Stage 3: Generative Research


After wrapping up our Exploratory Research, we began work planning co-design workshops with Rosedale students and instructors we’d forged relationships with during Exploratory Research. We were excited about this more generative research, and took this phase of the project as an opportunity to better get to know our participants and open up conversation about their challenges with learning (and teaching) auto repair, as well as some of the things they were most excited about.

Getting Inspired by Liz Sanders

We were fortunate enough to have Liz Sanders, Associate Professor at the Ohio State University School of Design and expert in generative and co-design processes, as a guest lecturer in studio. Liz came with suitcases full of generative design tools, and after a brief presentation about some of her most successful co-design work, she let us loose on her materials and toolkits to begin considering the types of generative research we wanted to do with our participants.

We quickly decided that considering the hands-on nature of mechanical work, and our participants penchant for building, that we wanted to use blocks and velcro modeling to get our auto repair students working with their hands. Liz cautioned us to pick our materials carefully, making sure we didn’t stray too far into arts-and-crafty stuff, which might be unappealing to our participants. Instead, she encouraged us to look for more heavy-duty building materials, like wire and gauge ties, that would feel more legitimate to our participants.

Generative Workshop with Future Learners

So, we returned to Rosedale Technical College to conduct our generative workshops. Luckily, one of Rosedale’s high school extension programs was meeting that day, so we were able to run the first of our two workshops with students from a local vocational tech high school who take advanced courses at Rosedale a few days a week.

We were particularly interested in the perspective of this group because, as a younger audience, we assumed (correctly) that they might be more technologically savvy than some of the older vocational training students. In addition, because they wouldn’t be entering the auto repair industry for several years, they might actually be the generation of students and mechanics that would benefit from a mixed reality training tool like the one we are considering.

Generative Workshop with Current Learners

Following our workshop with the high school students, we returned to one of Rosedale’s degree program classes to run our main generative workshop of the day. After a brief reminder of our project, our reason for being there, and our goals for the day, we set the students loose on a pile of building materials and velcro modeling supplies and asked them to design their dream auto repair tool. Before doing that, we’d asked them to think about their dream car repair project — something they would love to do with the right skills or tools — and then to consider the challenges they currently face in completing such a project. We did this to ensure that the dream tool they imagined was grounded in real challenges they faced as well as supported a project they would be excited about.

While it took them a few minutes to get into the activity, the students quickly began building some really interesting tools. From scan tools to diagnostic drones to holographic gloves and virtual reality glasses, the tools they designed were as diverse as the projects they were excited to work on.

A few of the solutions they created can be seen in detail below. Here you see a mixed reality eye glass, a body scan tool and diagnostic computer, a diagnostic drone and a head lamp for remote mechanic consultations.

A Leave-Behind Poster for Further Thoughts

In addition, we left behind a poster we’d designed in order to collect additional thoughts or new ideas that were unearthed after we left. The poster is now at Rosedale Tech, being passed around from classroom to classroom, and we’ll be back at the end of the week to pick it up and analyze the results.

Synthesizing Findings + Considering Concepts

With all of these ideas in hand, we then set out to synthesize learnings, identify patterns and begin to develop viable concepts based on the feedback we got from our research participants. We began by writing out, and grouping our key takeaways from generative research.

We then used those as the basis for an opportunity finding exercise, where we identified a few big buckets worth consideration.

The opportunity areas that we extrapolated from our generative workshop revolved around mixed reality for support in five key areas of auto repair training.

  • Dynamic learning environments
  • Remote mechanical support and mentorship
  • Immediate feedback through tools
  • Consolidating information sources
  • Administrative Support

We then developed a series of How Might We….questions that linked these opportunity areas to the insights and principles we’d unearthed in our initial exploratory research. The key questions we arrived at, which will direct our concept development in the next phase of the project, are:


  • support hands-on, remote technical learning?
  • build tools that bridge the gap between theoretical and practical learning?
  • incorporate intuitive feedback into mechanical tools?
  • enable remote collaboration to support real-world practice and complement classroom learning?
  • support schools and instructors to learn and keep up-to-date with new technology?

We then used these HMWs to brainstorm a series of concepts under each of our five opportunity areas and will use those ideas as the seeds for the development of initial concepts to pitch during our next presentation on Wednesday 3/8.

Generative Research Presentation

We made a presentation on our Generative Research Process to the Microsoft Design team on 3/9. A copy of the presentation can be found here.

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