Design & Technology – a creative and fun way to practise problem solving

Design & Technology - a creative and fun way to practise problem solving

Problem solving – creatively
With the future of jobs becoming increasingly AI dependent, creative careers such as design have increasingly become popular among students.
Design & technology gives students the opportunity to delve into a range of topics including, aesthetics, electronics, engineering, ergonomics, manufacturing, graphic design, materials technology and more, irrespective of their field of study.
Anyone involved in designing uses “design thinking”: a non-linear, iterative process that challenges them to find opportunities and solutions to problems or needs that people face. From your spoon to a city, a designer has solutions to make it better, user-friendly and worth its value. The process of starting with a need or a problem and delivering a product and finally reflecting on the process has a lot of value and learning for the student. It is this kind of learning that universities and work places look for: Unique, experience-based and one that adds value. To accomplish this, a design & technology class at the high school level must provide ample opportunities for students to make mistakes and grow.


No-contact vending machine designed and manufactured by a student
High-school design class
While there is no one type of design class experience, a student can expect a lot of active hands-on learning. Students will also sketch ideas, a lot of those in the design stage. Sketching forms an important part of design communication and the basics of sketching can be picked up by anybody who is willing to practise. Sketching here does not imply an artistic method of drawing (however, art can add a positive spin to the sketch). Sketching here is akin to engineering drawing. Representing ideas in 3D, on paper, using different views, rendered with colour with the aim of communicating the idea to the user.


Point of Sale display sketch created to communicate a vegan cafe display idea
A student can also expect to learn to use tools and machines that can help in manufacturing and bringing ideas to life. This is the technology part. You will often find students cutting wood with hand saws or a bandsaw and bending plastic using a strip heater, trying to create a model or a prototype of their idea. Machines such as 3D printers and laser cutters help in rapid prototyping and testing.

Design at the university level
The design course at high school level just about scratches the surface of a design career. At the university level, the diverse range of design degrees is astounding and offers specific areas of interest that a student could choose from: Product design/ industrial design, graphic design, engineering design, interaction design, architecture, interior design, urban design, landscape design, fashion design & technology and the list goes on.
A lot of these degrees will find students attending classes in studios exploring communication methods, arts and technology. The courses in universities typically explore design movements and inspirations from around the world and have students work on their own projects while learning to work with clients and other designers, mimicking real-life work places. But what is so special about doing this type of work in high-school?


CAD model of a proposed metro station
Design in student profile building
A course like Design & technology falls under both science & technology and art. It has elements of engineering, business and marketing. The course is largely driven by the student according to their tastes when it comes to the project. The biggest advantage of such a course is the amount of learning that happens. In addition, the student creates a portfolio that captures the process of designing.


Students use workshop tools to manufacture their products
While you would get a letter grade like other courses at the end of a written examination, you would also be able to show your creative thinking process through your portfolio in this course. So, if a student wanted to apply for an engineering degree to a school where the admissions department wants to decide between two candidates from India with the same grades in all subjects, they would probably look at other elements of their application packet. A design & technology course would stand out since this is quite similar to a first year engineering programme of many universities these days. Or in a different scenario, a student wants to go for a design degree or an architecture degree, the portfolio clearly shows the creative strengths, attention to detail and design process to the prospective university. It is imperative to understand that creating such a portfolio will take time and effort. But the very same portfolio tells the admissions department that this student is willing to put in that extra effort to put their ideas into action.

Dr. Shankar Ramakrishnan, Cambridge Educator – Design & Technology, CS Academy.