Rat Relay – problem solving through a 48-hour global relay

Members of the Aalto Design Factory network were presumably the first people ever to test teaching product development in a 48-hour global relay.
Aalto Design Factory team feeling happy. In Rat Relay a new way of learning is tested by circulating product and service design projects between the multidisciplinary teams in different countries in a 48-hour relay.

In addition to Aalto Design Factory (ADF), participants in the experiment were Porto Design Factory (Portugal), Design Factory Melbourne (Australia) and Nexus Design Factory (USA).

In this teaching experiment global problems were solved for eight hours by one country and then passed on to a new country, just like runners pass on the baton in a relay. In the end the problem returns back to the originating country for finalization of the outcomes.

During the 48-hour relay, ADF staff members and student volunteers worked in interdisciplinary teams of four to six people in eight-hour slots to solve the problems originating from the four different countries. ADF teams worked a collective 197 hours within the two days.

Rat Relay simulates a real-world situation in industrial product development. Often only one individual or team works on a project for a limited time and not from the project’s beginning to its end.

´In Rat Relay projects are rotated around the world, taking advantage of the collaborative power of several creative and interdisciplinary teams,’ says Päivi Oinonen, the Design Factory Global Network strategist and one of the organisers of the event from ADF.

‘As far as we know this was the first time that product and service design has been tried out in global networks in an educational context in such an intensive time span.’

In eight hours` turns you have time to build prototypes, too.

Leveraging the global network to solve global challenges

The aim of the experiment is to develop a new international experience and pilot a new way of learning.

The idea for the experiment came from Porto Design Factory, which is part of the Design Factory Global Network. The network enables solving global problems with truly global input as the network is currently spread over five continents.

‘The students get to practice internationally distributed project work, project management and, most significantly, project planning and documentation, as the experiment takes these to the extreme,’ says Päivi Oinonen.

The problem briefs were provided by the companies, bringing real-life experiences. The theme for challenges was “Global good”. Most of the problems dealt with digitalization.

ADF started off with a problem brief from Helsinki Metropolitan Area Reuse Centre, but also solved problems related to social erosion (Portugal), outpatient experiences (Australia) and utilizing the Internet of Things in a new way and from the point of view of the developing countries (USA).

While visiting ADF, the ADF team was working on how to concretize the world of digital applications in a more physical way.

What is it like to work like this from a student’s point of view?

‘Interesting but difficult at the same time,’ says Simo Lahdenne, a MSc student of mechanical engineering.

‘The challenge is how to communicate your ideas at this kind of fast working pace. We decided it’s important to pay attention to how to make your brief as clear as possible by providing visuals (from slides to videos) too.’

Aalto Design Factory`s problem brief traveled from Finland to Australia, then to Portugal and finally to the United States and back to Finland again.

Photos: Aalto Design Factory, 2016

 

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