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Innovation By Design—Middle School’s Innovation Nation with Bryant University

This year’s Innovation Nation, a three-day Middle School design thinking intensive, brought new challenges, thought-provoking problem solving, and some fresh faces to Lincoln School. Lincoln girls split up into groups, and after learning the basics of human-centered design (empathize, define, ideate, prototype, test), they set out to tackle some real-world problems with big ideas. 

There were four final problems—how to encourage local shopping in the age of digital commerce; how to design a better dog park; how to encourage healthy food choices in supermarkets; and how to make coffee shops a more fun experience for customers. The winning team of Alexis "Tink" Dahlberg ‘23, Kyra DiBiase ‘24, Eva Weiting ‘22, & Maegan Dansereau ‘22 was selected based on their design thinking skills, levels of empathy, group presentation, and overall idea.  

The partnership, run in conjunction with Bryant University’s IDEA (Innovation and Design Experience for All) Program and Allison Butler '96, Ph.D., past Lincoln School Alumnae Association president and associate professor and educational psychologist at Bryant University, is now in its second year and shows no signs of slowing. Each multi-grade design thinking cohort is facilitated by current Bryant students, all of whom participated in the IDEA program in their first year at the university. 

These students were a large part of what made Innovation Nation so successful and rewarding for Lincoln Middle Schoolers, so we’d like to introduce a few of them!

Mikayla, Bryant University Senior

“I’ve heard that as a mentor, you get even more out of the IDEA/Innovation Nation program, because you see everyone’s transformation and not just your own. This kind of design thinking intensive gets you out of your comfort zone, makes you think differently, get uncomfortable, and adapt a new process... It’s been awesome to see how much these Lincoln girls are mastering the concepts and finding the joy in learning, all while bringing their own personality to it. These girls are so mature, and so, so smart, in all different ways. Some are creative, some are structured, some are analytical, but they are all smart and they pull out each other’s strength. It’s been so fun to see them embracing every challenge and every single moment.

Shruti, Bryant University Senior

“The earlier you teach this, the greater the impact. Design thinking rewires the brain to look at things differently. Middle School students are at this pivotal moment. Before we got here, I admit I was a bit nervous—how do you transfer these concepts to a younger crowd? After all, this is a college-level process and project! But these girls have been fantastic, and they picked it up better than almost any group I’ve seen, of any age level. By the time they are in college, if they take this with them, they will have been doing this for much longer than almost anyone else. They will have such a leg up in the world.” 

Nina, Bryant University Senior

“Our brains are wired to not see every detail, and when we’re doing observations we want to jump to conclusions instead of looking at everything with fresh eyes. That’s the beauty of design thinking—it trains your brain to think in a different way. This is my second year here at Lincoln and these girls just blow me away every time. I think for this age group, and especially and for girls, they believe there’s only one right answer to a problem. Design thinking allows them to explore lots of different options. It’s so valuable for them to get a headstart on this, because it’s a really valuable skill to have. I’ve seen it firsthand—workplaces are already looking for it. The more we do this, the longer the partnership, and the more they practice, eventually becomes second nature. It’s really exciting to think what’s ahead for these Lincoln girls.”


Innovation Nation from Lincoln School on Vimeo.