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Our Programs

Up4 The Challenge empowers middle and high school students to transform their communities through innovation. By engaging with a human-centered design process, participants not only craft inventive solutions to social challenges, but also discover the power of STEM as a catalyst for positive change. Join us to explore, innovate, and make a difference!

We currently offer programming in Ottawa and Toronto in collaboration with schools, post-secondary institutions, and community organizations.

Bring Innovation to Your Classroom
For Students

Half-Day (2 ½ Hour) Program Outline

Half-day Workshops

Spark innovation and social impact with our half-day workshop on human-centered design, tailored for grades 7-10 to transform ideas into real-world solutions through STEM

Understanding Human-Centered Design:

  • Identify end-users and their needs.

  • Assess the importance and potential of the challenge.

Idea Generation:

  • Engage in group brainstorming.

  • Develop and share low-fidelity prototypes.

  • Collect feedback on designs.

Implementing STEM for Social Impact:

  • Iterate on prototypes.

  • Apply solutions in the community.

  • Evaluate STEM's impact on social outcomes.

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Community Partner Workshops Overview:

Community Partner Workshops

Through partnerships with organizations like TDSB and Visions of Science, we enable youth to design solutions for problems that exist for real people.

Collaborative Impact:

  • Engage with organizations like TDSB, Visions of Science, and Evergreen Brickworks.

  • Gain deep insights into local social issues through partnerships.

Youth-Driven Solutions:

  • Enable youth to create practical solutions for real-world problems.

  • Apply human-centered design principles in a collaborative setting.

Mutual Benefits:

  • Enhance practical skills and offer fresh perspectives on community challenges.

For Educators
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Educator/Leader Program Outline:

Educator Workshops

Leaders and Educators use a human-centered design process to discover how STEM can be a powerful tool for positive change, with each session tailored to unique leadership and learning objectives.

Understanding Human-Centered Design:

  • Identify end-users and their needs.

  • Explore the importance of the challenge and potential opportunities.

Ideation & Prototyping:

  • Conduct a group brainstorming session.

  • Create and share a low-fidelity prototype with end-users.

  • Collect feedback on design ideas.

Connecting STEM to Social Outcomes:

  • Identify the inputs and outcomes of design solutions.

  • Engage in self-reflection and initiate a call to action.


Engineering Improvisation: New Approach to Design Thinking Mindset

Educator Resources

Discover 'Engineering Improvisation: New Approach to Design Thinking Mindset,' a pioneering resource available for free through eCampus Ontario, merging engineering and improvisation to enhance creativity and problem-solving in any classroom.

  • Combines engineering and improvisation to enhance design thinking in classrooms.

  • Includes innovative exercises and theories to boost creativity, problem-solving, and adaptability.

  • Available for free via eCampus Ontario.

  • Features peer-reviewed, high-quality content ideal for engineering or design curricula.

  • Aims to prepare students for future challenges.

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!

Anchor - Upcoming Event

Past Events

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

Summer 2022

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!

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Health and wellbeing of our communities and ecosystems - SCS

Spring 2022

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.

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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!

Image by Anton Sharov
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
Queen's University

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!

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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.

On tour with Isaac during our workshop
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.

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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

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Proud to be an accepted educational partner

of the Toronto District School Board

Chaire pour les Femmes en science et genie
Chair for Women in Science and Engineering


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