Students at Brookwood School are partnering with area companies to solve real-world problems as part of the
school’s Design Thinking course.
“In Design Thinking, students use a five-step process to solve problems creatively,” according to Melissa Brown,
who co-teaches the course along with Brookwood Director of Instructional Technology Joshua Hanke. “They first
empathize with the people experiencing the problem, then define the problem, brainstorm solutions, prototype
their ideas, and test them.”
Three student groups from the Design Thinking class worked with companies such as Tisk/Task, Everfan, and
S&L integrated, as well as with Brookwood teachers and staff, to identify and solve problems affecting people in the
“Our students worked through problems dealing with fitness and food waste that were presented through the
Tisk/Task platform,” Hanke says. “Another group that were specifically interested user interface and user
experience worked on that part of the [Tisk/Task application].”
Hannah Richardson, a student in the class, says that her favorite thing about Design Thinking is that, “it allows you
to be more creative and want to solve problems around Thomasville and at Brookwood.”
Richardson’s group tackled the problem of low levels of activity and exercise among students. They collaborated
with Brookwood faculty to create a plan in which fitness trackers would be distributed to middle school students.
With the fitness trackers, teachers can, “monitor students’ level of activity and encourage them to do more if
needed,” Richardson says.
The group then partnered with S&L Integrated to create a dashboard on which faculty and students can track
activity metrics over time.
“Students are able to work with outside businesses, designers, and engineers,” Brown says, “and in addition to
[design thinking skills], they learn time management, communication skills -- specifically with email and phone
calls -- and formal presentation skills.”
Another student group attacked the issue of food waste, finding ways to limit the amount of uneaten food going
into the garbage at the Brookwood School cafeteria.
“Our original idea was to make a garden over the roof of our new cafeteria,” says Abigail Humphries, a student in
the group. “But that plan fell through, ... so we found a new place for [the garden], and a different way to create it.”
Humphries’ group worked with Brookwood staff to identify how to separate food waste from other cafeteria waste
for composting, and how to create a garden to provide fresh vegetables for school lunches.
“The students interviewed their peers, teachers, administrators, and other members of the community to get their
input,” Hanke says, “and used design thinking to come up with a creative solution.”
“We found some great ideas,” Humphries says, “and I learned how to properly talk to people about business
The third group focused on improving the user interface for Tisk/Task, an app which the entire class used to track
their progress and organize their work.
“We wanted to help them reach out to the target audience: teenagers,” says group member Charlie Sinclair. “We
made people from seventh to tenth grades try out the website, and used that information to create a layout that
rewards [users] for spending more time on the website.”
When the group’s work is published on the Tisk/Task website, Sinclair says, “the end result will be a new and
improved website that features a modern aesthetic and will appeal towards teenagers.”
Brown says that because Sinclair’s group was “specifically interested user interface and user experience, [they]
ended up doing much more work on their own and are very excited to share their findings and solutions.”
The students all expressed excitement about their projects, and mentioned that they learned things that normally
aren’t part of classroom instruction.
Richardson, of the fitness-tracking team, says that she “learned a lot during the project. One skill that I didn't have
at the beginning but now have at the end is public speaking, giving interviews, and things like that.”
The instructors hope that the skills students learn in Design Thinking stay with them long after the course is
“This class is special because it gives students the opportunity to learn the design thinking process,” Hanke says.
“And once they understand the skills, they become a tool to solve any type of problem.”