UP4 THE CHALLENGE provides middle and high school students with the tools and confidence to address social challenges within their community. Participants use a human-centred design process to create innovative solutions while developing an appreciation for the potential for STEM as a tool for positive change.
We currently offer programming in Ottawa and Toronto in collaboration with schools, post-secondary institutions, and community organizations.
For Leaders and Educators
Our Community Partners
Our program would not be what it is without the dedicated support of community partners. By collaborating with organizations that have an intimate understanding of social issues and work directly with people in the community, we enable youth to design solutions for problems that exist for real people. The result is an experience that is invaluable to both program participants and the community members working with our partner organizations.
Parkdale Food Centre
We are fortunate to be working closely with the Parkdale Food Centre, a local Ottawa organization that shares our vision to build healthier, more connected communities. A huge thank you to Karen Secord and Sue Hall for ongoing support!
Learn more about our program with the Parkdale Food Centre here:
Core Program Elements
Design Thinking - introduction to how it can create social change for our partner organization
Understanding the issues from the users' perspectives through listening, empathy and reflection
Hands-on, iterative design in collaboration with our community partner
Through these elements, an awareness of the interdisciplinary nature of design is fostered.
Evergreen Brick Works
At Evergreen, our program participants learn about sustainable practices to promote flourishing cities. Isaac Crosby, Lead Hand Urban Agriculture, shares knowledge about Indigenous agricultural practices and different ideas to implement at home and within the wider community. No matter what the season, there is always something to see, smell, or taste in Isaac's gardens!
TDSB School Programs
This spring we ran several programs with students from Heydon Park Secondary School and John Polanyi Collegiate Institute, in the Toronto Disctrict School Board. Participants came up with creative ideas to address climate change in their communities. Our Toronto Metropolitan University student co-facilitators shared their experience in a recent blogpost.
TNO STEM Design Program
Fall 2022 and March Break 2023
Once again we were able to partner with TNO-The Neighbourhood Organization, this time on an intergenerational design challenge. Throughout the fall workshop, our youth participants worked closely with our Senior experience experts to identify their needs and interests related to healthy living in the community. The ideas they generated were inspiring - one of our Senior volunteers even brought her group's prototype home with her!
TNO STEM Design Program
Over 20 youth from the Thorncliffe and Flemingdon Park community participated in our design experience program offered for the first time in collaboration with TNO - The Neighbourhood Organization. Participants reimagined healthy living in their neighbourhood, coming up with diverse ideas to address health and wellness needs.
Thanks to Moriah and Lauren for contributing to this workshop!
Health and wellbeing of our communities and ecosystems - SCS
This was our first in-person program since the beginning of the pandemic and we were excited to working with the students from St. Clement's School (SCS) to address the topic of healthy living. The five session program also included a day at Evergreen Brick Works and conversations with alumnae who graduated in the 1960's and shared a wealth of experience and wisdom.
Visions of Science STEM Design Challenge
November 13th 2021 - online
Students involved in Visions of Science STEM programs got a taste of Design Thinking during our virtual workshop for Climate Action. Our design challenge focussed on how to collectively engage members of our communities, since we can do more together than we can individually. Participants reimagined ways we could create awareness about the issues, reduce energy consumption and food waste, and make locally grown foods more accessible.
Many thanks to Nam, Lauren, Seth, Madeleine, and Megan for helping to facilitate this workshop!
Toronto Metropolitan University (Ryerson) Fellowship
May - June 2021 and 2022
Up4 The Challenge was thrilled to be working with Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson) once again as part of their Arts and Contemporary Studies Fellowship program. In 2019 we had the opportunity to work with two amazing students, Devany and Smyrna, in 2021 we had the privilege of working with Pari, and Moriah and Natalie joined our team in 2022. In addition to developing program content, these Fellowship students co-facilitated workshops with schools and community partners.
Design for (Dis)Ability - SCS
June 2021 - online
The grade 7 students at St. Clement's School had been exploring how to create accessible recreational spaces for people with disabilities. Our Up4 The Challenge facilitators guided them through a whirlwind introduction to Design Thinking with the help of Everett, a grade 10 student with cerebral palsy who answered their questions about his wants, needs, and barriers in accessing such spaces. In addition to the physical environment, we learned that his ability to communicate with his peers was an important aspect to consider in designing for a fun environment for him!
Design for Climate Action - JPCI
May 2021 - online
Up4 The Challenge was delighted to join a grade 10 class at John Polanyi Collegiate Institute to address climate change from a local, youth perspective. Here's what their teacher, Marla Stone, shared about our programs:
Throughout the workshops, students learned a process to solve real world environmental problems using human-centred design thinking and collaboration. They brainstormed, interviewed stakeholders, designed and presented their prototypes, focusing on social and environmental themes.The students and I have benefited from participating in this program.
National Engineering Month - NEM Ontario
March 11th 2021 - online
In celebration of National Engineering Month, Up4 The Challenge hosted an online event for post-secondary students to share how we promote equity, diversity, and inclusion in the STEM fields. Participants joined us from around the globe to learn about human-centred design and STEM in a fun and hands-on way. Visit NEM Ontario's YouTube channel to watch the recording!
Gender, Engineering, and Technology class
Feb 2 - 5, 2021 - online
For our first program with Queen's University, students were challenged to reimagine the Faculty of Engineering Students' Frosh Week Experience to make it more accessible and inclusive for all. Solutions considered how to break down barriers around representation, while maintaining traditions that promote community. Students shared that the virtual program was engaging and felt that a human-centred approach to design promotes equity, diversity, and inclusion in engineering.
Healthy, eco-friendly food practices in schools
JPCI at Evergreen Brick Works
February - May 2020, Toronto
Up4 The Challenge partnered with Evergreen Brick Works and Engineers of Tomorrow to provide students from John Polanyi Collegiate Institute with this experiential learning opportunity. Students learned how human-centred design works, how to use their design skills to be social change agents in their communities, and how STEM can help them make this change happen. Thanks to everyone for their efforts and enthusiasm as we shifted to online programming for our final session during the pandemic with this dedicated class.
Sustainable, Food-Secure Cities Design Workshop
Evergreen Brick Works
November 4th 2019, Toronto
We had thirty students from Lord Lansdowne Junior Public School join us at Evergreen Brick Works for this full-day workshop. After a fun and informative tour with Peter and Isaac, the students prototyped inspiring ways to make the school lunch experience better for their classmates. Their ideas were as diverse and creative as the participants!
Design Thinking Workshop
October 25th 2019, University of Ottawa
This workshop provided future science educators with an introduction to human-centred design and highlighted how the connection between STEM and social impact could be demonstrated to their future students. Participants came up with creative ways to improve the lunch experience for their partners. Their solutions included a portable slow cooker and much more!
Sustainable Cities Design Thinking Workshop
Evergreen Brick Works
June 16th 2019, Toronto
This half-day workshop introduced participants to the importance and challenges of designing sustainable, food-secure cities and guided them through a hands-on human-centred design process. Following a tour of Evergreen Brick Works led by Isaac Crosby, Lead Hand Urban Agriculture, participants created prototypes to redesign the school lunch experience.
Girls in Tech Conference (GITCon 2019)
University of Toronto Schools
April 13th 2019, Toronto
This workshop involved a fun, fast-paced, hands-on design challenge in which our facilitators introduced participants to the importance and challenges of designing sustainable cities. After leading them through a user-centered design process, the girls were challenged to consider how STEM supports the social outcomes from their design. Check out what happened at the 2019 Girls In Tech Conference!
Sustainable Cities Design Challenge Workshop
Evergreen Brick Works
March 24th 2019, Toronto
The half-day workshop, in celebration of National Engineering Month (NEM2019), introduced participants to the importance and challenges of designing sustainable cities, led them through a hands-on user-centred design process and a specially-developed STEM integration activity to empower an appreciation of how STEM supports social outcomes from their prototypes.
Seedy Sunday at Evergreen Brick Works
March 17th 2019, Toronto
We offered drop-in style, human centred design activities at Evergreen Brick Works during their annual Seedy Sunday event. Kids were challenged to create a physical prototype that would provide a convenient way to get fresh fruits and vegetables to students at school. Designs included portable coolers for veggie pops and an indoor garden supported by rainwater harvesting. Impressive!
Sustainable Cities Challenge
John Polanyi Collegiate Institute & Evergreen
Feb-March 2019, Toronto
For our initial program with John Polanyi Collegiate Institute in collaboration with Evergreen Brick Works, we challenged students to create a healthier, more secure food environment within the school community. Participants loved learning about urban and Indigenous agricultural practices at Evergreen, the Three Sisters Soup for lunch, as well as building their prototypes!
Design Thinking Workshop
University of Ottawa
November 2, 2018
Our workshop provided Bachelor of Education students with an introduction to human-centred design. They were guided though a hands-on, iterative problem-solving process drawing on empathy for meaningful, creative ideas. Students gained a greater awareness about how math and science fit within this interdisciplinary process and the potential for technology as a tool for positive change.
Fisher Summit Alternative School
in partnership with the Parkdale Food Centre
October 2017 - June 2018, Ottawa
Our initial three-week program led middle school students through a human-centred design process in which they had an opportunity to interview their neighbours who use the Parkdale Food Centre to better understand the challenge around food security. Their design ideas were so appreciated by our partners, that they spent the next few months implementing their ideas. More information about this program can be found here.
Many thanks to our sponsors and supporters
Proud to be an accepted educational partner
of the Toronto District School Board