Project Ideation

Here are some quick notes on coming up with ideas for projects.

Some Typical Student Projects

If you’re in a class or bootcamp with limited time, you’re probably looking to build an MVP for something useful. Always make useful things. Programmers have skills that enable them to make products and services for the benefit of the others. Build something amazing for people. Things students have done in the past include:

Preliminary Ideation

How do you arrive at your great idea?

Step 1: Choose an Audience

Think up some audiences you would like to serve.

Example: New moms, non-profits, student travelers, five-year olds.

Choose one.

Example: Five-year olds.

Step 2: Identify Needs for Your Audience

Once your audience is selected, identify ten needs for your audience.

Example: reading, drawing, spelling, singing, puzzle solving, interaction with friends, being quiet, sitting still, paying attention, eating.

Step 3: Map Needs to Projects

Just pick three needs out of the 10 you want to focus on. For each, think of a project that would address those needs.

Example: Spelling Game, Sitting Still Game, Attention Game.

Step 4: Produce Goals/Ideas for Each Project

Here is where you brainstorm with a few creative people, ideally in a room or nice patio or other outdoor setting, with ample surfaces to draw on, and perhaps with food and music.

Example: For the Spelling game:
  • Incentives and Rewards
  • Something they want to do
  • Cooperate in teams
  • Spell with friends
  • Game: show picture, prompt to spell CAT
  • Points for rewards
Example: For Attention Game:
  • Memory
  • Finding things
  • Remembering instructions

The Ideation Process

Once you have your project selected, you’ll make it do-able in four phases:

Phase 1: Gather Inspiration (5 min)
Inspire new thinking by discovering what people need.
Phase 2: Generate Ideas (5 min)
Push past obvious solutions to get to breakthrough ideas
Phase 3: Make Ideas Tangible (10 min)
Build rough prototypes to learn how to make ideas better
Phase 4: Share Your Story (10 min)
Craft a human story to inspire others toward action

Each of the following phases can be done by going through some short exercises. In a classroom setting, each team works at their own table for the first three phases, then for the fourth phase, works with another group.

Exercise: Gather Inspiration

Select a population (e.g., students, teachers, moms with young children) ________ is a _________ who needs (a way to) ________ because (they value) ____________________.

Exercise: Generate Ideas

Write down 2-3 possible solutions to solve the needs and challenges of your population. No ideas is too crazy; write down every solution that comes to mind.

Exercise: Make Ideas Tangible

Pick one of your feasible ideas and flesh out how you would build this solution. Think: technology needed, time required, money needed, resources available, etc.

Exercise: Share Your Story

Craft a human story to inspire others toward action.

Pair with another group and convince them that your solution is worth building.

Say: “_____ is a _____ app which helps people ______ so that _____.”

The group being convinced should give feedback and suggestions!

You can repeat this exercise with other groups to help vet that what sounds good to you actually makes sense to the larger world.