Educator Q&A: Professor David Burghy from Columbus College of Art & Design

One of the most exciting developments with Bright Spark’s Student Design Competition has been the recent addition of college-level teams. Last year, 25 college students participated in the competition, and we look forward to expanding the reach even further this year.

For this reason, we wanted to get the perspective from someone in higher education for our Bright Spark™ Educator Q&A Series. When it comes to passionate champions of innovation in the classroom, David Burghy, Professor of Industrial Design and CORE Studies at the Columbus College of Art & Design, is at the top of the list.

A seasoned educator with more than 20 years of experience, David is a published author and recipient of the 2010 CCAD Teaching Excellence award. As a designer with engineering tendencies, he enjoys making things with wood and metal, as well as drawing. Beyond being a professor, David’s other titles include dad, husband, son, mentor, scoutmaster, storyteller, and friend.

“I am a creative and curious individual,” he said. “This combination of characteristics has allowed me to go many places, meet many people, and be involved in a huge variety of awesome experiences and projects. Along with discovering and making, I love sharing those experiences with others.”

We connected with David to get his take on innovation in the classroom and experience leading student teams in last year’s Bright Spark Student Design Competition.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

I wanted to be an inventor, a maker of things. My father is a mechanic and my grandfather is a master carpenter, so I had a lot of opportunity from an early age to learn how to tear things apart and put them back together again. When I was in middle school, a guidance counselor told me that inventing wasn’t a profession and that I should find something else to pursue. So, I pursued design and soon discovered that these creatives were the ones who invented things. My dream of being an inventor was alive again and I never looked back.

What does innovation in the classroom look like for you? And, what kinds of design innovations are you most excited about these days?

In its most basic definition, innovation means ‘new ideas.’ I believe that innovation is more of a process than a single entity. As a designer, it is my job to look for new ideas and use them to make life better. In my classroom, innovation is anything that opens up new doors to a student. Innovation and inspiration almost always happen simultaneously. A new thought, a new material to work with, a new tool to use, or a path on the road of life that has never been known or available to them before. Whether it is the newest electro-gizmo or something ancient, almost anything can stimulate innovation.

Tell us about your experience participating in last year’s Bright Spark Student Design Competition.

Last year was the first time that I have participated in the Bright Spark Student Design Competition. My students and I thought the theme was very interesting and had a lot of designing potential so we entered the contest. It was a great experience for all involved, and we will definitely be participating again this year.

What was the biggest takeaway for your students?

For my two teams, being seven hours from Chattanooga provided challenges that led to unique learning opportunities. They were able to look at the project challenge without any preconceived ideas, thus allowing for more unique answers.

Nearly all of my students said they wished that they would have had an opportunity like the Bright Spark Competition when they were in middle school to expose them to design. After last year’s experience, my students have been making an effort to go back to their alma maters to share their design skills and mentor young, future designers. To me, this is an invaluable take-away from the competition.

What would you say to other educators who are on the fence about getting involved in this year’s Student Design Competition? Why should they take the plunge?

These experiences cannot be duplicated within a classroom setting. Very few other places do students have the opportunity to work alongside professionals, educators, industry leaders, and other students of all age and skill levels. This experience validates innovation on so many levels.

Anything else you’d like to add?

I truly believe that once school administrations understand what it takes to get students engaged, motivated, and excited about learning, opportunities like those offered by Bright Spark will be the model for the innovative teaching styles of the future. The world we are trying to prepare students to enter is changing faster than the ways we can teach. Students have to know how to problem solve, adapt, and work with people toward a common goal. With those skills, our students can accomplish anything and be successful in any profession. Those are the skills that I see being promoted by Bright Spark.

The 2018-2019 Bright Spark Student Design Challenge is open for student teams from fourth grade through college level and will be focused on the challenge: How Might We connect resources and services within and into our communities to help students and families in need thrive?

The deadline for registration is November 15, 2018. If you have any questions or if you have any barriers with registration, please contact Mary Kim at