Learning / Middle School

Phanachet Design Lab


The Phanachet Design Lab is an evolution of a traditional classroom where students have access to a wide variety of tools and materials and can learn how to use a range of analog and digital technologies that promote hands-on project-based learning.

Design Technology class is a required part of the curriculum in the middle school and class projects use engineering principles, design thinking, robotics, and digital fabrication.

Sixth grade class is mostly devoted to learning the routines, techniques, and tools in the Design Lab. The year concludes with work on the Middle School STEM Fair (coordinated with their science class) to make a machine that solves a human problem with technology.

Seventh and eighth grade class dives into more concepts of coding, graphic design, architecture, and engineering while working on more student-centered projects to create robots, furniture, games, and everyday things. Eighth grade concludes with a long-term product design investigation (coordinated with their math class) to sketch, prototype, market, package, and develop a new product (invention) that helps somebody simplify their life.

While constructing their projects, students are also practicing their problem-solving skills and gaining a better understanding of their process for approaching a design challenge and inventing new things. Students use several media (text and visual) to document their work and show their understanding.

In addition to their Design Technology curriculum, students also use the Design Lab with their other classes. The Design Technology Teacher collaborates with lead teachers working on a unit of study to develop a project where students can do experiments and make artifacts to prove their understanding and go deeper to make connections and build their own interpretations of the topics discussed in class. Examples include: Students dream up and build scale models of possible monuments to people and places meaningful to the legacy of Chinese immigration in San Francisco. While studying aerodynamics in Science class, students design several prototype wing and tail shapes they can make and test, collect the data, and make observations and conclusions in a lab report.

The Design Lab is also used after school to host the CAIS First Lego League Robotics Team and other technology enrichment classes to build models, machines, robots, sewable circuits, and othermaker education topics.