Project-Based Learning in Innovation Lab @Ross

For students considering Innovation Lab @Ross (iLab)—a special academy within Ross School for students with an interest in innovation, entrepreneurship, and design—part of the program’s allure to students is the opportunity to test emerging technologies and develop projects that allow them to creatively solve problems. 

Project-Based Learning helps Dr. Greg Wilson, director of iLab, to achieve his goal of cultivating “t-shaped” creators, those whose skills include both a deep understanding of at least one discipline (e.g. communications or design) and a broad knowledge of additional mindsets like empathy, critical thinking, and project management. The resulting innovators would be creative, adaptable, and able to work collaboratively—universally prized qualities in our interconnected and rapidly changing global workforce.

Recently iLab students completed a project that required them to question their understanding of a common household item and learn a new skill. Greg challenged them to design a custom table lamp, using a combination of wood, metal, and clay. The purpose of the project was to guide students through a design thinking process from an assignment’s inception through the completion of a final product.

Before considering potential designs for their lamps, the students conducted extensive research to help them understand the existing lighting market and find design inspiration. Once the research was complete, the students created iterative design sketches of their pieces. Although prior to the assignment, only three of the students had taken coursework in woodworking and metalworking, all of the students learned fundamental techniques to help them build working prototypes of their lamps.

Their one-of-a-kind finished products are currently on display in the Innovation Lab.