CityLab! Aberdeen started today

We started Aberdeen CityLab! today with a small gathering of ten students and two staff members in Make Aberdeen inside of Seventeen. This will be the start of our little revolution in how the city and its two universities collaborate to make a better city using design-led approaches to creative problem solving. While a fellow colleague had to leave before too long, she was able to see how things were going, and help kick the session off.

This week and next we are only meeting with the students from the University of Aberdeen, who start their term two weeks earlier than their fellow students at Robert Gordon University. The ten students explored what they hope to gain from the course as well as some of the differences between plan-based processes and unstructured design-based processes, and a simple exercise to make them more aware of their senses. Mainly, however, they had fun working hard at gaining new experiences.

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They did some improv games to warm up so they learned about ‘yes, and …’ as well as the ‘one word story’, which went slower than I expected. Afterwards the used a Business Model You skills_abilities-bmu exercise, which looked at the activities they liked to do, which ones were favourites, and then listed activities they would like to learn, or improve upon. Then they compared these with another student, which was when the room got noisy again. The goal here was to make them aware of what skills they already have, and where they might want to improve during this course so that they graduate with a more rounded cv. Interestingly, they are all graduating students in their final year of studies.

The next exercise got them talking some more as they broke into two teams to build parachutes: one team followed details about how to make parachutes so they could safely land their jelly babies, while another team was allowed to ‘get on with it’ and build working parachutes following trial and error. Interestingly, both teams took just as long before they started testing their parachuting jelly babies. I had thought the trial and error team would be quickly trying their parachutes well ahead of the other team, but this didn’t prove the case. However, the two teams did end up with quite different designs, and the trial and error team did end up with a parachute that would carry more weight slowly to the ground, but this is because they provided a gondola for their jelly babies whereas the other team tied them all together below the parachute.

Lastly, the students paired off to go explore the city. One blindfolded student was guided by their partner to a local plaza, and then they swapped over for the return journey. While some found this kinda scary, others felt safe and secure knowing that their safety was being handled by the guide. This worked well as a way to bring the theme of listening to hear full circle and sensitive the students to thinking about the conditions in the city for people and how our spaces are organised.

This session went well. The students felt the only problems were that I wasn’t always clear enough with my instructions of what I wanted them to do, and that i next time I should provide more jelly babies, while also mixing up the teams some more so that they had more opportunities to work with different people. On the good side they had fun, and liked the different exercises for the morning. I think as well that I’ll have to add in a break of some sort for a bit of time to get coffee or tea during the three-hour session.

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