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Design Thinking Reimagined for Kids: The First Human-Centered Design for Kids APAC Workshop, Hosted by EPAM

Brian Glassman

Director of Digital Engagement at EPAM
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Imagine a group of animals traveling from Earth to various planets and the challenges they meet along the way. This scenario was recently presented to a group of 7- to 11-year-olds who participated in the first Human-Centered Design (HCD) for Kids workshop in Singapore.

The workshop’s goal was to educate kids on HCD thinking and the importance of teamwork by leveraging the five stages of the design thinking framework: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Share.

HCD for Kids is a part of EPAM’s eKids initiative, an educational program hosted by EPAM employee volunteers to empower the next generation of creative thinkers and problem solvers. HCD for Kids was initially created by a team of EPAMers in the United States. With design thinking proclaimed to be a core element of Singapore’s national strategy, our recent pilot workshop in Singapore was the first time EPAMers adapted the U.S. team’s content for the region. 

The team conducted research, including user interviews with EPAM parents, to understand how to better conduct the workshop and best engage elementary school students. Based on the findings, we created a shorter course to keep kids more engaged, incorporated activities into the workshop instead of adding homework, as well as simplified the narrative, and localized the content and illustrations for some of the materials. For example, the original content contained examples of housing floor plans that didn’t align with what houses look like in Singapore. The team created new illustrations with local food, such as kaya and toast, and iconic buildings like the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

To help instill the stages of design thinking, the adapted storyline was presented in the workshop where teamwork, a key to success in human-centered design, was needed to help the animals tackle problems.

“With this story, it was easier for the kids to empathize with the way the animals might be feeling in a new place and define the challenges they face there,” said Janna Tan, Associate Experience Designer at EPAM. “For this introductory part, we printed out laminated animal cards to use as activity sheets. After that, the kids came up with some ideas of the things the animals could create utilizing the available tools and materials to overcome challenges. Since it was a hands-on learning workshop, the kids were also able to prototype their ideas and share them during our show-and-tell session. This helped them to understand that design is all about cross-collaboration and learning from each other. In this way, we walked the kids through all the five stages of design thinking.”

“Prototyping seemed to be challenging as the kids needed more time and plenty of guidance from us to complete the activity,” said Sam Goh. “A challenge is a part of the process. It always is – this is how we can adapt and overcome difficulties to be better next time. All in all, the kids really enjoyed crafting their ideas, helping one another, and getting to know each other through these processes and challenges.”

“The feedback from the participants and their parents was more than positive,” said Sam who added that some of the kids even asked if they could come back the next day or if there was going to be a second part of the workshop. 

“The point was not necessarily to grow these kids into future designers, but rather instill creative confidence in them and teach them that it is a transferable skill,” Janna said. “No matter what education and profession you choose, you can always apply empathy and try to understand your friend's emotions. It is a mindset that you carry with you in your daily life.”

After the successful pilot workshop in Singapore, the team is exploring ways to expand the program, incorporate new technologies such as augmented reality and follow it with our eKids scratch course where they can apply what they have learned from human-centered design in code. Further, we plan to partner with non-profits to offer the workshop to underprivileged children, as well as extend the program to clients who are interested in making it available to their employees’ children.  

Want to join our team at EPAM? View our open positions at epam.com/careers.