Engineering and Design

Intentional design can shape and improve human experiences.


What are the elements that make for good design? This question is the starting point for a teaching approach that frames design as a series of strategic considerations and engineering as a process of learning what we need to know to create a desired outcome.  

The Bay School’s design thinking education begins in 9th grade, when all students take the Creative Process class, and concludes with their Senior Projects, when they spend an entire year pursuing a project of their own design. The skills acquired in this arc prepare our students exceptionally well to solve multifaceted challenges.

Design Thinking at the Core

Beginning with a variety of short projects, students learn to analyze a product, a material, a place, or an experience in order to understand its parts and its underlying logic. This is the hardest part—for example, how do you build something out of tape and manila folders that can support a cinderblock? The first effort will probably fail. It might even be a mess, but the process will show you the potential of the materials and give you ideas for how to manipulate them. Expand these skills outward, and you start to see ways to improve human experience in many realms.

Skills build up from learning to render ideas by drawing all the way to building complex systems in Advanced Mechanism Design and Senior Signature Projects. Challenges might include creating a working solution for doing laundry for someone confined to a wheelchair or a way for someone on crutches to navigate the lunch line. Students become adept at low- and high-fidelity prototyping, presenting their ideas, and planning out processes. 

The value of this hands-on work becomes clear as students gain confidence not only in their use of tools and machinery but also in their abilities to map out solutions to problems. Learn more about Bay alumni who have gone on to study engineering in college and have careers in STEM fields

The Project Center

The Bengier Project Center is a 3,600-square-foot facility housing an engineering and robotics lab and art studio; it also serves as the Senior Signature Projects headquarters. 

You’ll see a lot of equipment here, but we often get asked why we don’t have a 3D printer or CAD stations. The answer is that tools change, good process does not. Although Bay does have a 3D printer, classes in this space focus on the physical connection to the materials, which 3D printing does not offer.

Handling materials is essential to understanding their uses, and we place emphasis on “going the long way around.” The only way to truly understand the process of creating a product that works is by creating a product that works. That process includes learning how to evaluate ideas for viability, understanding which materials are appropriate for the need, prototyping, and many other skills that cannot be circumvented. The abilities students gain in these courses can be applied throughout their lives.