Design Thinking with the “Proud Team”

It’s Monday morning on the 19th of November, 2018 and here I am, waiting in line to check into a program I did not register for and hence got no invite. Fast forward to about an hour later and I was in. I was drafted into the third of three groups under the energy category. Energy C: 5 students, 2 awesome junior coaches and 1 senior coach.

(L — R) Dr. Supo, Emeka aka Smart, Grace aka prof. G, Busayo aka Baby Lawyer, Rachel, Professor Adams (standing) and yours truly.

It was a design thinking training tagged Impact Week (a global movement) organised by Lufthansa in partnership with the University of Lagos. Over the next 4 days, we would go through a hands on training broken into 6 magical steps.

Step 0: Understand

Our chief trainer(Alex) gave us a short lecture on Understanding the category we’ve been drafted into, we had a warm up exercise and broke into our teams to practice what we had just learnt.

Team Energy A, B and C

We introduced ourselves, proposed some team rules, traded ideas under the supervision of our junior coaches on the concept energy and narrowed our focus to electricity

Energy C team rules

Step 1: Synthesis

Immediately after lunch (yes there was a lot to eat) we converged again to listen to Alex speak on Synthesis. We learnt we were going out to interact with people and the data we get from the outing would drive whatever we hope to build. The goal was to come up with an innovation that was technologically feasible, Marketable and appealed to actual people.

We broke into our teams again, got some input from our senior coach (Hello Kaisa), drafted some questions we were going to ask those we would later interact with and headed out to a market.

We spent over an hour in traffic, enduring the heat all through that period and when we where about few minutes away from the market, our driver finally decided to put the a. c. on. Luckily for him, we were a mixture of citizens from different nations (Nigeria, Germany, Poland etc) so every was on their best behaviour.

We got to the market interacted with a few people and the evening and morning was the first day.

Step 2: Ideate

Breakfast, brief lecture, warm up and we were up and running or in this case thinking. We analysed the responses we got from the market. Took the major complaints we received into consideration and voted on a project to build. Thus Ecolite was born. We decided were going to build power plants that run on waste! Yes, our proposal was to convert waste to electricity.

Step 3: Prototype

Our design was simple, burn the waste, use the heat generated to power a steam generator. The steam generated would set a turbine in motion and a motor would convert that motion to electricity. It was time to get dirty!

0. Cut 1. Paste 2. Go to step 0

materials for prototyping
L — R: Rachel, Dr. Supo and Egahi, Photo credit: Busayo
Prof. Adams and Smart. Photo credit: Busayo
Prof. G. Photo credit: Busayo
Paper Model of Ecolite
Turbine (built from scratch) mounted on a d. c . motor

And the evening and the morning was the second day.

Step 4: Test

In this step, we were asked to go display our prototype to potential users and take note of their feedback, so 2 of of us took the paper model out and showed it to a few people while the rest stayed to work on an actual model. Most of the comments were encouraging from the “streets” but back in the “lab” there was a serious problem.

We had built an actual model and attempted burning waste to see what would happen. The first thing we unanimously agreed upon was that we have to deal with the fumes pouring out of the “incinerator”. This was the point were one of our coaches, a professor of chemistry came through for us. He said we should add a “gas scrubber” and channel the fumes into it where it would react with an alkaline solution and bla bla bla… (inserts some deep chemistry science here).

We also discovered from our test that our turbine required much pressure to produce the motion sufficient to generate electricity (in this case light up a led) and so we thought of designing a lighter turbine. Fast forward to about 4 turbines later, (one made of cartoon, another of plastic, another of aluminium) we had made little progress so we reverted to the first and stuck with it. And the evening and the morning was the third day.

Team Energy!

Step 5: Pitch

The final day was here, 3 solid days of intensive brain storming, hands on designing, many bars of chocolate devoured, so much sugar ingested in form of sweets and finally the D-Day was here. It was pitch day or as one of our coaches put it, a day to

“talk for 3 minutes and get a funding of 5 million naira!”

— Dr. Supo

We had breakfast, listened to a talk on how to pitch, had the usual warm up and broke into teams to finalise our prototype and practice our pitch. We were done with the prototype in about a few hours and moved on to practice our pitch.

Working prototype (left) X paper model (right)
Working prototype final look
paper model final look

We assigned ourselves roles, rehearsed our pitch and sat down to cool off. Smart would introduce the project, I would speak about the technicalities, Grace would follow up with the stake holders involed, Busayo would speak on social impact and Rachael would end with our buisiness model.

While we were relaxed at our table, super confident that we were prepared to steal the whole show, Busayo looked around and remarked accurately that we were the only team in that state! All other teams were obeying Alex last advice to us,

“practice, practice, practice!”

— Alex

There were people reciting lines to themselves, some where rehearsing a stage play, others where going over their prototype and team Ecolite was seated comfortably at their table making jokes. Dr. Supo then remarked that we had become proud and wished us the best. So I captured the moment.

New level unlocked! -pride-
Hello to the proud team!

We were the penultimate team to pitch out of 24, results were announced and we were shocked to not have made the top 5. Here’s our pitch

All other formalities were observed and we returned to our tables to set our projects for the Vice Chancellor to come have a look.

Smart, The Vice Chancellor and my humble self, Photo credit: Busayo

He was pleased with what he saw and instructed Prof. Adams to speak with some one overseeing a project in that line which was a great win for us.

And the morning and the evening came and that was the final day.

Team Ecolite: (L — R) Smart, Busayo, Rachel, Prof. Adams, Kaisa, Grace, Egahi and Dr. Supo
Senior Coaches
Senior Coaches in African attire
Urban Agriculture
Here’s Alex (pointing to to the camera)
Yours truly, the proud team.

Many thanks to all the stake holders that made this possible, the training was really impactful. A toast to many businesses that will be born from this!



I’m constantly contemplating purpose, morality, and ultimate justice | I work on Windows at Microsoft | Occasionally, music gets me high.

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I’m constantly contemplating purpose, morality, and ultimate justice | I work on Windows at Microsoft | Occasionally, music gets me high.