Already for the 10th time, our partner university Häme University of Applied Sciences, HAMK, invited to the Freezing Week, which is meanwhile known far beyond Finland. Around 40 participants from various European countries accepted the invitation. They made their way to Hämeenlinna, about 90 kilometers north of Helsinki, at the beginning of February. Ludwigshafen University of Applied Sciences was represented by three professors from different departments - Prof. Dr. Stefanie Hehn, Prof. Dr. Christina Stadler & Prof. Dr. Martin Klose. Sophia Richter as program manager for continuing education completed the trio.
The theme of the International Week was "Data-Driven Empathy" - especially from the perspective of design and technology. The content focus primarily pursued the goal of finding out how cross-divisional topics can be developed from a design thinking perspective. The initiators wanted their international colleagues from different fields not only to test and try out design methods, but also to let them collect and analyze data on empathy themselves.
Design thinking is a human-centered approach to practical and creative problem solving and learning, often introduced through work on multidisciplinary industry projects. The design thinking process begins with gathering data to understand the people the work is intended to benefit. This phase is called empathy. It sets the focus for the rest of the process.
After this theoretical crash course, the practical part of the workshop started. The reassuring thing about the design thinking process is that it is inherently open-ended. This means that the outcome is not predetermined, but is a true result of the process. In real time and with the support of Design Probes, data could be collected and analyzed over Freezing Week. The task was to create a holistic attendee experience for the 10th anniversary Freezing Week in 2024.
In small teams, participants planned and built sample kits with tasks for the other teams. Later, the edited kits were returned to their original team, which then analyzed the data and developed actionable insights. At the end of the workshop, the results were presented in plenary. The results were overwhelming - learning how to cook Finnish or how to make a campfire were among the ideas for the perfect Freezing Week in 2024, in addition to a socializing app for networking.
The workshops were accompanied by exciting presentations from keynote speakers who gave insights into the use of artificial intelligence or showed measures on how data can be processed and applied for analysis. The goal was to show how these methods can promote sustainability and gain insights to integrate into work processes.
The Riihimäki campus, about 20 minutes by bus from Hämeenlinna, offers interactive degree programs such as Computer Applications. Robots greeted the group for the campus tour and showed the way to the recording studios and the test stations for games developed there.
A true Finnish "winter experience" was offered at Ahvenisto Outdoor and Nature Reserve despite the relatively little snow. The outdoor pool here was built for the modern pentathlon at the 1952 Olympics and is set against a stunning scenic backdrop. Lake Avenisto is a popular place to swim - for the brave, a chance to ice swim as a cool down after a sauna session. To warm up, there was traditional Finnish coffee and delicious korvapuusti - cinnamon buns with cardamom by the campfire. The group also got together outside the regular program, for example for dinner at Piparkakkutalo - the gingerbread house. So it remains to be seen whether this year's participants will return to Finland again next year, if only to find out which of the insights from the Design Thinking workshop were actually implemented. ERASMUS plus and Staff Mobility additionally simplify travel to partner universities.
Text: Sophia Richter