Something new and unusual is coming to Oracle headquarters. Oracle, together with its nonprofit organization, the Oracle Education Foundation (OEF), and nearly 500 members of the community broke ground today for the new home of Design Tech High School (d.tech).
Design Tech High School is not your typical high school. It’s built on a design thinking model: “It’s our mission to develop students who believe that the world can be a better place, and that they can be the ones to make it happen,” explains Dr. Ken Montgomery, Design Tech’s executive director and founder.
When classes begin for 550 students at the new facility in the 2017-2018 school year, d.tech will be the only public high school in the United States that’s located on a tech company’s campus, while remaining fully autonomous. It will also be the culmination of a multidecade endeavor by Oracle.
In 2014, Oracle CEO Safra Catz challenged the Oracle Education Foundation with finding a way to engage employees in training a new kind of student. Yet, the idea to prepare students to meet modern challenges—and build a pipeline for future employees—started even before then.
“Seventeen years ago, Larry Ellison told me that he’d love to have a school where students learn to think,” says Catz. “Our support of d.tech reflects Larry’s vision for a unique high school founded on principles we believe in: innovation, creativity, problem-solving, and design-thinking. We couldn’t be more excited to build this school on our campus and to see the positive impact it will undoubtedly have on the students, teachers, Oracle employees, the Bay Area community, and beyond.”
The time is certainly right to try a new approach to education, says Montgomery, to arm students with strong creativity and collaboration skills that will help them in today’s modern economy. “We’re saying if we can build in students the skills and mindsets to go out there and solve real problems, then they can immediately have a positive impact on society.”
At d.tech, temporarily located in a San Mateo County Office of Education building in Burlingame, California, students do things differently in order to have that desired impact. They build their own schedules, participate in a design lab, and have access to a makerspace called the Design Realization Garage, an homage to the many Silicon Valley companies that started in garages and to the industrial space that d.tech has occupied since 2015.
The students also do things differently by participating in quarterly two-week intercession periods, when students learn from professionals. For example, a team of Oracle Volunteers work with students on projects at the intersection of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) disciplines. Projects include coding, electrical engineering, data visualization, the Internet of Things, and more.
Students have put design thinking to work on the school facility itself. When the first students walk into their new 64,000 square-foot home next fall, they will walk through a building that they—along with their parents, d.tech staff, DES Architects + Engineers, Oracle, and the OEF—dreamed up for themselves.
At Oracle OpenWorld, taking place in San Francisco from September 18-22, OEF will present a Design Realization Garage where d.tech students will show innovative prototypes developed in OEF workshops, such as a pickpocket-proof handbag, which uses an RFID tag on a ring that flashes bright red and buzzes if anyone other than the purse’s owner reaches in. Students and OEF staff will also engage Oracle OpenWorld attendees in coding, making, and design thinking, using open-source hardware such as Arduino and tools such as 3-D printers.
The new building may be a school year away, but the partnership between Oracle, the Oracle Education Foundation, and d.tech is already reaping rewards.
“It's not only the students that have the cool experiences, but our employees, too,” Colleen Cassity, executive director of the OEF, says of the 57 Oracle Volunteers who have worked with d.tech students in the Foundation’s program. “They feel like they are truly paying it forward to the next generation in terms of sharing their skills. Some of the things that the students want to prototype are unlike anything any of us have ever thought of before.”
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