Product design students connect passion with purpose

Issue: Volume 103, Number 7

Posted: 6 June 2024
Reference #: 1HAgsf

At Pāpāmoa College, product design technology isn’t just about crafting projects for the sake of it, it’s about empowering ākonga to become
real-world inventors and designers who can solve tangible problems.

Pāpāmoa College student Seth, who is using his passion for music and technology to address some of the challenges music students face.

Pāpāmoa College student Seth, who is using his passion for music and technology to address some of the challenges music students face.

Students at Pāpāmoa College in the Bay of Plenty are not only learning about technology but also actively engaging in its application to solve real-world problems within their community.

Under the guidance of dedicated educator Mike Wright, the technology programme at the college has become a hub of innovation and hands-on learning.

One student, Seth, has exemplified this approach by merging his passion for technology and music into innovative design solutions, addressing some of the challenges faced by music students.

He says combining his two favourite subjects provided extra motivation for him to see the project through.

Concept to creation

Seth began with a deep dive into understanding the needs of the music department through observation, interviews with stakeholders, and rigorous evaluation.

“Collaboration with Kurt the guitar teacher was most useful as he uses the space the most. Talking with Kurt allowed me to truly understand what was needed in the design,” says Seth.

He identified existing challenges with furniture use and storage solutions. With a clear understanding of the problems at hand, Seth then embarked on a comprehensive design process, from brainstorming to prototyping and testing.

His solutions, aimed at tackling issues like using a chair as an amp stand and the lack of guitar storage, were not only functional but also aligned with the practical needs of

“The main challenge I had was learning how to design a product that would work in a school environment. I overcame this with rigorous testing and trying to put my prototypes through the kind of use they would experience in a real classroom application.”

This project demonstrates the transformative potential of hands-on, experiential learning. By integrating his passion for music with his technological skills, Seth not only engaged with curriculum learning areas but also created tangible solutions that directly impacted his school community.

“The most rewarding aspect of the project personally, was using the space that my project was designed to be in and seeing the way that the product improved the space. And for the school community it’s rewarding to have improved a space that is interacted with by many people.”

Products are designed to work in a school environment.

Products are designed to work in a school environment.

Empowering innovation

At Pāpāmoa College, product design technology isn’t just a subject, it’s a journey of discovery and innovation.

Mike explains that a good technology programme teaches students not to just make things and learn practical skills, but to creatively solve problems and be an active part of the solution.

“They will face challenges and problems in many aspects of their lives, and the technologies process makes them more confident that they can tackle them.”

Mike explains that using this process, students can break down seemingly challenging problems into smaller parts and resolve them creatively.

.“Giving students complicated or unusual problems to solve will include empathy, working with a client, ideation, testing, failure, rejection of ideas, analysis, improvement, more failure, and progress towards a resolution.

“If a student never picks up a saw or uses a welder again in their life, the takeaway is that they have become a confident, creative problem solver who can work with people.”

Agency and collaboration

The programme mirrors real-world creative industries, with students leading projects, managing resources and deadlines, and experiencing failure and improvement cycles – all of which empowers them as experts in problem solving.

“They will experience failure during the design and development process and some of their ideas will be rejected or will not work. They will then need to evaluate and improve.

.“These are all valuable lessons for their lives after school, and a key component of most jobs in the creative sector, regardless of what exactly it is they are creating.”

When asked what sets this approach to learning apart from traditional classroom methods, Mike says it’s the agency it gives ākonga.

“In many teaching scenarios, the teacher is the expert. In this scenario, the student is the expert. The stakeholder (usually an adult and often a teacher) needs the student and benefits from them, not the other way around. This is very empowering for young people.”

Agents of change

Students have been actively contributing to the community for the past decade, and the school has plans to further expand impact through new facilities and resources.

Design notes show the journey of discovery and innovation.

Design notes show the journey of discovery and innovation.

“We are eagerly awaiting the completion of our new technology centre, which should be operational by term 3 this year. This will expand possibilities and allow students to tackle problems they previously may not have been able to resolve.”

Mike hopes students will continue to learn that they can be agents of change and make a real difference in the community, and in people’s lives.

“There are no instruction manuals for life. We must be equipped to tackle problems when they arise, face failure when it happens, and move forward intentionally and confidently towards a creative resolution.”

For Seth, the product design technology process helped him realise his passion for the future.

“Doing this project made me realise my passion for design and problem solving, and it influenced my decision to go to university.”

One of the design solutions created by students at Pāpāmoa College.

One of the design solutions created by students at Pāpāmoa College.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:16 am, 6 June 2024

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