The Ukulele story: How to think like an engineer


Creating and Making is one of the 6 core courses of the Undergraduate Academic program at Fulbright University Vietnam. The course’s purpose is to develop for Fulbright students an understanding of design thinking and the design process.

Staying true to the Co-Design Year spirit, Co-Design Year students worked closely with faculty members to design and test out this module before launching it for the upcoming academic year 2019-2020. One of the most unique aspects of this course is that the students have to design an actual product: something that can help an 8-year-old play and learn at the same time. The result of the course is not determined by the professors but the real product-users.

Below is a reflection from Thuy Dung’s group, whose product was a Ukulele.

We thought this class would be a piece of cake, with clear and linear steps: from conceptualization, to product creation, and lastly, presentation.

We found out that life is not a dream.

We started brainstorming ideas for the product using the Generative Thinking Tools that Dr. Sebastian Dziallas taught us in class. From a wide range of possibilities, we narrowed it down to music as the main subject matter.

Stemming from the insight that our target audience, 8-year-old children, prefers hands-on activities, we thought of designing a Ukulele toolkit. The kit includes a package of different pieces to assemble a Ukulele, completed with a how-to guidebook and basic music theories.

We had to, first, create a prototype of the Ukulele using paperboard. We then contacted a carpentry shop to discuss on our blueprint and costs. Fortunately, we met some wonderful mentors; without their help, we would not be able to finish this product.

The following days were full of hard work; but among the sweats and tears, we had tons of joy and laughters. We spent all day in the carpentry shop, from dusk until dawn. When we got back to the dorm, we still had to do homework.

Time went by in a blink of an eye. The day when we had to present our product to the class finally came; and I still remember how long of a day it was.

We experienced a structural problem with the Ukulele and it took us two hours to fix. For this, we missed most of our appointment with Dr. Dziallas, our product owner. After our two-minute meeting with Dr. Dziallas, we reworked the guidebook, printed it out, and finished the video to report on our process.

We were ready for the read-out at last.

After this class, I came to appreciate every single product I use in my daily life, especially handicraft products. I also became more comfortable working under pressure and managing my time more wisely.

I am thankful for having such a wonderful “colleague” like Nguyen Vu Nhu Quynh, a down-to-earth professor like Dr. Sebastian Dziallas, and dedicated mentors like the carpenters we met in the shop; they turned this class into such an enjoyable journey.

This course taught me invaluable skills and knowledge; but most importantly, it taught me how to think like a real engineer.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Dung
Student of Co-Design Year

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(English below) ✨ LỜI CHÚC NĂM GIÁP THÌN 2024 ✨ Bước sang thềm năm mới Giáp Thìn, Đại học Fulbright Việt Nam xin được gửi đến mọi nhà lời chúc tốt đẹp nhất 🐉 Với trái tim tràn đầy hy vọng hoà cùng niềm vui đầu năm, chúng tôi vô cùng trân trọng sự tin tưởng và hỗ trợ vô giá Fulbright nhận được trong hành trình vừa qua, là động lực hướng đến những điều tuyệt vời sẽ tiếp nối trong năm nay 🌟 Nhân dịp năm Rồng, Fulbright xin kính chúc vạn sự hanh thông, mọi niềm mong thành hiện thực 🌟 --- ✨ HAPPY LUNAR NEW YEAR 2024 ✨ As we step into New Year, the Year of the Dragon, Fulbright University Vietnam would like to extend our best wishes to everyone 🐉 With hearts filled with hope and joy as we embark on the new year, we deeply appreciate the invaluable trust and support Fulbright has received on our journey thus far, serving as motivation towards the wonderful things that will continue in the year ahead 🌟 As the Dragon's year unfolds its tale, Fulbright extends wishes, setting sail. Prosperity's breeze, in every gale, May dreams come true, without fail 🌟

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