Design and manufacture real products to make the world better.

In 2017, Design The Future was awarded as the Most Innovative Hands-On project by US2020, a division of Citizen Schools, developed from a White House call to generate large-scale, innovative solutions to our STEM education challenges.


Design the Future is a week long, fully immersive design thinking summer program for rising 10th, 11th and 12th graders in which students work to solve some of the biggest challenges facing our world today. During this intensive program, created by DC Design and held in collaboration with the Stanford Institute of Design (the and K12 Lab Network, students will work to design solutions to real problems faced by individuals with physical disabilities. Through hands-on experiences students will learn to employ the design thinking process used at the Stanford by working through the steps of Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototyping, and Testing. At the end of the one week program, each student group will present its final design and high resolution prototype during a media attended presentation. Throughout the program, students will receive design and manufacturing mentorship from Stanford educated designers and engineers. Students should expect to walk away from the course with an understanding of how they might tangibly improve the world around them having just contributed directly to the improvement of the lives of others.

What a Day at Design the Future might look like

9:00 AM Students arrive!
9:00 - 9:15 AM Creativity warm-ups and agenda setting for the day
9:15 - 12:00 PM Design concepts are taught and students work in teams to design solutions to disability-based challenges. Empathy, Definition, Ideation, Prototyping, Testing.
12:00 - 1:30 PM Lunch provided by DC Design & break to explore Stanford's campus
1:30 - 2:15 PM Guest speakers including Stanford professors, professionals from Silicon Valley Companies and other innovators
2:15 - 5 PM Further teaching of design concepts and continuation of student design work
5:00 - 5:30 PM "Application to the Self" – Mindfulness and Design Thinking
5:00 - 6:00 PM Debrief and shifting focus to next day
6:00 PM Students head home

What to Expect

Every day during Design the Future students will have the opportunity to challenge their assumptions about how the world “should be”, about the challenge others live with, and about what it truly means to “change the world.” They will work to solve important problems that revolve around human health, mobility, and disability. For these students, each day will present new challenges and new learnings as Stanford educated designers and engineers seek to guide them toward solutions to the very real problems they will be working to solve. Every day will be different. Some days, students will find themselves locked in conversation about how a physical disability manifests in their project partner’s life. Other days, students will spend their time cutting, taping, sawing, hammering, 3D printing and otherwise bringing their ideas to life. Design the Future was created for any students who has a passion for making the world around them a better place, regardless of previous design and manufacturing experience. All we ask is that students come ready to learn, to give it their all, and be ready to question their assumptions. On our end, we’ll do everything we can to teach them the skills they need to make a positive impact on the world we live in.

Examples of Past Projects

During a previous Design the Future session, students designed solutions for Fernanda, a project partner who lives with high functioning quadriplegia. They addressed the back pain she felt due to the design of her wheelchair armrest and joystick by designing a new armrest/joystick attachment that could be positioned in the center of her body.  For Joe, they designed solutions that would allow him to carry groceries and other items more easily on a wheelchair that doesn’t accommodate those needs.  For Nick, they designed a way for his friends to push him easily in his wheelchair, regardless of how tall they are by designing extendable handle bars. After the program Nick started working with a manufacturer to have extendable handlebars manufactured for his wheelchair. Check out some of the photos from the program below!

Details & Pricing


Design the Future will be hosted at the Stanford University Institute of Design (the in the summer 2018. We are working on partnering with other great universities to expand the program.

The program typically runs from 9AM-6PM each day. Lunch is provided throughout the program for all participants. Housing is not provided, though out-of-town students are welcome to apply if they can arrange their own housing for the week. In the past we’ve had students from as far as South Korea, Washington, Southern California, and Texas all attend the program.  


Accepted students who apply before April 1st will receive a $150 discount off the full program cost. Enrollment will cost $1,950 as opposed to the full program cost of $2,100 for those who apply after this date. Financial Aid may be available for students that demonstrate significant financial hardship. If you think you may qualify for financial assistance, please send an email to at the time you submit your application. 


Design the Future is a competitive program with a limited number of available spots. Because we accept students on a rolling basis, enrollment into the program followed by later cancellation means that another student is unable to participate. Because of this, we are unable to offer full refunds. 

Program Withdrawal Date & Percentage of Tuition Returned information is as follows:

  • Withdrawal by February 1st: 75% of tuition returned
  • Withdrawal by March 1st: 50% of tuition returned
  • Withdrawal by April 1st: 25% of tuition returned
  • Withdrawal by May 1st: 10% of tuition returned


On the final day of camp, family, friends, and the wider community are invited to the for the Design the Future Expo, a media attended event where students will showcase the final products they created during the program and detail their journey along the way.


  • 63 hours of guidance by Stanford educated mentors in the design and manufacturing of a unique product to solve a specific problem.
  • The opportunity to learn from fantastic speakers in the areas of health, mobility, design, engineering, and entrepreneurship.
  • Knowledge of the design thinking process used and taught by the Stanford
  • The opportunity to learn from incredible individuals as you work to solve problems related to your project partner’s disability.
  • The chance to become part of a select community of peers all striving to making the world better.
  • An understanding of how to effectively approach and solve problems, big and small.
  • To have a great time!