Breaker Design Challenge: The Future of Livable Cities - Week 1 Recap

Monday, August 8th, launched our third consecutive student design challenge with Project Breaker: The Future of Livable Cities. Gathering students from David Douglas,  Franklin, James Madison and Gresham high schools, were welcomed to their home base at Portland State University’s Center for Professional and Executive Education. Breaker Facilitators, Amy Lauren Botula and Stephanie Nudelman, led ice-breakers to introduce students to each other and delivered the question central to the challenge:

How might we plan for and design eco-friendly neighborhoods to maximize the quality of life for Portland residents of varying cultures and income levels? 

Students researched what makes a city livable, learned interview strategies, and were introduced to the five-step problem solving methodology known as design thinking.

Every Breaker Design Challenge kicks off with a “call to action” in which three thought leaders present relevant issues and challenges faced by industry leaders thus framing the challenge for our students. This year's thought leaders spanned the public and private sectors — Lauren Mcbeth from Rose CDC on revitalizing the outer SE neighborhoods, Reverend Ellis “Ray” Leary, of the Soul District,and Jay Zidell from Zidell Yards. Gina Condon, founder of Construct Foundation, sounded the call by noting the value of participating in a Breaker design challenge:

“Breaker is an educational program that prepares the next generation of innovators by teaching young people a creative collaborative problem-solving methodology . In this design challenge you will learn how to use an  Innovator's Toolkit, which involves a human-centered design process and principles of entrepreneurship. As you know, Portland is experiencing a massive migration and the biggest commercial real estate development boom in thirty years. If we are going to be a great city, it should be build by and for everybody, and that includes livable neighborhoods for everybody.”

Each year Breakers are tasked with collaborating on the design of new innovations for a different rapidly changing industry — it is a sprint that resembles a real world work experience. They will design, prototype, test, model, and pitch a new product or service solution in just 11 days!

On Tuesday and Wednesday, student Breakers and teacher-volunteers spread out across Portland, learning about empathy and designing for an end user by investigating the needs of landowners, transit authorities, planners, brokers, and builders, as well as Portland residents and community organizers. Students practiced interview techniques and learned about housing, transportation, city parks, financing, city planning and development as they practiced their communication skills, conducting interviews and site visits across the city.

Interviewees included such experts as Kevin Le at Ecodistricts, Ian Carlton at EcoNorthwest, Maria Bail, Eric Cress, and Avid Ben-Zaken at UD +P, Noelle Dobson of the Metro Transit Commons, ARR Northwest’s Robert Black, Carolyn Holland at Ecotrust REDD, Alan Park at Zidell Yards, Eloise Holland at Oregon Humanities Council,  GBD Architects, Lisa Abuaf of Portland Development Commission, and Portland Metro parks planner Nicole Lewis, Jill Sherman of Gerding Edlen, Howard Weinman of First Republic Bank, and Derrick Mead at Ziba Design.  Additionally, neighborhood interviews and observations took place around Portland neighborhoods Ladd’s Addition, Alberta, residents at Milepost 5, Anna Gordon of Living Cully, Yesika Arevalo of Proud Ground, and Mireaya Medina of Southeast Uplift.

By: Construct Foundation