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The First Preflight Challenge!

I'm happy to report that the first Preflight challenge has been completed! OpenIDEO community member Jeanne Callahan visited the high-school journalism class I’m taking and hosted a challenge focused on marketing her husband’s small business. Overall, the project was a great success and I am hopeful that we can build momentum and expand into more schools. Check out some pictures in the gallery!

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave
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Preflight brings professionals into the classroom to host real world challenges based on their work. If you want to learn more, visit the idea page, or the brand new website home:
Here’s how the project was structured.
  1. Ms. Callahan spoke to the class about the basics of marketing and her career path. She has worked in a wide variety of business ownership, analytics, marketing and management jobs in her career. Students asked questions and learned about the various career opportunities within marketing a business.
  2. Students used their new marketing knowledge to analyze the marketing strategy of a current company, and then shared their case study with the class in informal presentations the next week.
  3. Ms. Callahan shared the details of her husband, Chris Kopp’s, small business through a video hangout with the class. Chris Kopp specializes in high quality metal fabrication and vintage car repairs.
  4. The class developed a marketing plan for Chris Kopp’s business, which included three strategies to help him gain customers.
  5. Ms. Callahan returned to class and the students presented their marketing ideas.  These strategies included website redesign, flyers, logo design, print advertising, partnerships with auto shops and ideas to increase word of mouth. 

What have we learned?
The Preflight challenge fit well with the project based learning style used at my school.
Another important piece of the challenge was giving students background information and practice using marketing skills before they applied their knowledge to the real scenario. Is background teaching key to successful Preflight challenges?
I think that most challenges can be done with minimal pre-challenge lessons, although design thinking practice and at least some reading materials could help students feel confident before tackling the challenge.
In the project debrief, students said they liked the “real-world feel” and room for creativity. “It gave us a better understanding of marketing in a real-world place,” one student commented.
Ms. Callahan and the teacher, Ms. Sangster, were both happy with the results, and Ms. Callahan hopes to give an update later in the year on how Chris Kopp’s business has implemented the strategies.

An Area of Focus:
Project Based Learning and Work Based Learning have become increasingly popular in recent years. Preflight challenges fit well in both of these environments, providing career inspiration and simulating real world work without requiring dozens of business partners or internship opportunities.
English language and elective classes might be the easiest subjects to incorporate the design thinking methodology and challenge structure.
I believe these areas would be a great starting place to implement challenges. What do you think about these opportunities?

What’s next?

I will continue working to develop email templates and teacher materials. I would love community support from professionals and teachers who are willing to pilot in their area. Additionally, support with business strategy, partnerships, developing materials, writing and general feedback is always very helpful. Feel free to comment on the idea or email me at
Working on Preflight has been an awesome journey for me, and I’m excited to continue moving forward and implementing. Thank you to everyone who has supported the idea!

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Photo of Vanessa Counaert

Great job Gavin!!!

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

Thanks Vanessa, great work on the Ebola challenge!

Photo of Shane Zhao

Fantastic work Gavin! It's great to see how you've brought in another OpenIDEO member as the first Pre-Flight speaker.

Photo of Luisa Fernanda

It has been amazing to see this idea develop and start to take shape in the real world. Great work! Are you thinking on continuing to run challenges in your classroom?

Photo of Gavin Cosgrave

Thanks, I've had lots of fun working on it!
I will try to facilitate another challenge on a different topic (perhaps graphic design) in the Journalism in the 2nd semester. I don't think it's feasible to implement in any of my other classes because the year is pretty strictly planned out with projects and material.
Another possible avenue to pursue would be developing materials for teachers that my dad, who works with teachers and schools to implement project and work-based learning curriculum, could use with teachers. I'll try to make some progress with that during winter break.
Any ideas to expand are always welcome! Thanks for your support!