For the second year in a row, St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) has been hacked! Not exactly in the way most would think, but rather through a year-long Gr. 12 accounting project based on the design thinking model.
“The project is really designed to allow students to be creative and make an impact in their community,” says Dr. Daniel Lumsden ’96, SMCS accounting teacher. “Based on the feedback we have received from our graduates, this puts our students ahead of the curve as many go through this process several times at university.”
The project serves as the final summative for their accounting course and 10% of their final mark. The task is to design a prototype of an app or website that addresses a need in the SMCS community with a defined social benefit. Twelve groups consisting of three to four students were created at the start of the school year.
Through the accounting curriculum, they have been introduced to the design thinking process as well as the social ethics side of business. The design thinking process has five steps: gaining an empathetic understanding, defining the problem, generating ideas, producing a prototype, and testing.
“The curriculum helps students discover how to identify and foster positive change,” says Lumsden. “Championing positive change based on doing things the right away with strong ethical values is what we are after.”
Since September, students have also been mentored by Brian Bulcke, a Stanford University graduate and former professional athlete, who is regarded as a pioneer in design thinking.
On a monthly basis, Bulcke hosts Zoom sessions to build the students’ knowledge of design thinking as it relates to the business world and offer support on how to work with end-users to find impactful solutions. Bulcke also regularly connects with individual groups to offer project-specific advice and constructive criticism.
“We are very fortunate to have Brian work with our students again this year. He is one of the most important assets to the curriculum and really helps us in developing the students’ transformative skills,” says Lumsden. “Brian’s mentorship assists students in asking the right questions of the end-user, and sharpening the students’ focus to help them pinpoint key areas of opportunity.”
After nine months of working on their projects, the end is in sight. On Friday, May 22, preliminary presentations were held through a Zoom session. Groups were allowed five minutes to present and showcase their prototype to their class. The top five now move on to the finals, which will be livestreamed on Friday, May 29 at 7 p.m.
As for what lies ahead, Bulcke has offered 10 SMCS students an opportunity to pay it forward this summer with a one-month internship. From June 10 to July 10, SMCS students will be working remotely with inner city youth in San Francisco to help them research and design their own apps and websites using the design thinking model.