Proposing Solutions in Computing

Introduction and Background

For this project you will prepare a proposal for a new concept that uses computing to solve a problem — much like an entrepreneur pitching a start-up idea or an employee (intrapreneur) presenting a new product idea inside their company.
While this project will focus on the research and conceptualization of an idea, the video below provides a broader overview of user experience design, including the research and evaluation components of the domain. This will provide a good context to think about the skills needed for this project.
The video below provides an introduction to the internet of things (IoT). This will help you think broadly about the possible applications of computing that goes well beyond desktop computers and phones, helping you get the creative juices going.

A Framework for Innovation and Problem Solving

It is important to determine the current context of a problem. Who are the stakeholders and what are the current outcomes? What is the narrative that explains how are they are attempting to solve the problem?
Proposing a solution requires you to 1) analyze the current state of the problem, 2) create several ideas for improvement, and 3) deliver the most appropriate solution as a proposal.

Student Objectives:

  • Investigate a problem and its context
  • Define the key stakeholders regarding the problem
  • Identify opportunities for improvement using computing technologies
  • Generate a proposal that thoughtfully presents the case for a particular solution to the problem.

Subject Areas: Computer Science, Business, Design, and Language Arts


1. Investigate a problem and its context

Start with a problem topic (likely provided by your teacher) and investigate the details of the problem. You can do this through online research, interviews, surveys, and focus groups. Gather the following information.
  • Who are the key stakeholders regarding the problem? A stakeholder is anybody that is affected by the problem. If we consider the problem of heart disease, for example, the patient is a clear stakeholder — but we should also consider health professionals, family members, friends, etc.
  • What are the current methods of solving the problem and the outcomes? This is the competition, in essence, for any solution you develop. What are the detailed steps in the current methods? How well do the current methods work (outcomes)? Be specific on any shortcomings in the current methods.
  • What is a succinct definition of the problem in a sentence or two?
This would be a great time to create a persona, like the one shown below.

2. Identify opportunities for improvement using computing technologies

Consider how computing technologies can be leveraged to solve the problem in a more efficient and effective way. Remember, computers are used in much more than phones and laptops. Smart devices of all types are fair game as you brainstorm ideas. Your concept doesn't have to be a physical product necessarily. It could be an idea for a computer algorithm that process data in a useful way, or it could be a media campaign to raise awareness on a topic on a big scale. Follow these steps as you develop ideas.
  • Make a long list of ideas. You want a diverse set (wide range) of ideas. Don't judge ideas just yet, especially if you are working in a team. Give all your ideas time for consideration without shooting them down critically.
  • Synthesize (mix) ideas. Reflect on all the ideas, make connections between ideas, and consider new variations by synthesizing ideas.
  • Evaluate the ideas. Now consider each idea using a risk/benefit analysis — or simply, what provides the most "Bang for your buck". Estimate how much value ("bang" or "benefit") it can bring and how much effort ("buck" or "risk") it might take to implement. You could create a two-axis chart to visualize each idea on benefit and risk. Also, consider how it helps all the stakeholders. Below is an example of a mapping ideas on two axis for contemplation. You can choose what each axis represents.
  • Determine the best idea and develop a value proposition. What is the elevator pitch for your solution? Develop a succinct value proposition that explains the problem, a key stakeholder, and the benefit the solution brings. Here is a template to get you started: For [describe target users] who [describe problem or need], [name of product] is a [describe type of product] that [describe benefit or value].
Example Value Proposition: For teachers who struggle with taking attendance all day or find it disruptive to the beginning of class, Attendance Checker is a device that will help make attendance easier for every class period of the day where students initiate the check-in as they enter the classroom.

3. Generate a proposal that thoughtfully presents the case for a particular solution to the problem.

Prepare a presentation to propose your concept and the background work you completed. Include the following elements (at a minimum) in your proposal.
  • Solution Title and Contributors
  • Background on the Problem Provide a clear description of the problem context — include stakeholders, current methods used to solve the problem, and importance of the problem. Be sure to site your sources of information and any data you incorporate. ★ If you made a persona, it would be a great visual to share here.
  • Breadth of Ideas Considered Provide a quick summary of the ideas considered in an easy-to-view visual.
  • The Value Proposition Provide a succinct and convincing value proposition and be prepared to explain the proposed idea in more depth. Also, prepare a prompt (or two) to get feedback from your audience on your proposal. Image that you are going to then invest time in developing it further.