Greatest Possible Good Makes an Impact at McDonogh School

Jazmin Harling-Gray

A monkey staring at its reflection in a compact mirror it's holding
Kenneth Wayman

December 9, 2019

Entrepreneurship can be described in many ways, but one word that doesn’t fit the bill is easy. 

As a business owner and innovator, you’re bound to hit roadblocks that make you stumble, stutter, or sometimes even fall down. Facing challenges is not only a natural human experience, but it’s also an integral part of growth. When you fall down, you learn how to get back up. And when you find yourself in the eye of the storm, the only way out is through.

What matters the most in facing challenges is how we frame and use them as opportunities.

In November, we had the chance to partner with the McDonogh School, in Baltimore County, on a workshop that sought to teach just that: how to reframe challenges as opportunities to design your own startup. 

Over just a couple hours, students, faculty members, and parents engaged in an interactive design thinking activity aimed to tap into a vital part of human capability that is often overlooked or weeded out: creativity. With little more than sticky notes and sharpies in tow, attendees brainstormed and prototyped innovative solutions for some of the most pressing challenges in their communities. 

The results of this workshop were no less than inspiring.

Charlie Fleury, a senior in McDonogh’s Upper School talked about the experience and his team’s design. “Our idea came from the need for improved safety on the electric scooters that have gradually begun to spread throughout the cities in the U.S.”

After a rapid brainstorming session, his team developed a “helmet vending” machine. Aimed at decreasing the amount of scooter injuries sustained in Baltimore and the surrounding counties, the vending machine would serve as a way to ensure riders are properly protected when operating public scooters. He noted, the vending machines would ideally be “stationed around the cities,” and would “dispense helmets that must be clipped on the rider's head in order to activate and use the scooter.”

For participant Becky Nevin, the risks of riding without a helmet were far from hypothetical. "As a healthcare provider, I have spent time working in emergency rooms and interning at University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma, witnessing many accidental and preventable injuries.”

“Our team’s idea of a helmet dispensary unit would work to eliminate the public health crisis as it relates to scooter-related injuries not just for residents of Baltimore City but nationwide."

Another team honed in on the challenges that students face prepping for college entry. Their app design--a platform for academic profiles--would feature 60 second videos and other information that would allow students to express their interests, extracurricular activities, and personalities to prospective colleges. 

“We wanted to create an app to ‘measure students,’ meaning that colleges need to look at a student fully and need to stop placing scores to their name,” said sophomore Abby Nevin.

“Overall, the main goal of the app is to ultimately remove standardized tests which would help families save money, and promote colleges to do online interviews to help save traveling expenses.”

Though the prototypes ranged in style and function, they all offered thought-provoking, original perspectives.

In one short evening, students and community members navigated the ambiguity that comes with collaboration and addressing real-life problems. However, despite this ambiguity, they worked together to tackle these unique challenges with measurable impact. 

The “Designing Your Startup” workshop was a testament to the wealth of opportunities that can come from blending business with creativity. When you reframe a roadblock as a doorway, you afford yourself the chance to open up your mind to a game-changing solution. 

The next time you face a challenge, what will you do?

Want GPG to host a design thinking workshop with your institution? Contact us at

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