New Project Sparks Design Creativity


Photo by Emma Nations

Sophomore Conrad Montminy explains to visiting parents the importance of his group’s redesign. Students went to the Austin Public Library in order to get inspiration for their spaces.

The Academy of Design and Technology (ADT) sophomores were given a project in order to create an identity for the academy. Students were divided into groups and worked to redesign spaces in the school to be used more efficiently. Through this project, they hope to establish the Design and Technology name and figure out their style and reputation as an academy.

Design and Tech students traveled around the school choosing areas to improve or reinvent, then created visual representations of their visions. The idea was created by sophomore English teacher Katie Holbrook and with the help of other D&T teachers, it was chosen and brought to life by their students..

“During this project my hopes are the students get a sense of the design process, conducting interviews, creating empathy maps and basic design thinking,” Holbrook said. “This is hoped to improve the community and provide meaningful motivation to our ADT students. The other teachers and I want the students to leave with a positive outlook.”

The ideas for improvement ranged from implementing a snack bar in the cafeteria, better bathrooms, redoing areas like the maker space, to improving empty spaces like the common area. Students had ideas for the third floor common area because of how large and vacant it is.

“Our group did the common area on the third floor,” sophomore Yuma Ishihara said. “We wanted to try to make a relaxing space where students could study or eat, by adding furniture in our design and using the space efficiently.”

Students were put into random groups of five, then encouraged to familiarize themselves with their peers and work well in teams by taking on leadership roles.

“It’s not specifically the art of design that’s focused on being learned,” sophomore Austin Phillip said. “I think [the project] is a great way to develop teamwork experience and take on leadership roles among the groups.”

Along with teamwork and leadership roles, a break from the usual school work is refreshing to students.

“This was a good way to have kids design while still following the academy’s style,” sophomore Zebulin Maurice said. “It also provides a good break from typical school work for the chance to do something creative.”

However, it’s become clear that a majority of the students participating don’t label theNew Project Sparks project as important or needed. Groups have a doubt that teachers will go through with selecting projects to implement because of a lack of funds. Others see it as pointless because they don’t feel like they’re learning anything or the project appears as busywork with no greater effect on the school.

“It wasn’t really good because there wasn’t enough structure to the project, and at the same time there wasn’t enough room to be creative,” sophomore Madison Kern said.

After students’ area designs were completed, they had to pitch them to the Design and Tech teachers. Presentations required a cover sheet to state their research for the project, their reasons for the project, how it would benefit the school and the estimated cost of implementing the project. They were all quick 5-minute presentation sessions with students going in and out with power points and posters.

“I was nervous because when I got in, all the design and tech teachers were sitting down and looking at our group to present,” Maurice said. “ButI got more confident because we were prepared with a slide show and our drawings and statistics.”

Design and Tech is the youngest out of the four academies, and unlike the others, it’s still finding its place and making a name for itself. The teachers are set on discovering what Design and Tech is and who they are together.

“We want something to set Design and Tech apart,” Holbrook said. “To really be our own academy with ideas that go with it, just like the others.”