By Dustin Wunderlich
Director of Marketing and Communications
University of Washington College of Education
Over 24 intense hours, teams of University of Washington (UW) education students drew upon design thinking processes to craft new ideas for better addressing the educational needs of immigrant and refugee youth and families.
The UW College of Education’s first-ever Ideathon put undergraduate students into the role of lean start-up innovators, with six teams each addressing the challenge from a different stakeholder perspective—from teachers to community-based organizations. Teams heard from Seattle-area community representatives during the event’s kick-off on Jan. 19, then spent the next day designing their solution before publicly presenting their ideas to a panel of judges.
Winning top prize and $1,500 to further develop their idea for creating the app BRITE (Bridging Refugees, Immigrants and Teachers through Education) were Jordon Wong, Monica Vera, Sara Cunningham, Chaltu Hussein, Abigail Sevilla and Timothy Ro, coached by doctoral student Weija Wang.
Through the BRITE app, teachers would be able to get real-time student feedback on their understanding of lessons, and students could share their personal biographies and interests. Meanwhile, caregivers could access the app to communicate directly with teachers and provide information about students’ home lives.
Kent School District Superintendent Calvin Watts called Ideathon an “absolutely amazing experience.” “I particularly enjoyed each team’s ability to process information and articulate a clear, concise and compelling vision in such a short time. The skill sets that they learned, communicated, and/or refined during this Ideathon process are transferable and will serve them well into their futures,” said Watts.
UW President Ana-Mari Cauce spoke about the significance of bringing an innovative mindset to the most pressing challenges in education during the opening of Ideathon.
“Often when people think about innovation, they think about gadgets,” Cauce said, “but we need innovation in things like school, outreach, how do we design communities, absolutely as much as we do in science or technology.”
Cauce also encouraged the design teams—which included students majoring in Early Childhood and Family Studies and Education, Communities and Organizations, as well as those minoring in Education, Learning and Society—to explore the connection between inclusion and innovation during their work.
“Whether it’s in the school or in the community, inclusive innovative is all about understanding that, if we’re going to come up solutions that actually work, you can’t come in as the expert from above, you have to work with the community and draw from their expertise, because they’re experts too,” Cauce said.
Members of the College’s Ambassador Board provided funding for Ideathon. Joining Ng as judges for Ideathon were Janet Levinger, community volunteer and leader; Donald Nielsen, former Seattle Public Schools board member; Calvin Watts, superintendent of Kent School District; and Velma Veloria, former member of the Washington legislature.