project based learning in the classroomThe 3DuxDesign Team was honored to be invited to judge the NYC DesignDay Challenge. At this full day event, 5 teams of middle school students from 8 NYC public schools participated in the ultimate Project-Based Learning experience.

school PBL project with 3DuxDesign at Grow with Google in NYC

They took a deep dive into the design thinking process with the challenge to reimagine the NYC Subway System. The event was hosted by an all-star educator team at the non-profit, Schools that Can. And it was held at the Mecca of innovative education, Grow with Google

 3DuxDesign at Grow with Google in NYC

Here’s how it all went down:

Middle schools students arrived in the morning and were divided into teams, one student from each school. The purpose was two-fold; to encourage team building and to help children develop the skillset required to quickly adapt to new people and new situations. 

The challenge was presented with a a powerful opening, “Your Voices will be the Change.” Their challenge focused on making the NYC subway stations more accessible, sustainable and easier to navigate for all residents & visitors in NYC. They were thrilled to find out that they would be presenting their ideas to Allison James, the Director of Education and Environmental Policy for Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. And with the incredible ideas theses students came up with, we wouldn't be surprised if Ms. James put some of these concepts into action.

subway redesign project in NYC  by students

After a few warmup and meet and greet activities, teams were off to the task…. 

As they began considering some of the challenges of the current NYC subways, they did some research on transportation systems from around the world. They thought critically about how they might incorporate some of the positive features from subways around the world into the antiquated NYC system.

garbage in nyc subway

Then the brainstorming session began. The judging parameters included a focus on overall design, accessibility, technology integration, community and sustainable design. Their formal presentations were judged as well. Teams worked on their projects all day

The tools: cardboard, pipe cleaners, craft paper, pencils, glue, tape, pompoms, wooden blocks, assorted craft materials and of coarse 3DuxDesign Connectors.

crafts and project tools with 3duxdesign

After hours of intense research, ideation, design, sketching, prototyping, building and revising, the teams had to focus on the presentation. As we say at 3Dux, the best idea in the world does no good if no one else can understand it. The students needed to learn how to engage the audience and present a clear and compelling argument for how their subway designs improve the community as a whole. 

nyc kids redesign the subway system at grow with google and schools that can

After hours of intense work, the presentations began. Each team had a chance to share their ideas to the audience and panel of expert judges, including industry leading architects, educators and designers. 

Here are some of our favorite design features from the groups.

“Rail BNB” was all about fun and making the commute for so many New Yorkers more enjoyable. They included a loft area with basketball court, dance studio and even a quiet area for people with sensory processing challenges (and for breast feeding). Overhead LCD screens alert travelers when their train is arriving. The train level had accommodations for accessibility and an even a phone app to help people navigate who speak different languages. 

project based learning with 3duxdesign at NYC public school

Another group focused on sustainable design for modern day and even thought of plans for future expansion. As New Yorkers, these students appreciated the fact that the JFK airport TWA terminal, designed by the famous Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen, while beautiful in design, did not plan adequately for the number of travelers and was already becoming too small before it even opened. They also took inspiration from Maglev technology of the trains in Beijing which actually hover over the track through magnetic levitation making them quieter, faster and more eco friendly. They also added retractable glass barriers between the train and the platform for safety and even more protection from sound pollution. Their access ramp had arrows to improve commuter flow and looked amazing with colorful and fuzzy pipe cleaner guard rails (a good idea given the slope of the ramp).

nyc  education reform with 3duxdesign and PBL

To improve air quality, the team also added subterranean plants and even some veggies like lettuce plants. 

middle school students subway design with plants, improved accessibility and community building



This group focused on more community building with a seating area that promotes socialization and even a place for street musicians to play. Multilingual maps and access ramps make this teams subway station perfect for all travelers and commuters 

Student-centered Project-based Learning programs like the NYC Subway Challenge teach children in a fun an engaging way. Students learn at a deeper level than they would by memorizing facts and filling out bubble tests.

Students learn how to research, ideate, design and come up with innovative solutions to problems that don't already have an answer. They use skills like creative thinking, collaboration, and problem solving as they work. As one student says about PBL, "why would I want to spend all day in school reinventing the wheel? Someone already did that, I want to make something that hasn't already been done".

With Project-based learning, students master the core subjects like math, science, technology and the language because they need to use those skills when working on their projects to obtain their end goal rather than those subjects being the end goal.

3DuxDesign is developing a broad range of Student-Centered PBL curricula for use in the classroom, maker space and after school enrichment. Our first unit, Creating Community is standard-aligned and geared toward 3-6th grade. It offers extensive facilitator support so even educators new to PBL can jump right in. You can learn more about our PBL curriculum on our educational platform, 3DuxUniversity or email us info@3duxdesign.com


middle school students in NYC subway redesign project



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stem with friends remote playdates

3DuxDesign wants to help keep kids connected. let us host a STEM With Friends Remote Playdate. Send each friend a kit and we will schedule a free design/build activity for you  and 5-10 of your besties  

Contact marci@3duxdesign.com for details

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