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Preflight: Real-world challenges in the classroom

Preflight challenges bring professionals into the classroom to engage with students through real world business challenges. The challenges give students a glimpse of career opportunities through role models, experience using relevant design-thinking skills and opportunities to further pursue their interests. I'm thankful for everyone that has contributed, and I'm eager to begin implementation! Let me know if you're interested!

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

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Check out the new website!

Thanks to Dave Zinsman for the logo and name!


​What problems does this solve?

  1. Students are unaware of the wide range of career opportunities available to them.
  2. Even if students are aware of career options, they might not actually know what skills and activities those jobs entail.
  3. Internships are a great way to get career experience, but they are difficult to get. How can we expose high-school students to career opportunities on a smaller scale?

Preflight workshops give students design-thinking skills that will be relevant regardless of the path they choose.


Here's how the challenges go:

  1. Organization representative comes into the classroom and gives background on the type of work they do and the type of skills they use. See the graphic above for some examples of organizations who could be involved. 
  2. The representative lays out a design-thinking challenge with the class, involving the type of work done in the organization. See the graphic above for some examples.
  3. In the following days, the teacher guides the class through the steps necessary to solve the challenge. 
  4. On the final day of the project, the professional returns. The students present their ideas and recieve feedback. 
  5. Finally, the professional gives some next steps for those interested in that type of work. This could involve research, community organizations to check out, classes to take, or even internship opportunities. 

User Experience Maps!

What’s the value for John, the marketing manager?

  1. John deals with young people, as customers and product users. The workshops offer a chance for him to connect with current and future customers and learn about their values.
  2. John gets a chance to excite and inspire the next generation of about his work and build a positive reputation among his company's possible future employees.
  3. John gets fresh opinions and insights about overarching challenges he faces.

What’s the value for Sally, the English teacher?

  1. She gets to connect her curriculum to the real world, making school relevant and boosting student engagement and learning. 
  2. Her students practice relevant problem-solving and creative skills that will help them succeed in their future
  3. She helps to inspire students to pursue work that excites them
  4. She gets experience with the design-thinking framework, which can help her tackle a variety of other challenges she faces as a teacher

What’s in it for Greg, the student?

  1. Exposure an exciting career option and knowledge about the type of work
  2. Practice using universally relevant design-thinking skills
  3. Opportunities to build a connection with a professional and explore follow-up options for the industry

Professional Empathy Map: Big thanks to Bettina for all of this feedback! 
Here are the survey results, out of 20 people:
  • 50% "Yes"
  • 25% "Maybe"
  • 25% "No"

The respondents were overall interested in the idea. One interesting insight is that their participation may hinge on whether they were hosting a challenge as a favor to someone they knew. If schools reached out to their parent network, this could make professionals more likely to come on board. Some professionals wondered if youth would even be interested in their work.
The feedback was very positive, and I am confident that there is a large pool of professionals willing to share their passion with students!

Click the picture to view it larger!

Teacher Empathy Map: Based on feedback from school staff, teachers and OpenIDEO community members, I've compiled an empathy map from the perspective of the teacher. 

Teachers and school administrators were very excited about the idea. The biggest challenge would be fitting the challenges into a crowded school schedule. But, everyone agreed that bringing in a professional to host an educational challenge is a fantastic way to learn. The problem of class time could be solved by modifying the challenge approach. See this document for the approaches. 

Click the image to view it larger!

I've started a Google Doc as a place to brainstorm challenge questions. Check it out and add your ideas! Preflight Challenge Ideas Google Doc

Next Steps:
  • Test in a school!
  • Develop a website with teacher training videos, challenge resources, and a thorough explanation of the whole process
  • Pursue partners for implementation and scale

Scale: How can we spread this idea?

Stage 1: Planning and testing (almost completed) 
Develop the idea and spread the word. Have conversations with all three stakeholders and develop a plan for implementation at my school. Reach out to professionals who can test this in thier area. 
Stage 2: Running local challenges 
With a solid plan and a school to test, we can run a few challenges in different classes. The challenges can again be refined to make them more scalable. 
Stage 3: Scaling to new schools 
Using the results from the early Preflight challenges, we can pursue partners to spread the idea and develop a time framework for a successful challenge. Possible partners could include Teach For America, Classroom Inc, The Cooper Hewitt Museum, or another large corporation with many city offices. These partners could reach out to schools in their area to host challenges. I believe that having professionals and organizations directly contact schools is the best way to spread the idea and convince schools to get involved. 

Measuring Impact: 
What metrics can be used to measure the program's success?
  • # of student participants
  • # of challenges
  • # of professionals
  • # of projects completed
  • # of different schools

    Student stories can also be a powerful way to measure impact. 

Based of feedback from the community, I've compiled a list of different approaches to running the challenges. Different situations may require different variations of the challenges. Check out the document here: Preflight Approaches

What are the next steps for implementing this idea?

The next step is to take action and prototype Preflight in schools! Please let me know if you are a professional interested in hosting a challenge at a school, or an educator that wants to bring this idea to your school.

Briefly describe a user scenario which illustrates the specific need that your idea is trying to solve.

Greg is a high school junior who loves video games and soccer. He gets average grades in school, and isn't too concerned about his future. One day, in English class, a video game user experience designer named Trevor comes into class and poses a challenge: "How can we make the perfect video game experience? Write a story describing your experience in the perfect video game." Greg is thrilled to see Trevor; he never knew how his interests could translate into a career. He normally doesn't like writing, but the thought of imagining the perfect experience excites him. The next week is the most fun week of school he's ever had, and his teacher notices his improved attitude. At the end of the project, Greg talks to Trevor about his interests, and Trevor offers him a day to come shadow him at work. Trevor is excited by Greg's passion, and offers him a chance at a summer internship. The Preflight workshop showed Greg an exciting career possibility and launched him into the next phase of his future.

Complete a User Experience Map. This will help you visualize how a potential end user will interact with your idea. Once you have completed it, upload it using the Upload File button at the end of this form. PDF files preferred.

  • Completed

Who does this idea benefit, who are the main players and what's in it for them?

See the benefits for each user below their experience map.

How is your idea specifically increasing access to employment opportunities and pathways for young people?

Students are exposed to the thinking behind real-world business challenges. The learning that takes place in the workshops will give them confidence about their careers, open up new possibilities, and help them prepare for a job that interests them.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

So far, I have spoken with school staff to validate the idea. Everyone was very positive, and I am confident that we can implement a challenge in a class soon. The biggest challenge for schools may be deviating from their planned schedule for an unknown experience. Bettina graciously contacted some of her professional contacts, and the response was very positive as well. The biggest challenge from the professional side seems to be time, but the majority of the respondents were willing to get involved. Aaryman, Gabe and Matthew have participated in similar challenges in college, and reported that those classes were some of their favorite. Kedar at Gap Jumpers uses the challenge model for companies to hire. I feel like the general idea is validated; we just need to test in the classroom and modify the challenges accordingly.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to receive from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

Are you interested in helping to test these challenges in schools? I'd love your support, please let me know!

The idea emerged from:

  • An individual

How do you envision your idea being implemented?

  • Keen to prototype it, find partners and pursue implementation
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Team (17)

Leigh's profile
Dave's profile
Jeanne's profile
Jeanne Callahan

Role added on team:

"Welcome, Jeanne!"

Gabe's profile
Matthew's profile
Aaryaman's profile
Aaryaman Singhal

Role added on team:


Gavin's profile
Eliza's profile
Sergio's profile
Kedar's profile
Bettina's profile
Liz's profile
Liz Duffy

Role added on team:

"Welcome Liz! Your valuable insights as a high-school principal are much appreciated!"

Vanessa's profile
Vanessa Counaert

Role added on team:

"Thanks so much for your valuable opinion about how you'd run a challenge. I'd love to have you on the team!"

diane's profile
diane walton

Role added on team:


priyanka's profile
Aparna's profile
Aparna Bhasin

Role added on team:


Åselinn's profile
Åselinn Heimdal

Role added on team:

"Welcome to the team, Aselinn! Thanks for sharing your story, I'm excited to have you on board!"

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Attachments (4)

User Experience Maps.pdf

The most recent version

Different Approaches document 2.pdf

Preflight Approaches updated

Professional empathy map.jpg

Feedback from professionals

Teacher empathy map.jpg

Feedback from teachers


Join the conversation:

Photo of Youngkoun Choi

That is awesome! Congratulations!

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