Growth Mindset Resources

Here’s some great resources for those who are implementing Growth Mindset with their students:

Stanford’s is one of my go-to resources for anything creative, so I was a bit surprised when I found this particular one completely by accident.  I was looking for unique team-building tools, and “Stoke Deck” popped up.  This free printable has 28 different activities that will help students to “Boost Energy, Create Focus, Get Personal, Nurture Camaraderie, and Communicate Mindsets.”  They are each short exercises that can be used before starting a lesson – or even as a quick break during instruction.  Some of them, like “Blind Disco,”  may require some an established history of trust before you try them.  Others, like “Long Lost Friends,” might be good for introductions.  Almost all of them were new to me, so I can’t wait to try them!


Stoke Deck printables:


The K-12 Kiki lab:



Engineering the Community Engagement Process

The community engagement process can be a daunting task to start.

Student preparation means that you have created a safe learning environment and helped students maintain a growth mindset.  This means primarily that you constantly celebrate speech patterns that support a growth mindset.  It also means that they have “played” with enough technology to feel that they have the ability to creatively apply it in a variety of situations.  Activities in the kits will help with this, but so do icebreakers that involve working together and connecting with others.  Make sure to include time to play and try stuff – don’t rush tech skills training.  Teach the design thinking process, and guide them along every step of the way. The process is pregnant with opportunities to practice communication and teamwork skills.



We will have guides to help with the communication skills. The most important one that students should practice is the skill of listening. Below is a graphic showing other skills that should be taught as needed.   We work with communication experts to get tips and tricks for the best ways to help guide students as they go through this.   It is important that you introduce topics when there is a context for learning about it.

Introduce the Design Thinking process developed at Stanford and presented well in this crash course PDF.  I have modified the design they use here to reflect a general T3 alliance project.  We introduce the mini-grant proposal as a step right before a prototype phase.  This is only necessary when the cost of building the prototype exceeds what you have on hand and consider consumable.

Program preparation:

The most important thing a program can do to support the community engagement process is cutting through the red tape that exists in any institution.  Things that a program needs to do to prep, finding an appropriate learning space, preparing for local field trips, managing the finances for small-scale projects, helping with background checks for community members, managing equipment, and hiring capable staff with some sort of computer science background.  Perhaps the most important aspect of a program is being ready to support student ideas for projects with immediate financial backing.  The mini grant / deliverables process is very important.


Community preparation:

The community has always been key for societies to raise their youth.  In many native cultures, there are stories of youth getting their first fish, or game animal, bringing it back to the village and being celebrated for the contribution they made to the survival of the community.

Learn your elevator pitch and be ready to tell anyone you meet about the what T3 alliance is about in under a minute.  An “elevator pitch” is a term used to describe what you would say if you were in an elevator with an important job prospect or grant manager.  They don’t know of you, so you have 60 seconds to sell your idea.   You are leaving them with an opening to ask more, and possibly get involved.   The image below shows an idea for redesigning our website – but it can be broken down into the pitch – the three big bubbles showing what we do and how it turns into studnet involvement in STEM career fields.

Once they are interested, outline what a specific commitment might look like and develop the relationship with attunement to safety, communication, and set up at least 3 opportunities for interaction.   The first interaction does not need to be done in person, but it’s better if it can be.  Here is an example of an interview we filmed for a possible client partnership with the Upward Bound Programs at UH Hilo and an astronomy project.

The second interaction should be somewhere around the testing phase.  Once a project is developed. they should work together to analyze results to see if it fits the client’s needs.  The last interaction should be a celebration of some sort.  Presenting a completed project to an appreciative community member is an incredible experience for a group of students.   If a potential client understands and can support this, then move forward, if not, gently separate yourself from the relationship.

GO Time:

Here are a few tips:

1: Remember why you are doing this – details can pop up that will frustrate you.

  1. Start small – Upward bound office, someone at the university, STEM friends, Non-Profits, Government organizations are all potential sites where you could find projects.  Small and safe is a good first step.  Over time, it will get more complicated.  Every small success for a group of students builds confidence.  We used selfie stations to get kids feeling the process.
  1. Teach when they need to know.  Don’t teach writing skills until they need to write a proposal.  As soon as you want them to use a video camera – teach what they need to know to produce the video you want them to have for a deliverable.  Context is everything!

4.  Trust the PROCESS.  The design thinking process is a step by step guide.  If you always come back to that you will be able to help every student redirect their actions.



Design Thinking Overview

When an individual first learns to use a particular piece of technology they generally look for a “recipe” type of approach.  In the T3alliance curriculum this looks like specific tasks or challenges that need to mastered.  Soldering a wire so that a button is able to function, or setting up a circuit so that an LED bulb works on a breadboard are examples of these types of tasks.  When your students are ready for something more, its time to introduce them to Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is a process that, when followed, leads to solutions that take into account the human experience.  Although the name design thinking and the movement that surrounds it has become popular during the rise of the Silicon Valley tech industry, at its core is the very old skill of empathetic listening and respectful problem solving.  In the T3 alliance program we use this process to facilitate student involvement in real world problems that have the potential for meaningful and impactful experiences.

The five stages of design thinking are described in this graphic.

The first stage of this process, empathize, is by far the most critical to the success of the process.  An instructor is always on the lookout for someone with a problem that is willing to ask for assistance in a way that gives a student interviewer a chance to understand the deeper human aspects.  The person with the problem can be considered a client if they meet some key criteria.  First, they know they are working with students and they agree to be kind and forgiving.  Second, they need to understand a little about the design thinking process and agree to be available to communicate with the student and maintain interest throughout the testing process.  Third they agree to appreciate the student for the effort they put into the process.

In a normal upbringing for a child this roll might be filled by a grandparent who knows just how to ask for help in such a way that a child embraces the challenge and is eager to talk about and receive praise after the task is completed.  The grandparent speaks to the child in a kind and loving way and knows that ignoring the child’s efforts will have negative consequences.  Most members of a community will be happy to fill this roll and will take it quite seriously.  Watch out for potential clients who are too busy, or ones that are such perfectionists that they want to do the work themselves.  Its assumed that if a student was ever working with a community member outside of a supervised environment, a background check would be completed.

Preparing a student for a positive empathetic interview experience involves preparing them with two levels of questions.  The first level is the basic 5 w’s of journalism.  Who are you, what is happening, when is it happening, where is it happening, and why is do they think it is happening.  This level of questioning has the potential to bring up a lot of useful information.  The second level is about digging a little deeper and uncovering how the client feels or would like users to feel in this situation.

The design thinking process guide that is produced by the Stanford design school is an excellent resource that goes through each stage in detail.  Here is a link to the design thinking process guide.

In the T3 alliance program we introduce the idea of a grant proposal as a stepping stone to building a prototype.  The mini grant proposal outlines the goals of the prototype, costs of the materials, the metrics for evaluation, and the deliverables (what they are responsible for reporting back) and is submitted to someone who ultimately signs off on the project’s costs.  This step can obviously be skipped when the prototypes involve only the use of inexpensive consumable materials.

Assembling the prototype with purchased materials is an heavy experience for many students.  There is a sense of responsibility and ownership that is healthy.  Its an opportunity to be communicative with team members and ask for help when its needed.   A poorly soldered electrical connection can cause lots of headaches further along in the process.

During the testing stage its a good idea to bring the client back in and experience the product or process design.  In some cases, refinement will need to occur, in others, it will be deemed successful.  A genuinely appreciative client will have a huge impact on a student’s sense of accomplishment.

This process is repeated as often as possible throughout the t3alliance program.  Each successful iteration of this process that a student engages in will engender a sense of efficacy and pride that will enable them to take on projects that require greater levels of collaboration with team members.

Selfie station example project

Here is an example of an applied design thinking project done with a class of 17 students at the University of Hawaii Hilo Upward Bound T³ Alliance during the summer of 2018.  Node Red and physical Raspberry Pi setup instructions can be found on this post.

Students had mastered the skills associated with basic physical computing and Node Red.  They were capable of setting up a button, an LED Ring, using a sonic sensor, a PIR sensor, and a small camera.  They had been able to combine all these components using Node Red and were capable of generating emails that sent a photo.

I asked around for a person or group at the university that might be interested in a device that could take photos and have them emailed instantly.    Eventually I found the perfect potential client in Shara Mahoe, the director of new student services.    She was planning a scavenger hunt for the new student orientation day later in the summer when 600 freshmen appear and nervously try to find their way around the large UH Hilo campus.  She listened to my description of what the students in our T3alliance program were able to do and how design thinking process worked.   Once she understood what was involved, she signed up to be a client.

Shara and a colleague showed up in my classroom the next day and I interviewed her in front of the class.  She described her day and what she hoped it would feel like to new students.  She listed out 5 locations around the University that could use a selfie station and asked my students if they could find a solution that would work.  I had previously broken the students up with an ice breaker activity and they now found themselves choosing one of the sites around campus to design a selfie station.  As a team, they discussed what they had heard Shara speak about and filled out the first section of the guide questions associated with the “empathy” stage of the design thinking process.

We took a quick walking field trip to each location and the students finished the “define” phase, where they articulated exactly what was needed and what the constraints were, and moved into a brainstorming “ideation” phase.  Students were tempted to think there was just one type of solution to the selfie station problem, but they sketched out three different ideas. When this was finished they chose a “prototype” design they wanted to build and they wrote out a mini grant proposal.  

When the proposal is complete, we submitted it to the Upward Bound director for approval.  We prepared ahead for this type of project with wires, and buttons and extra raspberry pi devices with cameras and power supplies.  After the proposal was approved we handed out and checked off the items that had been requested on each proposal. The students got right to work building the prototype selfie stations.

We instructors restrained ourselves from helping too much and let the teams figure out how to build their designs.  When students would ask for help, we would respond with a question.  Eventually, the students learned to frame their questions in such a way as to be able to google the answer.  We helped in the areas where a skill had not been introduced, such as soldering, or learning to “remote” into the pi.  The teams were responsible for building the prototype, writing the code that controlled it, and recording and editing a short video.

Several days later, Shara met with us to see the results. The students walked around the campus with her demonstrating the way their selfie stations worked and noting what things could be improved. One team had an opportunity to radically modify their design because it didn’t take into account the safety considerations necessary when a crowd of students would moving past a certain area.

The students were beaming when Shara thanked the group.  She appreciated their efforts and asked them to sign their work so that new students at the school knew who had built these stations.  Each group modified and perfected the design and the instructions.

As part of the initial mini grant application, The teams had been responsible for writing user instructions, making a video about the project and writing a short report about the progress of the project.