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The future is bright!

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Learn how UWCSEA is shifting its curriculum to reinforce authentic learning in Design Technology education by creating links across all elements of the learning programme.
John Zobrist
Head of Design & Technology

The future is bright!

Shifting to authentic learning in Design Technology education

“Design must be an innovative, highly creative, cross-disciplinary tool responsive to the needs of men. It must be more research-oriented, and we must stop defiling the earth itself with poorly-designed objects and structures.” -- Victor Papanek, Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change

DT, D&T, design technology

Examples of students' CAD-designed major projects.

Design Technology (DT) means very different things to different people. If you grew up in the 1960s it might mean practical woodworking and metalwork, which then evolved into food, electronics and needlework, and then changed again, to its current incarnation as a highly academic multi-disciplinary course. We draw on these traditions, fusing them with modern technology, pedagogy and systems thinking with a tremendously exciting sense of possibility for what DT can be. I write here to give you a sense of what’s happening in the DT Department on East Campus.

We have taken an innovative approach to the subject, and students have moved from making pre-designed products for no real purpose, to identifying clients, meeting with them and then making products that solve real and relevant problems. The clients may be friends, relatives, or younger students, and we see our students’ creativity and imagination unleashed as we push our young designers to become more aware of the fundamental principles and wider issues of design, its impact on consumers, legislation and sustainability.

Our state-of-the-art facilities include rapid prototyping capabilities with 3D printing, laser cutting and Computer-Numerically-Controlled (CNC) engineering milling and routing machines that both Middle and High School students access. Our facilities have been recognised as one of the leading set-ups in Southeast Asia, and the success of the inaugural International Design Technology Conference (IDTC) at East Campus last year is being followed by the second IDTC in Dubai, where we have been invited to present a keynote on how we are shifting the DT learning programme.

We thus create endless opportunities for development. Engaging students in computer-aided design (CAD) allows them to design, simulate and visualise components or whole systems in a very satisfying way; within the Systems and Control and Resistant Materials courses students create virtual products that evoke amazement from those who view them. Our recent Grade 11 trip with The Island Foundation GC to Bintan allowed our internationally-minded DT students to develop and share their understanding of design and the technological world by facilitating our shared guardianship of the planet to create a better world. The students were able to put theory into practice by helping to restore a disused boat as a planter in a sustainable garden project.Of course learning to use these facilities is not easy, but this is a good thing; our student designers are exposed to the realities of having to modify and develop their proposals to continually refine and improve their work. In reality, it’s the process, not the product that is the real outcome here, and Samuel Beckett’s pithy “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better” is our motto. After all, if we are not challenging the students by their work as project managers, then they are not really learning to reach their potential.

It is an exciting time in DT, with more great opportunities on the horizon—with Junior School, working with GC and Service partners, and with alumni and parental input which can help build long-term connections with local companies around product innovation, industrial design, and sustainable systems. The future is bright!

Honouring the educator

In January 2015, John Zobrist was awarded the International Development and Support of Design and Technology award by the UK’s Trustees of the Design and Technology Association. This was in recognition for John’s outstanding work (although John would insist that the recognition goes to his DT colleagues) in developing a department that supported the promotion of Design Technology across Southeast Asia.

We congratulate him for his impressive contribution to his passion—Design Technology. 

James Dalziel, Head of East Campus

10 Apr 2015
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