Design Thinking workshop held at CHTM

June 22, 2016 - Sharon Steely

Interim Associate Vice President for Research

Andrea Polli

Multi-media artist Andrea Polli, Professor of Art and Ecology at UNM, held a "Design Thinking" workshop at CHTM on June 20, 2016, based on the Stanford d.School's crash course, a 90 minute design challenge. Cecilia McKinnon, Americorps / VISTA STEAM Specialist, cohosted the workshop.

National Science Foundation logo

Stefi Weisburd, Outreach and Education Manager with CHTM and the UNM School of Engineering, originally set up the workshop as a resource for the RET group. The Research Experience for Teachers (RET) is funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. It brings elementary and high school teachers to UNM for a six-week summer program where they partner with faculty on ERC research projects. CHTM faculty members were included among faculty mentors for the teachers in 2015, including Steve Brueck, Tito Busani, Ganesh Balakrishnan, Sang M. Han and Payman Zarkesh-Ha. The teachers bring their summer experience back to their classrooms to energize engineering education for their students.

Weisburd opened up the event to the public when there proved to be capacity a few days before the workshop, which gave the opportunity for CHTM students and staff to attend. High school interns at CHTM for the summer also enjoyed the chance to participate. The interactive, experiential workshop was a structured and timed exercise to lead participants through an actual design process. Polli started off with a short video from Daylight Design that illustrated the scope of "design thinking," and then moved quickly to put the group to work. First the group partnered up in twos for a mutual interview process, then brought a design challenge arising out of the interviews to small groups of 4 or 5 for brainstorming solutions. Then, on to hands-on building and testing of prototypes, which included sketching and physical models, to provide objects of interaction for the group's discussion. The workshop was an energizing walk-through of a design process that in itself proved valuable in creating a sense of freedom and confidence in problem-solving for the participants. Noel Dawson, a student at CHTM who works with Professor Kevin Malloy's research group, mentioned that he thought problem-solving is a valuable skill for researchers to learn.

View the video of the workshop (2 hrs).

About Andrea Polli
Polli is an artist working at the intersection of art, science and technology whose practice includes media installations, public interventions, curating and directing art, and community projects and writing. For example, “Particle Falls,” a travelling installation which debuted in San Jose in 2008, uses a device called a nephelometer which measures the pollutant concentration levels in the air, then uses a computer program to interpret the live data and display it visually at a large scale in a public space.

Polli’s work with art, science and technology has been presented worldwide in over one hundred presentations, exhibitions and performances, and recognized by numerous grants, residencies and awards including Fullbright and UNESCO.

Polli is the Director of the Social Media Workgroup (SMW) at UNM and the Mesa Del Sol Endowed Chair of Digital Media at SMW. SMW is an interdisciplinary art, science and engineering educational research laboratory based at the University of New Mexico’s Center for Advanced Research Computing (CARC) that has provided undergraduate and graduate students with hands-on experience in designing and creating STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math + the Arts) projects using mobile media, software and other technologies since 2009. The Social Media Workgroup investigates the social and ecological impacts of media technology.

She is a cofounder of, a collaboration to bring science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics together in New Mexico. UNM partners include the UNM Social Media Workgroup (SMW), the UNM STEM Collaborative Center, the UNM Center for Advanced Research Computing, and the UNM School of Architecture and Planning.

Learn more about her eye-opening works at Polli's online bio.