Back in early July, the Tiger Challenge cohort was getting ready to leave campus and finish the summer working on their design projects remotely. The day before moving out, Jessica Leung, Keller's design programs manager, assigned a design sprint. She asked her cohort to dream up an ideal new team member, someone who would compliment their team and be made entirely out of cardboard! Leung also insisted they take their new teammate to lunch and on a photoshoot around campus. Really?

This seemingly fun summer activity has a deeper purpose for Leung's students. "I asked the designer to build a teammate who possesses qualities their team lacks, which leads them to self-reflection and awareness both as individuals and on a team level," said Leung. 

This mid-program assignment comes at a point where students have an advanced knowledge of design, creativity, and the methodologies needed for sustainable problem-solving. In addition, Leung intends to "get them to think critically about their strengths and weaknesses to ensure growth and progress on the design projects they are building."

It is also a great time to take a break from the hard work the teams have been putting into ideating their design solutions for some deep-rooted problems and do something that has value laced with fun.

Downpour Detour is a team of six students tackling the crisis of extensive flood water damage in Princeton and surrounding New Jersey communities. As they began reflection for this assignment, they discovered their collective shyness when interviewing local residents on the street. So they built a teammate with an outgoing personality, an 8-foot-tall architecture major on the wrestling team with pink yarn hair and bright, colorful clothing named Jaalae (pronounced jay-LAY). Since the entire team had also been struggling with laptop issues, they added computer whiz to the list of traits for their imaginary new friend.
Alexcis Johnson, a member of Downpour Detour, was skeptical about taking the larger-than-life 'project' to lunch. "It was a sweltering day, and everyone was stressed about moving out the next morning. We were also a bit concerned about how people would react to seeing us struggle to haul our new teammate across campus to the dining hall, a 15-minute walk from the Princeton Entrepreneurial Hub on Chambers Street," Johnson said. However, taking Jaalae to lunch was easier than expected, and the team even brought him to the Milk and Cookies cafe for dessert.
The lesson learned were clear to the teams immediately. They now understand the importance of having a creative mindset and being open to fully engaging in a process you may not completely understand at first, and how essential it is to have teammates you trust. They also learned the value of reflecting and being self-aware, practices that will serve them well throughout their upcoming semester at Princeton and beyond. Although it is often difficult to focus on one's shortcomings, it helps to develop the list as a team and acknowledge strengths simultaneously.
After finishing this last in-person activity for the summer, all three Tiger Challenge teams went home, but the summer program continued through early August. The cohort will further develop their design solution projects throughout the coming academic year, and we look forward to seeing them again on campus soon. So keep a lookout for Jaalae back at Milk and Cookies sometime this fall.

Tiger Challenge is a Keller Center program that uses design thinking methodologies to help students address complex societal issues and build sustainable solutions.