Design Thinking in Education via Code, Robotics, and Sustainability

Sphero Course

Design Thinking

“Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user.”

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               (Linda Naiman)

My most recent class had the opportunity to put the design thinking process to the test.  Students integrated their work on natural resources and sustainability with their math program.  They were challenged to find a problem from both a micro and macro level and whether or not they could solve it.


It was their decision to utilize and manipulate certain natural resources to create something in hopes of helping other students code in an engaging atmosphere which was tangible.  A secondary focus was to align their vision with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

UN Sustainable Development Goals


The students elected to create Sphero courses which other students would then program with assistance.  One of the greatest learning opportunities for students was that they learned design thinking isn’t linear.  When you first see the initial model it looks easy enough to navigate.  What happens however when your prototype fails?  This experience was pivotal for students in terms of strengthening resiliency and perseverance skills.


This process also taught them an important lesson around creating effective solutions for the end user.  Students had to consider whether this was viable from a feasibility and desirable outcome standpoint.

One of the most noticeable benefits is how this process broke problems down into smaller segments which was easier to process for those who may struggle with executive functioning.


Students were able to integrate several mathematical concepts which included:

  • Angular relations (angle patterns & inverse relations)
  • Surface Area
  • Converting units of measure
  • Numeracy Computations
  • Additive Reasoning
  • Fractions
  • More

Students wanted to extend their understanding by adding one of the most versatile STEM/Maker Tools PocketLab.  For those unfamiliar with this device, it is essentially a pocket size sensor which can calculate a vast array of experiments and analyze data easily for students.  Some designs required the students to determine the amount of angular velocity in order to code their program effectively.  This reverse engineering process was instrumental in the successful implication of their course.  It also allowed them to utilize higher order thinking and effective problem solving strategies.

Angular Velocity





Sphero w PocketLab

While the curricular and pedagogical connections were integral within this task I think it’s important to note students were doing things differentetly from their traditional classes.

They were using tools in meaningful ways in hopes of supporting others.  This was important because it created a direct empathy connection and fostered an understanding of why they are doing something.  Or in terms of design thinking, empathizing and designing a solution.

In the process of completing this endeavour students acquired new skills through the design and building application while fostering others via coding their Sphero.

Below are some images of the process and some completed projects.


Sphero Course

Sphero Build

Sphero Course

Sphero Course

Sphero Course








Sphero Course

Above all else I was proud the students were able to create something for someone else, in hopes of achieving a desirable outcome.  If you would like to do something similar and showcase how STEM can positively impact your global community I suggest checking out the new Microsoft Make: Change Campaign.

Make: Change

As always if you have any questions please reach out.

Thank you!



Anderson, Jill. “The Benefits of Design- and Maker-Thinking.” The Benefits of Design- and Maker-Thinking | Harvard Graduate School of Education,

Hobcraft, Paul. “An Introduction to Design Thinking for Innovation Managers.” Innovation Management by HYPE,

“Make : Change.” Microsoft,

“The PocketLab.” The PocketLab | Wireless Sensor for STEM Education and Makers.,

“Unlocking the True Potential of Play.” Sphero,