In October Concordia University in Portland, OR reached out and invited Juliette La Montagne, director of the non profit organization Project Breaker to come and speak to students at the school. Project Breaker is an experiential learning program that uses real world challenges like The Future of Stuff to build community­ wide collaborations. Since Portland is a hub for the rise of small piece manufacturers along with supporting  the growth of maker communities, it seemed natural for the Concordia to be the host for the next Breaker Project. Similar challenges took place last year in Detroit and New York City in collaboration with Stanford d.school’s K12 Lab. This will be the 3rd Future of Stuff event nation wide.

The Construct Foundation in partnership with Concordia University is sponsoring a design challenge complete with a temporary base camp installed in the library atrium where the students will work together for the three weeks. The challenge will be run from May 4th to 19th, teams of 17-­24 year old students from across Portland will research local manufacturing then design and test the viability and social impact of business opportunities they identify. All participants will be invited back for the final pitch night and a debrief meeting.

In addition, to the student competition, the challenge will provide two 3-day professional development workshops for an interdisciplinary cross-section of teachers, executives, school administrators, designers, and community based organizations. The cohorts will follow the same type of process the students are working through, just in a condensed version along with some shadowing of the student cohorts, so that they can return to their own institutions and recreate this type of design thinking experience for their own students or constituents.

As we enter an age of mass customization, the Future of Stuff challenge engages students  in thinking about how they might build an entrepreneurial and producer mindset as opposed to a just consumer lifestyle. The challenge poses the question of what products, services, communities, platforms, and learning engagements will facilitate entry, advancement, innovation, and continued growth of the manufacturing base in the US? The team of Breakers, like the ones before them in Detroit and New York, will be challenged with identifying opportunities to create immediate value in this growing sector of Portland.

This unique and authentic project based learning opportunity  for students to not only work together but to connect and work closely with mentor companies from across the city is now open for all students to apply. Interested education and community leaders can also apply for the professional development cohorts. All application information is available now, as well as the digital archives of the past challenges. Project Breaker brings the mission to drive social innovation and experiential learning by mobilizing teams of young creative students to help solve the world’s most pressing problems to Portland through an experience never before offered.

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