• Create&

What I learned at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s First LOFT Coder Summit

Updated: May 9, 2018

By Tara Pokras, Create& HCD Fellow


Would you describe yourself as the creative type? Do you feel comfortable problem solving outside the box? This is what we asked attendees at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s First LOFT (Latinos on the Fast Track) Coder Summit at George Mason University that took place April 28th, 2018.


At the Summit, Create& CEO Gabe Arteaga, Co-Founder & Instructor Maia Sciupac, and I led attendees through a Lightning Design Challenge workshop, giving people a taste of the design sprint framework starting with the understand phase all the way to the prototyping phase. Attendees of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation Summit ranged from young students, to aspiring professionals in the fields of science, technology, and computer science. Not only was the workshop fun, but at the end, I was able to walk away with some lessons learned in workshop design and facilitation that I'd like to share with you now.


Lesson #1: Get participants into a creative mindset quickly, with sketching exercises


When our team first sat down to design the workshop, we were challenged with how to pack everything we wanted to teach into a 75-minute session. We wanted attendees to walk away feeling like they had gained new knowledge and skills into design sprints, but not overwhelm them with too much information. Because the Summit focused on engaging students of color in the science and technology field, we chose a sprint challenge that the audience could relate to from personal experience, “How might we design a solution so that the tech industry’s workforce reflects the diversity of America?”


After the workshop, and upon further reflection as a team, we felt like we needed to warm-up participants more quickly with a doodling exercise. The reason being, is that in order to come up with a ton of ideas, people need to “stretch” their brains first and be given permission to be creative. By asking them to put their ideas on pen and paper - by sketching - they can get those juices flowing in a more tangible way. In doing so, they'll be able to jump into the design sprint mindset more quickly when we get to our Crazy 8's or Solution Sketching exercises. In the future, we'll be sure to add a sketching icebreaker to kick things off!


Lesson #2: Be prepared for unplanned schedule changes


Given the original time constraints, we were only supposed to go through the first three phases of a design sprint (Understand, Sketch, Decide), but halfway through we were given a little more time. So we maneuvered on the fly, and took all the teams through to the prototyping phase - even though that was not part of the original plan. This taught me the valuable lesson that as a facilitator you need to be able to think on your feet at all times!


And by thinking on our feet, we got a chance to hear all of the awesome solutions people came up with to the sprint challenge. Some of the solutions included a coding comic book for young girls of color, and another was a networking app called Bun (with under-cooked and burnt bread being the symbol of best or worst networking practices). Hearing people's solutions after a sprint is always really incredible, because you see them being born right in front of your eyes, through the design sprint process!


Lesson #3: Trust the design sprint process to show you that anyone can be creative!


After going through the design sprint process, the teams demonstrated that they could be creative and use that creativity in the science, tech, engineering, and math field - even if they never thought of themselves as creative in the first place. And we have the feedback to show for it! One of our participants told us that they thought the workshop was not only well planned, but that:

“The Design Sprint [Process] is a new problem solving technique for us! I plan to use this in my Tech Club next year!”

This particular feedback is most exciting for us, because it shows that participants not only learned the process, but can see other ways to apply this innovation framework to their own lives. We couldn't have asked for more!


So, whoever said that they aren't creative, have never taken a design sprint workshop with Create&! They're not only fun, but they show you that anyone can use this framework to spark creativity and innovation.


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Create& builds innovation ecosystems to launch big ideas, and trains future makers. Learn more by going to www.createand.co. If you’re interested in being notified of future events or would like us to run a workshop with you, let us know here. We’re not only looking for participants, but co-organizers, sponsors, and partners. Let us know what your needs are and we'll figure out how we might be able to help!