Inspiring Students to be Confident Problem Solvers: Ignite 2020 Recap

At the Center for Global Women’s Health Technologies, we are proud to be the home to a few different ventures: Ignite, WISH, (In)Visible Organ, Calla Health and Zenalux. As 2020 comes to an end, we spent some time catching up virtually with the leaders of each of the ventures of GWHT. Today we are sharing some accomplishments and key moments from our Ignite team.

Ignite empowers students to connect STEM concepts to social innovation through the human-centered design process. This GWHT project is a holistic approach to health, because it places the well-being of students and their communities at the forefront of education.

Human Centered Design Process that students learn through Ignite.

In February 2020, Libby’s article Design Thinking-Based STEM Learning; Preliminary Results of Achieving Scale and Sustainability through the IGNITE Mode was published. The article details the positive impacts that the Ignite model can have on students’ perceptions of STEM education. The Ignite program has also been recognized as a Good practice by the United Nations.

Kimberly Breen

In order to adapt to the 2020 public health crisis, COVID-19, Ignite shifted to a virtual platform. This shift presents new opportunities for Ignite research. Digital literacy has become a necessity under the circumstances. Therefore, Ignite’s virtual platform opens exploration to the digital and physical spaces that can contribute to powerful learning experiences. The flexibility of implementation allows research to compare strategies and bolster our understanding of the key characteristics that contribute to impactful engineering experiences. This unique opportunity allows Ignite to augment our preliminary data, while continuously optimizing Ignite for learners in the 21st century.

Kimberly Breen

Our team has made a few improvements in different areas:

-Expanding the Ignite team has brought in new perspectives that have helped Ignite grow.

- Leveraging preliminary results to continuously improve our education and research practices.

-Establishing a work life balance and adapting to a new digital communication style.

Kimberly Breen

Ignite “Seminario Pandemic” was a fully Spanish-language seminar facilitated by the museum and GWHT focused on discussing alternative educational models such as Ignite during COVID-19.

Personally, getting a job in the GWHT was one of the best surprises this year. The team has been beyond welcoming and supportive.

Kimberly Breen

This fall I just got started on Ignite. It has been a great experience and is very different from my previous experiences in GWHT working as a graduate student. The change in scenery, especially since I haven’t left my kitchen table since March, has really re-sparked my interest. I have loved my experience so far working with the highly motivated staff and undergraduate Ignite fellows at both Duke and Emory.

— Megan Madonna

We are so thankful to have so many Duke University and Emory University Undergrads on the Ignite Team.

In a lab that supports creative innovation, it often feels like Ignite’s potential to spark social innovation is limitless. Yes, the pandemic has presented many hurdles that are often draining. Shifting the way in which we live and learn has been an obstacle for everyone. However, I am often energized by collaborating with co-workers that re-fuel creative problem solving. It has been encouraging to speak with educators, and community members that support the mission of Ignite, especially amid this pandemic. These conversations make the walk from my bed to my desk a little easier.

— Kimberly Breen

This coming year, we want to grow Ignite in North Carolina by partnering with local schools and the Museum of Life and Science. Additionally, I want to expand on our curricula to include biomedical engineering and cancer biology as an additional avenue to attract students to engineering and design thinking.

— Megan Madonna

Learn more about Ignite at:

Read more about the partnership between Ignite and the Museum of Life and Science: