Bryant IDEA program allows students to work with local businesses

BRYANT UNIVERSITY'S three-day design-thinking boot camp, known as Innovation and Design Experience for All, provides an opportunity for students to develop and apply innovative solutions to problems put forward by local businesses.
BRYANT UNIVERSITY'S three-day design-thinking boot camp, known as Innovation and Design Experience for All, provides an opportunity for students to develop and apply innovative solutions to problems put forward by local businesses.

SMITHFIELD – Now in its sixth year, Bryant University’s three-day design-thinking boot camp, known as Innovation and Design Experience for All, or IDEA, saw students develop and apply innovative solutions to problems put forward by local businesses.

“Design thinking can be hard for the brain,” said Allison Butler, 2018 IDEA program director and associate professor of psychology.

She added: “Our brains are wired to operate as efficiently as possible, which is ideal for making our way through daily life but often an impediment to innovation. We teach our students strategies for removing cognitive blocks to free them up to generate wild ideas, experiment with them and be truly creative.”

From Jan. 21-24, Bryant University students were walked through a design-thinking process popularized by global design firm IDEO, based in Palo Alto, Calif. Starting with ethnographic field research and definition of user needs, students are encouraged to brainstorm possible solutions via prototyping, testing and continual analysis from user feedback.

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Students, in groups of five, are assigned a work placement with local corporations to apply what they’ve learned in the IDEA program. Participating businesses included New England Patriots Hall of Fame, Providence Tourism Council and Bass Pro Shops. While at the business, students complete the ethnographic field research portion of the process then return to campus to brainstorm and build prototypes while overseen by faculty and alumni mentors.

The IDEA boot camp culminated with the submission of a final product – a 3-D model of their solution – to a panel of guest judges made up of business leaders and community organizers. Submissions are evaluated on the idea as well as the thinking process that led to the solution.

Emily Gowdey-Backus is a staff writer for PBN. You can follow her on Twitter @FlashGowdey or contact her via email, gowdey-backus@pbn.com.