In 2012, faculty and staff began integrating elements of Design Thinking into their curriculum, supporting the vision of our strategic objectives. The Design Thinking methodology is an approach to problem solving that is human-centered, using empathy to understand problems and create possible solutions. Since the development of the strategic objectives, Design Thinking has been integrated into the curriculum of every division and has played a major role in campus architecture.
Design Thinking projects often begin with a problem that must be solved. Recently, middle school students developed the question “How might we enhance the Bender Plaza to encourage learning?” Breaking into teams, the goal became brainstorming ways to use the large, open Bender Plaza in order to create a collaborative learning environment. They held interviews with those who would use the space, gathering data such as photographs and performing research.
After synthesizing the information, students settled on prototyping furniture for the Plaza. The students first used modeling software to create 3D representations of furniture that each group had designed. They then laser-cut miniature models, creating a physical medium to tweak and improve upon. The entire problem-solving and prototyping process took place in the Creative Arts Design Center’s (CADC) design fabrication labs.
The five design fabrication labs are fully equipped to support Design Thinking and enable creativity. High school and middle school students share four of the new labs while the fifth is designated for the elementary school. Each room is dedicated to digital design, fabrication and robotics, housing equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters and shop-bots. These tools allow our students to express themselves creatively while the faculty and Design Thinking curriculum guides them to think empathetically in order to identify problems and develop solutions.
The design fabrication labs not only support students in their creative endeavors, but also provide a flexible space in which to learn. With full-wall whiteboards, tables, rather than desks, and plenty of space, the environment helps promotes collaboration. While the middle school began engaging in creative design, using a similar space, three years ago in the RED Box, this is the first year for the high school.
High school students and faculty took advantage of their first semester in the design fabrication labs to become familiar with the space as well as to fine-tune the curricular goals with projects that allow them to use modeling software, learn circuitry and understand the opportunities the facility has to offer. All grade nine students take Design and Fabrication Lab in the CADC where they work with materials and technology to take ideas from concept to physical products and solutions. Other high school courses taught in the CADC include Introduction to Programming, Intermediate Programming, Robotics Engineering, Robotics Programming and Advanced Robotics.