Thinking, making, breaking away

Faculty, Staff, and Grad Student Innovation Mindset Session

Thinking, Making, Breaking (A)Way: 

The Relationships of Innovation in Pursuit of Great Problems

Presented by Iowa State Professor Robert Whitehead

January 22, 2021, 2 – 3:30 p.m.

Fueled by the belief in the power of innovative design, a generation of interdisciplinary socially-engaged makers seek to disrupt the seemingly intractable problems of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unfortunately, these “Great Problems” (including food, water, energy, education, etc.) are both omnipresent and inherently complex that they defy simple solutions.

Designing a more sustainable future relies on more than good intentions and enthusiasm for the work—it demands a level of expertise situated within long-term relationships of creative inter-disciplinary collaborators. These lessons must start somewhere. How can the obstacles of traditional academic settings, activities, and schedules be reconsidered to promote innovative interdisciplinary design practices?

In this speech, Prof. Whitehead will discuss the benefits of nurturing an inquiry-based educational format in which critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration are central components. The philosophical and tactical basis for this process: Thinking, Making, and Breaking allows us to reassess how we learn, what we produce, and ways to assess our collective efforts. The presentation will include inspiring examples, formative failures, and examples of important relationships that are necessary to forge transformative work.

About the Facilitator: Robert Whitehead

Rob Whitehead, AIA, LEED AP, is a licensed architect and Associate Professor of Architecture at Iowa State University where he teaches structural design, integrated design studios, and design-build courses. His work is centered on the conjunction of design pedagogy and sustainable practices in architecture, structures, and construction.

He is the author of Structures by Design: Thinking, Making, Breaking (Routledge, 2019), a co-author of Design-Tech: Building Technology for Architects (Routledge, 2014), and various other publications and proceedings related to architectural structures, construction history, and education.  He has received several teaching awards including: “ISU Outstanding Achievement in Teaching” award (2020), “30 Most Admired Educators” by Design Intelligence journal (2014), “Iowa Educator Award” by the Iowa Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (2014), and the Emerging Faculty Award by the Building Technology Educators’ Society (BTES) in 2011. His structural design course sequence, Structural Technology in Practice, was awarded the Creative Achievement Award (2014) by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA).

He currently serves as the Faculty Fellow for High Impact Practices at ISU’s Center for Excellence in Learning and Teaching (CELT) which includes a focus on project-based learning, design-thinking, and community-based coursework (i.e., Service-Learning) initiatives across campus.

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