Design Education in Grades K-12        

Teaching Product Development at Lane Tech College Prep

December 9, 2013

At the beginning of this year, we had the opportunity to introduce product development to 8th grade students at Nettelhorst School, a K-8 Chicago Public School. The program, called dig-8, was created by our team at Beyond Design to teach K-12 students about product development and give them the opportunity to design real products, and create real start-ups, right in the classroom. The program was a tremendous success and included a Kickstarter campaign to help raise funds to create the students’ chosen product, the Elephant Hooks. You can read more about dig-8 here.

The dig-8 program was created with the intention that it could be scaled both up and down to different student age levels, by changing the project parameters including materials, fabrication processes, cost, and target market. Recently, we were given the opportunity to teach a similar program to high school students at Lane Tech.

The program, called NPD-101, was introduced just last week and is a 5-week program that focuses on teaching students important problem solving, presentation, and cognitive skills, as well as research methods, sales strategies, critical analysis, and manufacturing techniques. In addition, it encourages creative thinking, collaboration, team building, and leadership.

The class is divided into four teams and their assignment is to design a locker accessory for their chosen persona that can be manufactured out of plastic or sheet metal. Their personas include a student athlete, a fine arts student, a scholar, and a tech student. The students, who range in age from sophomores to seniors, spent last week learning about research, persona development, and brainstorming. The program includes a total of ten sessions that will lead students through all areas of product development.

The ten sessions that make up NPD-101 at Lane Tech.


This past week, the class learned about different customer behaviors, how to design a product or service for someone other than themselves, and improved their independent and group presentation skills. In addition, the students’ are brainstorming ideas and expressing their creativity through visuals to come up with new solutions for a locker accessory for their chosen persona.

NPD-101 wouldn’t be possible without the people who have volunteered their time to teach a younger generation about the field of product design. The volunteers include key members from Product Council, Morrow Design, and Design Integrity, students at Northwestern University, a professor from Columbia University, and volunteers from Crestview Consulting, Wilton Enterprises, Kenmore, and Motorola Mobility. In addition, team members at Beyond Design have been regular faces at each session of NPD-101. We can’t thank the volunteers enough for their time and patience.

Some photos from the first three sessions are below. If you are interested in learning more, or would like to volunteer to mentor a session, please contact Jessie Mumgaard here. The program will run through January 15, 2014.

Robert Sheldon, Principal at Product Council, teaches a team about new product development.


Students learn about design research and how to identify the correct research methods.


Lane Tech students learn from the mentors who have volunteered their time to help teach.


Students present their research findings, both field and secondary, to the class.


Session 2.0, Persona Development, taught the students’ how to understand different customers behaviors.


Students cut out images from magazines to help describe their chosen persona.


The personas developed included a student athlete, a scholar, a
fine arts student, and a tech student.


Each team presented their persona to the class.


The persona boards included the age, name, height, gender, hobbies, transportation, and special requirements for the person they are designing a locker accessory for.


The teams brainstorm ideas for their product with the help of their persona board, stimulus materials prepared by BD to provide inspiration, as well as help from other team members.


The brainstorming session allows the students to think creatively and teaches them that no idea is a bad idea.


Please keep checking back each week for an update on NPD-101!

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