Fuse: “to become united” Reflections on #FUSE15

FUSE is an annual event which brings together teachers and students to actively learn design thinking while prototyping solutions for Georgia nonprofits. This was my first time attending the event hosted by the Mount Vernon Center for Innovation in Atlanta.


Here are five lessons and golden goodies I brought back from #fuse15

1. The Students!

At #FUSE15, handfuls of students served as improv leaders, coaches and active participants in design challenges. Student leader, Anya Smith,  opened the event with a thunderously inspiring MOVE talk about learning through design. The next time you’re planning a professional learning experience at your school, consider how you will integrate students.  Lesson learned- Don’t simply learn and design FOR students, learn and design WITH students!

Student-led intros at #fuse15 @pinyabananas
Student-led intros at #fuse15 @pinyabananas

2. Rapid Prototyping Rocks!

Quick prototyping with everyday objects is super fun and teaches valuable lessons about the creative process.  Within 20 minutes we had designed a new pair of glasses for a student, new puppet for Sesame Street and new tool for paleontologists. Everyone was laughing and having a blast while building their creative confidence to “put something out there.” Later we were pressed to brainstorm 30 ideas in two minutes, no matter how feasible or ridiculous. Lesson learned- In order to get the “moonshot ideas” you need to have a lot of ideas. 

maker cart for rapid prototyping at MVPS- #fuse15
maker cart for rapid prototyping at MVPS- #fuse15

 3. Prototypes great and small 

At one point, we had a gallery walk of all the prototypes being crafted for the nonprofit partners. I LOVED seeing how people represented their ideas through the simple, miscellaneous materials we had available such as paper, cardboard, play-doh, pipe cleaners, glue, felt and markers. Some teams designed replicas of a camp for students while others created a mobile app for delivering “just in time” supports to students during the school day.  Lesson learned- You don’t need a Maker Bot to get students involved in design thinking and prototyping for specific users. Start with what you have and value process over products.

Mixed-media prototype of recreational farm
Better Together mobile app presented in paper prototype in ppt
Better Together App presented in paper prototype in ppt

4. Designing for the community

The core of the #fuse experience is designing and presenting mid resolution prototypes for local nonprofits.  We engaged in the entire design thinking process from discovering and empathy building to producing. The DEEPdt methodology created by #dtk12 pioneer, Mary Cantwell, and the DEEPdt Playbook served as our guides. I left #fuse with a proven platform to engage students in authentic design challenges for my own school community in Salinas, Ca. Teachers can facilitate this type of activity with all different kinds of community partners from the local supermarket to a carwash or local farm. Lesson learned- make the community your classroom through design challenges.

Team presentations - Soul to Soil
Team presentations – Soul to Soil

5. The power of WE

During my time in Atlanta, I met, designed, brainstormed, laughed and ate with pioneering minds of design thinking such as @scitechyEDU @TheRealJamCam @treyboden @JimTiffinJr , @wickeddecent , @pinyabananas and many others. Now I have a whole gaggle of creative educators who are delighted to collaborate and jump in with answers to silly questions such as “Help!  Which scissors are best for creating cardboard prototypes with kids?”  Lesson learned- Experiences build community

I highly recommend this event to any educators, students, administrators and business leaders seeking an authentic journey into design thinking. I left the event with the creative confidence to bring this type of learning back to the students of @salinasberry. Furious sketching to ensue!

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