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Human-Centered Design

HCD is a substantial part of the program for Innovators in grades 6 through 12. Innovators inherently have curiosity, intellect, and desire to learn. NEIA meets Innovators with an environment that provides them with the space, the tools, the coaching, and the skills to allow them to go as far as their passion, imagination, resourcefulness, and motivation will take them. In the Innovation Studio, we use the human-centered design process to explore and develop habits of work, mind, and heart. Innovators will work with their hands to build projects. They will use their minds to identify the problem they are trying to solve and understand who those problems directly affect and why. Innovators will use their hearts as they step into others’ shoes with empathy to explore viewpoints that are different from their own. The sciences, the arts, business, ethnography, and design come together as Innovators learn and apply newly gained knowledge to relevant and meaningful projects that positively impact their community.

Real World

Authentic, relevant learning experiences that encourage Innovators to apply their knowledge is a proven method to ensure new information that Innovators see the value in their course of study.


Innovators have an opportunity to express their individual creativity and apply their learning through hands-on projects. Creating quick prototypes individually or as a team enables Innovators to make something tangible that they can test out. It’s not about the perfect solution; it’s an opportunity to test and iterate on a design.


Innovators learn early on to build trust, communicate, and come to appreciate a diverse set of ideas. It’s an important skill to develop early on as design is a process of trial and error, and working together will improve the outcome.


Anticipating needs and bringing new ideas to market involves a high degree of bold thinking, risk-taking, and commitment. Innovators develop the skills of an entrepreneurial mindset, including passion and perseverance, by exploring new ideas and testing them out.


Innovators learn to take risks and appreciate failure as part of the process when they test out a new prototype, concept, or solution with their peers. Testing multiple ideas at once will often lead to a more successful solution in the long run.

Middle School

  • The Middle School program is delivered through a series of design briefs that emphasize human centred design and combine skill acquisition, real world problem solving, and design practice.
  • “Design” and “Make” projects are central to the Innovation Studio.
  • Project assignments encourage entrepreneurship, experimentation, and collaboration.
  • Knowledge and understanding gained at each grade level build on the previous years.

Course Offerings

Innovation Studio 6:

Innovation Studio 6 is an introductory course that provides Innovators the foundation for understanding and implementing human-centered design. Each student’s unique perspective, interests, and motivation are used as the vehicle to direct learning. In this course, students are encouraged to explore design principles and fabrication techniques. Students will learn to foster understanding and approach each issue with empathy. Through varied and creative hands-on projects, students will build the capacity to integrate design and maker skills into their daily lives.

Innovation Studio 7 & 8:

Innovation Studio 7 & 8 addresses the elements of human-centered design covered in Innovation Studio 6, but more in-depth as to provide students a deeper understanding into the fundamental elements of this approach. Through design thinking, Innovators are taught the essential human-centered design methods, which will allow them to apply critical and creative thinking skills to real-world problems that they have identified. In this course, students will have opportunities to collaborate, work independently, learn interview techniques, and deliver pitches and proposals.

Upper School

  • Innovators develop their own design and technology capability by drawing on their powers of creativity, inventiveness, and initiatives through activities that incorporate planning, research, synthesis, communication, and manufacturing to a high level of operation.
  • Innovators gain critical awareness and values which are responsive to the changing demands and needs of a technological society.
  • The design process and the acquisition of skills and knowledge forms a major part of the course.
  • To ensure the quality of products are suitable for scaling, innovators test, modify, and evaluate to ensure quality their solutions..

Innovation Studio 9

Innovation Studio 9 is the continuation of incorporating human-centered design into a myriad of projects and assignments. In addition to strengthening concepts learned in other classes, innovators will use flexible and creative thinking to consider challenges that face the broader community. Innovators learn effective strategies and practical techniques to solve real-world issues. Through intentional, interactive, and innovator-driven activities, students will employ methods that prepare them to identify opportunities for design solutions.

Innovation Studio 10

Innovation Studio 10 is a course that challenges Innovators to consider the impact of their design solutions. Students learn to foster and employ a complex array of tools and resources that can support them in solving problems in both an imaginative and collaborative way. Innovators will develop the necessary skills to consider their solutions through the lens of entrepreneurship. Additionally, by embracing human-centered design, Innovators build the capability to locate their projects at the intersection of desirability (design), feasibility (engineering), and viability (business).