Design Tech: The Circuit to Lifelong Success

If there's one thing that we know for sure, it's that the future belongs to those who can design it. And at Shanghai American School, we're preparing our students to do just that. Our Design Technology program is more than just a class; it's a way of thinking that sets our students up for success in all areas of life.  

We're not just teaching our students how to use tools like 3D printers (even though they’re super cool!); we're teaching them how to approach the world with a problem-solving mindset. Think of our students as Eagle superheroes, but instead of capes, they wear safety goggles and wield power tools. 

Discovering the Joy of Design Tech 

Starting from Grade 6 in middle school, all SAS students can take one full semester of Design Tech, which exposes them to the major steps of the design process and allows them to learn the different skills involved in design thinking. They also develop hands-on skills including fabrication, computer-aided design, computer science, and robotics. 

“From the beginning, it’s all about exposure to the multiple avenues of design tech,” says Puxi Campus’ Design Tech teacher Scott Hatt. “We allow students to explore a variety of topics and encourage them to engage in hands-on projects to foster active problem-solving.” 

Choose Your Own Adventure 

With the vast array of choices, from vex robotics and mobile phone app design in middle school to advanced electrical mechanical design projects with light and sound in high school, our students have the freedom to explore their interests and tailor their learning experience to their own unique goals. 

The program is supported by state-of-the-art facilities, including dedicated, college-level maker spaces at both campuses, so students can bring their wildest ideas to life. Think of it as a ‘choose your own adventure’ book, but instead of an adventure, in which you get to choose your own programming language and design specialty. 


A New Way of Thinking 

Of course, at SAS, Design Tech is always about more than students learning how to use tools. As Troy Harkin, Head of Middle School Design Tech and Visual Arts (and High School Design Tech course teacher) at Pudong Campus, explains, "Everything they do serves a bigger purpose – from serving the needs of others and finding solutions for their local community to potentially solving issues that affect us all.” 

Plus, we encourage students to take risks and try new things, even if it means “failing” a few times along the way. It’s this focus on learning new ways of thinking that sets our Design Tech program apart. 

From an early age, our students learn that nothing is impossible; they can just go back to the drawing board and recalibrate. It's a way of thinking centered around ideation and iteration, teaching students to be comfortable with trying and learning from the results. You're not just jumping to a solution; you're empathizing with the problem. Each of these empathy exercises causes you to reexamine the problem itself and come up with different solutions. 


Empowered to Make Changes  

“By the time they finish Middle School, they feel the empowerment to go forth and make things happen,” adds Troy. “I often have High Schoolers come back and find me because they have an idea in their head, and they see something they can do to better the school, for example. Because of their learning journey, their mindset changes to know they can tackle any problems that come towards them.” 

At SAS, we're not just making things; we're making a difference. And Design Tech is a key part of that.  


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