Grade 5 students apply the design cycle in real-life context with Mr. Hajee, STS parent
Computational thinking is a fundamental skill that is developed through the STS curriculum – a skill where students view the completed product and work backwards to fully understand the process leading to the finished product. As part of this skill, students must understand the five steps of the design cycle –ask questions, imagine, plan, create, and improve. These steps guide students as they design a solution to a problem. The Grade 5 transdisciplinary theme, “How the World Works” includes a unit of inquiry that centralizes around the idea that “through the design process, technology can be used to solve problems”. As part of their inquiry into this idea, Grade 5 students had the opportunity to attend a presentation by Mr. Sameer Hajee, STS parent of Lucas H. ’26 and Bryson H. ’24 and Co-founder of Nuru Energy, whose mission is to make clean energy accessible worldwide.
Mr. Hajee’s presentation provided a rich learning experience that allowed Grade 5 students to apply the design cycle in a real-life context. A real-life problem requires a real-life solution and Mr. Hajee shared how Nuru Energy’s mission came about by identifying a real-life problem – the inaccessibility of electricity in remote parts of the world – and using the design cycle to create a viable solution.
After spending two months in Rwanda, Mr. Hajee immersed himself in the living conditions of his customers who used kerosene for everyday tasks such as reading, cooking, seeing in the dark, fishing, and more. Despite the benefits of its use, Mr. Hajee shared that kerosene can be dangerous and expensive for families and as a result, created a solution that would be safe, affordable and would improve the economy of remote areas.
The first step of the design cycle is to ask questions. In this stage of the process it is important to ask, “What are the problems? What are the constraints?” 1.5 billion people across the world do not have access to electricity and Mr. Hajee wanted to solve this. To design a solution that would replace kerosene, Mr. Hajee had to understand what characteristics of kerosene did people like and why was it so important to them?
The second step of the design cycle is to imagine. During this process, Mr. Hajee brainstormed and created prototypes for an affordable light putting himself in the shoes of his prospective customers. He explored different features that the light could potentially have and discovered that sometimes your customers don’t care for flashy features so long as the product itself works effectively and reliably. In subsequentbrainstorming sessions, Mr. Hajee sought to create a sustainable and economical way to provide electricity to the light in order for it to work and as a result, developed a pedal generator using bikes to power the lights. The pedal generator produces 60 watts of power which is enough power to provide 28 hours of light.
The third step of the design cycle is to plan, during which Mr. Hajee used a program called AutoCAD (a program also taught at STS) to bring his brainstorming sketches to life.
The fourth step of the design cycle is to create. After creating several prototypes, Mr. Hajee sent the Nuru light to five schools in Kenya, 10 villages in Rwanda, and five villages in India to test.
After producing and testing the Nuru light, Mr. Hajee entered the final step of the design cycle – improve. By collecting feedback, Mr. Hajee was able to discover ways to improve the Nuru light, thus re-entering the beginning phases of the design cycle creating products such as Octopus charger and the Nuru solar panel.
Mr. Hajee ended his presentation with the important notion that product design is an evolution, constantly redesigning to meet the needs of consumers. The design cycle not only teaches STS students the technical skills needed to design and produce a product, but to also design and create with purpose through empathy and a global-mindset.