertise their products in more effective ways. Inkscape provides a plugin called “ink stitch” that can be downloaded from the internet and would work with almost any embroidery machine that can render jpeg images to stitchable .pes or. pec formats. The software also offers the opportunity to change font sizes and styles, change threads after completing a sequence of designs, and determine the thickness, number, and density of stitches. It offers an excellent user interface for future fashion designers and budding entrepreneurs to implement their embroidery, art, and stitching skills in a high school environment.
The famous Shark Tank reality show that began in August 2009, where five investors would listen to entrepreneurs' pitches and then decide whether they would like to invest their capital into the business in lieu of equity can be remodeled within the international schools' context around the world with the help of Google Slides as well as with rubrics that emphasize how effectively students conducted the research for the products they built, what materials they chose in order to achieve it, what technological tools they utilized in order to make the virtual/physical models of the product, and how effectively they were able to advertise their products via websites, brochures, or even social media. The mock Shark Tank event offers an insight into the collaborative work ethic of the students, their passion for the brand they built, how they would have reshaped their visions if they were a real company, and their critical thinking when some ideas didn’t work as planned. Shark Tank event as a final summative assessment will provide students a chance to showcase their products produced with different tools of technology to the whole school community as well as improve their presentation skills bringing them closest to the experience of what it feels like to be an authentic entrepreneur.
Uma Shankar Singh is a science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) and robotics teacher at St. Johnsbury Academy in Jeju, South Korea. He likes to read about human psychology and troubleshoot computers and fly drones.
LinkedIn: Uma S. Singh