While many students spent their summer vacation relaxing and recharging after a busy school year, a handful of St. Michael’s College School (SMCS) students put their design thinking skills to work at a newly offered summer internship programme.
The month-long internship was provided by Play4Tomorrow, a design academy and technology accelerator for youth. It was led by Brian Bulcke, a regular guest speaker at SMCS and managing partner at Play4Tomorrow. The internship was offered to interested Grade 11 and 12 students in the accounting programme at SMCS for the first time this past summer.
“We have been working with Brian Bulcke for three years now with the accounting programme where he is involved in the ‘Hack SMCS’ ISU (Independent Study Unit) projects,” says Dr. Daniel Lumsden ’96, accounting teacher at SMCS. He adds that this internship will continue to be offered every summer for interested accounting students.
When Grade 12 student, Andrew Lobo first heard about the internship opportunity, he says he didn’t hesitate to apply.
“Throughout the school year, my Grade 12 accounting class worked with Brian for our ‘Hacking St. Mike’s’ design thinking ISUs,” says Lobo. “I learned a lot from his sessions and wanted to continue exploring the world of design thinking. I knew that participating in the internship would allow me to develop my design thinking skills and make a difference in the community, so I decided to apply for the position.”
Design thinking is a process that involves understanding and developing empathy for the people in which a product or service is being designed, defining the problem and reframing it in a human-centric way, brainstorming solutions, and finally prototyping and testing.
“Design thinking encourages building a solution-focused mind through creative problem solving, prototyping, and user-testing,” says Lobo.
“On our first training session, we were told that we would be using our design thinking skills throughout the internship,” he adds. “In that session, we were taught to build Minimum Viable Products (MVPs) and high-quality videos. We were then given our tasks; my task was to create inspirational non-profit mission brief videos.”
“After about a week of experimentation, I was able to produce about seven to eight high-quality, professional-grade videos per day,” says Lobo. “The videos functioned to inspire and motivate kids.”
Lobo’s learning and skill development through the internship did not stop there. He was then able to take what he learned even further by applying his new skills and experience to start his own non-profit completely designed to help underprivileged youth afford the costs associated with sports.
“One day, I called [Brian] to ask for advice. I wanted to give back to my community, but I did not know where to begin,” says Lobo. “Brian tasked me with thinking of 50 ways I could help my community, tying it back to design thinking. After brainstorming and some contemplation, I decided to start my own non-profit venture - Tech2Training.”
Tech2Training financially sponsors aspiring young athletes who cannot afford to play sports due to high fees or the high costs of necessary equipment. Lobo’s non-profit helps raise money for these athletes by re-selling donations of technology (such as smartphones, tablets, computers, etc.) that have been cleaned or refurbished. Tech2Training has also begun accepting monetary donations as well through a GoFundMe fundraiser.
So far, Lobo says they have been able to raise over $1,200!
“I founded Tech2Training to allow more kids to experience teamwork, competitiveness, and fun while keeping healthy through engaging in physical activity,” he says. “Sports have provided me with friendships, instilled in me life-long skills, and allowed me to truly enjoy myself.”
Lobo’s experiences from his Play4Tomorrow internship, and his application of the knowledge he gained through it, are prime examples of the experiential opportunities that SMCS students are exposed to through the enriched deep learning curriculum combined with the Community and Learning Partnerships programme.
“Brian’s internship programme gave Andrew a forum to think critically, use the components of design thinking, and pursue a cause that was important to him,” says John Walsh, Head of Community and Learning Partnerships at SMCS. “His success is an example of the immense potential existing within our students that is just waiting to be tapped into.”
“We want and need critical thinkers in our society and it is incumbent for us as educators to provide opportunities for our students to be exposed to authentic curriculum-related experiences,” adds Walsh. “Our Community and Learning Partnerships programme helps SMCS students make curriculum connections to the realities of the workplace and explore their imagination. It also gives us an opportunity to showcase the outstanding caliber of SMCS students.”
“I was not surprised [from the outcome of his experience] as Andrew completes every task at 100% and having the experience to work with Brian Bulcke this summer really helped,” says Lumsden. “I believe this new venture is great, and many opportunities will evolve because of this. It is a true testament to the character of this young man.”
When asked what advice Lobo would share with other students considering the same path, he says to not be afraid to ask for help.
“Whenever I am stumped or need motivation, I talk to Brian, and together we figure out ways to level-up my ideas,” he says. “I consider myself so blessed to have such supportive mentors and friends who have helped me bring my idea into fruition.”
“No matter where I end up in the future, I’d like to continue to create opportunities for youth to involve themselves in sports - not only will it keep them healthy, but it will also nurture them in diligence and collaboration,” says Lobo.