the hero's journey and the rube Goldberg machine

“We’re not on our journey to save the world but to save ourselves. But in doing that you save the world. The influence of a vital person vitalizes.”

-Joseph Campbell

How do we provide students with strategies for culturally relevant design thinking across disciplines?


As part of a Boston Public Schools (BPS) and Autodesk fellowship in design and innovation, we created this web platform as a resource to help teachers and students engage in design thinking in the classroom across disciplines. We wanted to create a solution to the challenge of,

"how do we provide students with strategies for culturally relevant design thinking across disciplines?"

We created a unit where students can express the universal theme of the hero's journey through designing a Rube Goldberg Machine. Hero's Journey- think story of Moses, Star Wars, Lion King, the Odyssey, where a hero is called to an adventure, faces obstacles along the way and overcomes them to achieve their goal. What if instead of students writing yet another essay, we provide an interdisciplinary, hands-on opportunity where they design a Rube Goldberg machine as a physical metaphor that illustrates the hero's journey? As part of the project they create a concept poster that provides a written evidence-based design rationale where they argue how their machine represents their particular hero's journey.

You'll find our 10-day unit plan, a gift-giving design project, and design strategies to help you put design thinking into practice in any classroom!

Summer Residency

As part of our residency at Autodesk (located in Boston's Seaport district) summer 2017, we engaged in the design process, laser printed a hero's journey graphic onto cardboard, 3D printed simple machines like a wheel and axle, a ball, an inclined plane (ramp), and engaged in a Design Swarm with Global Design leader Surya Vanka from AUTHENTIC.


Our team consists of Cathy O'Flaherty at Boston Latin Academy, Nettrice Gaskins, Ph.D. from Boston Arts Academy, and Nathalie Ais, M.Ed at Madison Park Technical Vocational High School. As fellows, throughout the school year we are tasked to implement the curriculum and expand this work with colleagues and community alike.


We're so excited about this work, in expanding it, improving it and implementing it.

Please check it out and leave us feedback and support!

intro to design thinking

what is the hero's journey?


CHarting the hero's journey

Hero's Journey Chart