“Design Thinking in STEM”: Education project combining STEM education, design based education and the challenges addressed by the SDGs.

Our world has become increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain. Education plays a crucial role in preparing young people for a future of complex challenges such as globalization, digitalization and climate change. Siemens Stiftung offers high-quality science and technology education in order to provide young learners with the relevant knowledge to understand scientific and technical interrelations. Additionally, skills such as creative problem solving, the ability to innovate, and critical thinking – known as “21st century skills” – are increasingly important for openly embracing change and conscientiously shaping the future. This is why Siemens Stiftung has recently introduced “STEM and creativity” into its international education program by integrating design thinking as a new teaching method in STEM lessons. Thus, with the “Design Thinking in STEM” project, Siemens Stiftung combines STEM education with creative processes to encourage innovative thinking among young people. The project is aimed at developing approaches for teaching these abilities in science and technology lessons. The design thinking method encourages students to address challenges with a sense of empathy, viewing a problem through the eyes of someone actually confronting it. Through interdisciplinary teamwork, ideas and approaches are turned into physical prototypes early in the process to be tested and evaluated.
The main focus of the project is on the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, established by the United Nations. They provide the thematic structure for the interdisciplinary STEM lessons and the use of the design thinking methodology. Typically, the iterative design thinking process starts with the formulation of a specific challenge. A multidisciplinary team will then develop a concrete solution for the problem, keeping the user at the heart of the process. In this project, we suggest teachers and students to choose their challenge from the SDGs, these including the economic, social, and environmental challenges of the 21st century, which are growing in their local impact alongside their global relevance. Complex STEM topics can be explained through specific problems, such as clean drinking water or sustainable power generation, while design thinking makes these problems more approachable.
Design thinking is a very suitable method in addressing the subjects of the SDGs since due to their complexity most of the goals require a multidisciplinary approach which is a core element of the design thinking mind set. Furthermore, the SDGs are of global interest and require local action. The design thinking approach usually defines a concrete problem from the local context and develops the optimal solution for the challenge. Its solution-based approach supports young learners in nurturing their creativity and preparing an innovative mind set which is required to openly embrace current and future challenges and responsibly contribute to our society.

Expected impact

Intended impact: We believe that high-quality STEM education is a global prerequisite for individual development and participation in a technology-driven world, which is why we focus our education program on science and technology. Additionally, skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and the ability to innovate are increasingly important for openly embracing change and responsibly shaping the future.
Input quality: Our cooperation partner The Index Project has practised the use of the methodology in education in multiple projects in more than 700 schools and has evaluated its impact in the target groups. Well established network of participants: the participants of our workshops is based on our network of STEM teachers and multipliers that have been trained in our Experimento program since years (up today 2.400 teachers/ 1.200.000 children worldwide) and are experienced in innovative education methods.
Output quality: Monitoring and evaluating the impact of our work is very important to us. In South Africa, where the project has been started in early 2019, the Schools Development Unit is monitoring the project, evaluating the use of the new methods in STEM lessons, and assessing student development. For our project in Latin America, we will build on the instruments and experiences from the evaluation process in South Africa and are planning monitoring in cooperation with local partners such as Pontificia Universidad de Chile in Villarrica and Valparaiso.
Outcome: For any successful shift in education, teachers play a key role, which is why our project “Design Thinking in STEM” addresses the following two target groups of the outcome level: as “agents of change”, it is teachers that create conditions for encouraging creativity and prepare a solution-oriented, innovative mindset among young learners. This is why, first of all, our project supports educators in their own creativity to design contemporary, interdisciplinary and creative lessons while addressing the SDGs. Second, young learners are being empowered to develop meaningful, innovative solutions and sustainable in the classroom and enabled to solve newly emerging problems. The design thinking method is a fitting approach for developing these skills, and by incorporating it into schools, we emphasize our talents and abilities.
Content sustainability: Together with The Index Project, we support educators and participants in preparing the workshops and support them in their implementation of the methodology in their teaching. Our project is linked to the conditions requested by local curricula; there is an option to combine it with additional activities such as regional/national Science Expo etc. Our project is planned for long term application (more than 3 years) and secured in an existing network of Siemens Stiftung and our cooperation partners.
Outcome/Numbers: With one teachers’ training (30 participants) we will be able to reach 10.000 students over the course of 5 years (based on our 9 years experience of teacher trainings with our Experimento program).
We are actively involved in forums and associations (i.E. STEAM Forums) in the respective regions advocating for a contemporary and high quality STEM education for sustainable development and sharing knowledge and experiences


https://www.siemens-stiftung.org/projects/design-thinking-in-stem/?_sft_working_areas=education&_sft_working_areas=education https://theindexproject.org/

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Financing (in USD)
110 USD
Staff / Technical expertise
½ staff head Siemens Stiftung: project initiative, financing, communication, STEM and ESD expertise, ½ staff head The Index Project: workshop facilitation, design thinking in sustainability expertise
Basic information
Start: 16 December, 2019
Completion: 16 December, 2030
Siemens Stiftung (Philanthropic organization)
Siemens Stiftung: As a non-profit corporate foundation, Siemens Stiftung promotes sustainable social development, which is crucially dependent on access to basic services, high-quality education, and an understanding of culture. In the Education working area, Siemens Stiftung pursues modern science and technology education that strengthens the knowledge and abilities of schoolchildren. Together with our partners, we develop materials and methods for teaching and learning that are creative, discovery-based, hands-on, and value building. Our efforts Focus on the challenges of a changing, globalized, and technical world to provide young people with a future full of opportunity.
The Index Project: is a Danish non-profit organization, founded in 2002, with a focus on design for good — what is called ‘Design to Improve Life’. Design can be a powerful tool to solve real-world challenges and secure a more sustainable future. Therefore, education programs teach people how to address critical problems in our society, like food waste or climate change, using design-based Knowledge and methods. Using an innovative and certified ‘Design to Improve Life’ framework, the aim is to foster the current and next generation of change-makers. For the project “Design Thinking in STEM”, Siemens Stiftung is collaborating with The Index Project to launch and implement design thinking as an innovative teaching and learning method in STEM subjects. With years of experience working in schools, the Danish non-profit has developed functional, tools and techniques that take teachers through the various phases of design thinking, providing pedagogic and didactic reinforcement for the entire process.
University of Cape Town (UCT): UCT is an inclusive and engaged research-intensive African university that inspires creativity through outstanding achievements in learning, discovery and citizenship; enhancing the lives of its students and staff; advancing a more equitable and sustainable social order and influencing the global higher education landscape. Their School Development Unit (SDU) has the goal of improving teaching and learning in the South African school system. It draws on academic teaching and research expertise to help tackle the systemic and structural challenges that blight the education landscape, and manifest in poor or inadequate teaching and learning. Through teacher development, schools-based interventions, professional consulting services and dynamic materials, the SDU works to close the achievement gap between well-resourced and disadvantaged schools.
Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC) in Villarrica whose aim is to cultivate and impart knowledge and dialogue between faith and culture up to the sustainable development of the Araucania region and the country in the field of education and local development. Their UC Center for Local Development (CEDEL) aims of strengthening and diversifying the links between science and technology institutions and urban and rural populations by exploiting both the natural and intercultural wealth of the region and establishing important links with the country's and the world's science.
PUC Valparaíso: with the aim of cultivating sciences, arts and techniques in the light of faith through the creation and transmission of knowledge and the training of graduates and professionals with the vocation to serve society, within the framework of the Church's Magisterium.
Initiative focused on COVID-19 pandemic response, prevention and recovery efforts
Not specified
Geographical coverage
Latin America and the Caribbean
Beneficiary countries
Other beneficiaries
Participating Teachers and the later constructed students, that use Design Thinking in STEM education in the classrooms.
Contact information
Christine Niewöhner, Senior Project Manager, christine.niewoehner@siemens-stiftung.org,
Munich, Germany
United Nations