Preflight is a program that brings professionals into high school classrooms to host design thinking challenges related to their work. 


These challenges show students a role model with an interesting job, give them practice using transferrable skills and connect class material to real-world problems.

Why Preflight?

How are the challenges structured?


Challenges are structured in six key phases modeled off the Design Thinking process.



For Teachers

Teacher Resources

Here's a overview of everything you need to know to run a challenge. 

Word document

version of three

student worksheets. 

This guide offers advice and an email template for contacting professionals.

Steps for the Teacher

1. Find a Professional

Getting an enthusiastic professional to come into your class is one of the keys to a great Preflight challenge. What type of professionals apply the skills you teach in class? 


Here are some places to look:

  • Staff network

  • Local businesses

  • Parent network

  • Alumni network

  • Business associations and service clubs

  • Local colleges and universities


Check out the How to Find a Professional document for more info and an email template.

3. Work Out the Details

The length of the challenge will depend on what the students are building. The outline in the Teacher Guide assumes ten class periods, but you could shorten or stretch out the challenge to fit your needs.


Also, decide how much emphasis you will put on design thinking. Preflight challenges are organized to reflect the stages of design thinking, but you can choose how much emphasis you put on teaching the process.


Here are a few resources if you are interested: 


"What is Design Thinking?" short video

Stanford d. School Design Thinking Overview"


2. Choose a Challenge

Once you know about the professional you'll be working with, decide on a topic for the challenge that combines the expertise of the professional and the skills you want your class to work on.


Frame the challenge as a question, for example: "How can we improve public spaces in our city?" or "How can we run an effective advertising campaign?" 


For more inspiration, check out the

Challenge Ideas page


4. Facilitate the Challenge

During the actual challenge, your job is to facilitate discussion, ask questions, check in with teams and provide support when needed. You will also grade students on the final presentations.


The focus should be on students directing their own learning and working through the steps of creating something new and valuable- you get to watch and encourage!


The Teacher Guide outlines your responsibilities in each stage.

For Professionals


Preflight challenges give you the chance to inspire the next generation about your work, give back to the community and gain new insights about your work. 

This guide will tell you everything you need to know to get involved.

Steps for the Professional

1. Prepare

2. Present

Talk with the teacher about your availability and job specifics. You can help them decide on a challenge. 


You can prepare a slide show or handout if you wish, but you don't need to spend too much time preparing for your presentation.


Here's a few questions to get you thinking:

  • What does a typical work day look like for you?

  • What skills do you use in your job, and how did you develop those skills?

  • What other types of professionals do you interact with? Give students an idea of related careers within your field. 

Work with the teacher to find out how much time you have, but be prepared for a 20-30 minute presentation, including plenty of time for student questions. 


The presentation can be informal, but it's a good idea to dress like you would for work. 


At the end of your presentation, you can help the teacher roll out the challenge, and speak briefly about why it is relevant to your work. The challenge should be a real problem from your workplace that students will work on solving between now and when you return to class. 


Let the class and teacher know if you will be available to answer questions by email or web conference while the students are working. 

This is the fun part. On the final day of the challenge, you get to come back to the class and watch the student presentations. 


If there is time, ask teams questions about their work and their process. 


Finally, offer a few next steps for students that are interested in your career field. 



  • Online classes

  • Local volunteer opportunities

  • A job shadow day at your workplace

3. Watch student presentations

"I'm interested, but I haven't been contacted by a school."

You can initiate a Preflight challenge!

Email a local high school. Let them know who you are, and that you are interested in working with them to hold a Preflight challenge.


Ask to be put in contact with teachers of a subject relevant to you (math, science... English works for most general challenges). 


Link them to this website. Feel free to email me with any questions.

Challenge Ideas


What will the students be creating? Choose a final product based on the challenge.

Here are a few ideas.

  • PowerPoint

  • Posters

  • Video or skit

  • Social media campaign posts

  • Physical model of a product



  • Brochure

  • Formal letter

  • Infographic/data visualization

  • Website/mobile app sketch-ups

  • Written report or proposal


Challenge Ideas

This list is meant to give you an idea of possible challenges.

Feel free to build off of these or invent your own. 

Check out this Google Doc and add your own ideas! Preflight Challenge Ideas


Professions: business owner, marketer, designer, product manager, restaurant owner, etc.

Possible classes: English, history, possibly math

  • Design a sketch-up of an app that improves the mall shopping experience. 

  • How can we better market our product (clothes, shoes, food…) to teenagers? Develop a plan of action with commercial ideas, social media posts and other strategies.

  • How can we get more people to come to our restaurant? We have great food and service, but no one knows we exist! Design a marketing strategy to get us more customers.

  • Completely redesign the way people order and eat pizza. This could be a mobile application, a new type of restaurant, a new business… get creative!

  • Based on the financial data for our small business, predict our next quarter of growth, and visualize the data in an engaging and creative way.



Professions: doctor, nurse, nutritionist, researcher, health marketer, etc.

Possible classes: health, science, English

  • How can we prevent teenage smoking? Invent a program or campaign to educate and prevent smoking.

  • Student Wellness: What is wellness to a student? Do they only think of it in a physical context, or do they include mental aspects of wellness? Create a graphic representation of your idea of wellness. 

  • How can we encourage teenagers to comply with their medical treatments? Create a campaign, system or proposal to address this problem.

  • How can we encourage teenagers to eat healthier? Create a campaign or program to educate and motivate teenagers to take control of their health. 


Community Services

Professions: program planner, city council member, community development, etc.

Possible classes: English, art

  • How can we make better public spaces in our city? Write a proposal that imagines new ideas for parks and other city spaces.

  • How can we inspire the community to identify problems and solutions that improves community wellbeing? Develop an idea for a way for citizens to have an active voice in their community.



Professions: engineer, researcher, energy company employee, college professor, etc.

Possible classes: Any science or math

  • How can we spread the use of solar power? Identify barriers and solutions. Design a plan for your school to have zero carbon footprint.

  • How might we identify new uses for waste and develop new businesses and jobs? Show your ideas and how you would implement them.

  • How might we create solar passive homes that save energy and are comfy to live in? Draw a model of the perfect solar house with labels for the innovative features.


Nonprofits / Charities

Professions: program manager, marketing, any non-profit worker

Possible classes: English

  • In the wake of the ALS ice bucket challenge, it is clear that the best way to draw attention to your cause is to start a movement. Using this idea, come up with a social media campaign to raise awareness and donations for our charity. 

The name "Preflight" takes its origins from the aviation industry, where pilots perform pre-flight checks to make sure the plane is ready to fly.


Similarly, the goal of Preflight challenges is to prepare students to take off into the world, regardless of what they choose after high school. 


OpenIDEO community member Dave Zinsman gets credit for suggesting the name and the airplane logo. Thanks, Dave! 

Why is it called 'Preflight'?