11 Design Thinking Challenge

Detailed Description of Learning Activity

Design thinking is an innovative process with which to approach difficult and ill-defined problems. It leads learners to think outside the box to solve real challenges in the discipline or workforce. This activity would work well as a capstone project, where a difficult welding problem, with multiple factors and variables, needs to be solved. Students work collaborative as a whole group or in teams to research the problem, ideate solutions, test them, and recommend a final design.

Empathize Define Ideate Prototype Test
Develop a deep understanding of challenge. Ask questions. Research. Observe. Clearly articulate the problem you want to solve. State the goal in one sentence. Brainstorm potential solutions. No idea is a bad one. Order your ideas. Select one to develop. Develop a prototype to test your solution. Test your solution and make improvements as you go. Iterate your solution. Make a final recommendation.

Purpose of Activity

  • Solve real problems.
  • Apply theory and practical skills to complex challenges.

What Makes This Open?

  • Connected to wider community.
  • Non-disposable assignment.
  • Incorporates reflective practice.
  • Collaborative/team-based learning.


This works well as a capstone project. Student can be asked to summarize the project goals and processes in a report with a reflective element. Students can be asked to self-evaluate, and evaluate the contribution of their peers to their project.


Activity Time
Explanation of activity and presentation of problem/challenge 1 hour
Empathize and Define depends on complexity of project
Ideate 1–2 hours
Prototype and Test depends on complexity of project
Report writing 1–2 days

Resources Required

  1. Design challenge to present to students (preferably a real problem that needs solving in the community).
  2. Scrap paper, post-it notes, pens.
  3. Appropriate welding materials for prototype.


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Open Pedagogy in the Trades Copyright © 2021 by Bruce Neid and Nicki Rehn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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