What happens when you bring together super-smart high school students and Silicon Valley technology professionals? Innovative projects involving 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), wearable technology, and much more.
Such innovations were front and center at Oracle OpenWorld’s Innovation Studio, where students from Design Tech High School (d.tech) in Burlingame, California, demonstrated their projects alongside startups and global companies including GE Digital and Toyota.
“We've designed a smart hospital room, with sensors that measure heart rate, temperature, light, even humidity,” says James, a d.tech senior, of his team's Hospital Ambiance project. “The room can use these measurements to react to the state of the patient and aid them in what might otherwise be a cold and emotionless place,” he said.
To research the project, the students interviewed a UCSF Medical Center nurse, as well as two patients who had been to different hospitals. "I visited Stanford Hospitals where I got feedback from administrators, doctors, and nurses," says Avery, a d.tech sophomore who participated in the project.
Time to Explore and Invent
The student projects on display at Oracle OpenWorld were conceived, designed, and prototyped during “Intersession,” an especially innovative part of the d.tech model. “The whole school pushes pause on the regular school day, four times a year, for two weeks at a time,” says Colleen Cassity, executive director of the Oracle Education Foundation
and Oracle Corporate Citizenship, which supports the school.
During Intersession, students explore a wide range of subjects through classes provided by nonprofits, enterprises, and other professionals in the local community. “That’s one of the coolest things about d.tech: It invites the local community into students’ educational experience,” says Cassity. “Students learn technology from Oracle employees, photography from a local professional, financial literacy from employees at companies like Visa, and culinary skills from the likes of The Boneyard and Bon Appétit Management Company,” she said.
In Oracle Education Foundation classes, students learn coding, electrical engineering, and user-centered design from real practitioners. Foundation staff and Oracle volunteers help students design, build, code, and test prototypes of games, wearables, and IoT solutions. “These classes immerse students in design thinking
,” says Cassity. “That’s one of the main things that brought the Oracle Education Foundation and d.tech together in the first place—we’re all design thinkers.” In fact, she says, “The ‘design’ in the name Design Tech High School refers to design thinking.”
In design thinking, “failure” is reframed as a golden opportunity to learn and improve. “Failure is important because it’s the best way to learn and go forward,” says student Avery. With design thinking, students learn to “design not for yourself but for the individual whose needs you want to meet,” he says.
Top projects from Oracle Education Foundation classes get showcased at Oracle OpenWorld. In addition to the hospital ambiance project described above, this year's projects included:
- A student wellness scanner that helps teachers prepare for class by collecting students’ attendance and assessing their mood.
- Project Roam, an IoT solution that helps connect staff and students throughout the school day.
- A water monitoring system that uses sensors to provide a clear picture of water quality in local wetlands.
- A pickpocket-proof purse, which is a patent-pending wearable solution.
- A 3D design for wrist and hand braces in which the Oracle Education Foundation teamed with 3D design company Carbon to give student access to next-generation 3D production technology.
- Competition robots engineered and presented by d.tech’s robotics team.
“I’m really glad I got this opportunity,” says Ally, a d.tech junior, of her time at Oracle OpenWorld. “I like teaching adults. They seem really interested in what we’re doing, and I like showing them things that I think are cool.”
Students are not just learning to interact with adults, they are also seeing that they can build things that matter. Hanui, a d.tech junior, pointed to the work students are doing with Carbon. “They’re designing hand braces and finger splints and I was thinking that’s really cool because we have high schoolers working on projects that will improve people’s lives. I’m excited to see their projects get better and better.”
“These students are developing creative confidence. They believe that the world can be a better place and they can be the ones who make it happen,” says Oracle’s Cassity. With design thinking, she says, “they have practiced a problem-solving approach over and over again and are confident that they can always design a solution.”
In January 2018, Design Tech High School will move to a purpose-built facility on Oracle's headquarters campus in Redwood City, California. When it opens, d.tech will be the only public high school in the US to be located on a tech company's campus, while remaining autonomous.