People Designing for People

"People Designing for People" Youth Summer Camps

Over the last two years, SCD has hosted the People Designing for People summer camp with the Worldwide Youth in Science and Engineering (WYSE) program for pre-college-aged students.

With a research team led by Dr. Saad Shehab, SCD’s Associate Director of Assessment and Research, and SCD Engineering Education Fellow Taylor Parks, People Designing for People was designed to use experiential learning techniques to support human-centered design-related learning outcomes. The camp aims to provide collaborative design opportunities to high school students, with the following objectives for campers: use human-centered design as an approach to creative problem-solving, practice employing design thinking tools to identify and understand user needs, work collaboratively in interdisciplinary teams, and create physical prototypes and provide constructive feedback.

Over the course of the week-long camp, campers were first introduced to core human-centered design principles and taxonomy. Activities such as interviewing and brainstorming were weaved into lectures to further engage the campers. Then, teams of three or four campers were tasked with redesigning a children’s space projector toy to meet the needs of a specified user group. Teams first reverse engineered the projector to understand its design, then modified it according to their proposed solution. Teams followed the human-centered design process throughout the week and iterated their design to reach a final working prototype. At the end of the week, teams presented their final prototype to peers, parents, and facilitators.

During two week-long camp sessions, data was collected through pre- and post-test surveys for a total of 30 students. Our survey items were grouped into constructs that related to desired learning outcomes. Our findings indicated that constructs such as campers’ attitudes toward HCD and their awareness of the role of HCD in engineering improved significantly.


Campers who had a neutral opinion expressed a more positive attitude toward human-centered design. Campers were taught human-centered design processes significant to engineering contexts. The non-exhaustive topics covered were human-centered design taxonomy, identifying bias and identifying extreme users. The camp provided hands-on experience to use these stated topics on a design project. The paired sample tests indicated a null-hypothesis rejection of 97%, providing significance to this survey item. The overall construct scored Cronbach’s alphas of 0.760 (pre) and 0.683 (post).

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Campers also demonstrated an increase in awareness of human-centered design in engineering contexts. Campers used human-centered design approaches to solve challenging user defined needs. Campers interviewed using empathy and designed using iteration to a final engineering solution. The paired sample tests indicated a null-hypothesis rejection of 99%, providing significance to this survey item. The overall construct scored Cronbach’s alphas of 0.657 (pre) and 0.647 (post).

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What do you think is the relationship between human-centered design and engineers?

“Human-centered design is building for like the needs of humans, so engineers need to understand the needs of their customers. And they need to understand what it is that they need and how to build something.”

What do you think about the importance of teamwork?

“It's important because like, to gain feedback based on your job is, which is to create the product. And if you're stuck on something, you can ask other people and you can share ideas. I think the most important thing is like sharing ideas and giving each other feedback.”

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