At the end of the 2013-2014 school year, a team of professionals from Slalom Consulting held a kickoff event at Amundsen High school for the Slalom Innovation Challenge. When the students returned in the fall, the team was ready to begin the first of four modules that would bring the students from the initial planning stage of a project to prototype and pitching stage by the end of the spring.

Module 1 began in the fall when the students returned to school. This module served as a workshop and research stage to explore different customer needs in relation to the problem established. Participating teams conducted customer interviews, studied innovation topics and brainstormed product concepts often in the form of mobile apps.

Slalom hosted the students in October where they pitched their product concepts based on the market research and interviews conducted in Module 1. Kristi Eilers, Assistant Principal at Amundsen, noted that for some students, this was their first experience visiting an office in downtown Chicago. While many were nervous at first, they left excited, motivated and ready to work hard to one day obtain a career like the ones they just observed.  This marked the beginning of Module 2: project management requirement. The volunteers worked with the students to help each understand what project planning looks like including standard roles team members take as well as how to create a projected timeline and accurate budget.

To the keep the momentum going, Module 3 began in January. All teams are currently in the design and development module. Katie Maser, a consultant at Slalom, explained this module will be the longest one to allow time for teams to build the prototype and fully understand the details of project planning. While the transition from the idea stage into the design and development stage was a tricky one, students are gaining momentum as their ideas take shape.Module 4, to begin later in the spring, will end with a Shark Tank-like pitch session where teams will demonstrate the prototype and defend their product concepts for the panel.

Throughout the school year, the students have spent most Fridays working in their teams on this project. Many weeks, the eight volunteers from Slalom are able to join them in shifts to provide guidance and coaching, but when they are unable to attend, they provide information and support to the teachers in terms of lesson planning. Luckily, Maser explained, the leadership at Slalom is very supportive of their volunteerism and taking time for projects like this partnership with Lumity and Amundsen.

Photos courtesy of Alex Konarski, Slalom Consulting