The Foundation for a Meaningful Life
Kindergarten - Grade 9 in Southborough, MA
Fay Magazine: Summer 2021

Channeling Passion into Design

Daintry Duffy Zaterka '88
Ninth graders share their capstone “passion projects” from this year’s Advanced 3D Design class, where students are given free rein to design and create.
In a typical year, the Advanced 3D Design passion project results in the creation of a tangible object, but with COVID protocols leading to limited time in the Innovation Lab, this year's projects were allowed to take on a physical or conceptual form.
The passion projects reflect not only the creativity and technical ability of the ninth grade designers, but also the staggering breadth of their fields of interest. The students have four weeks to brainstorm, research, design, refine, and then create a Google Slideshow that reflects the entire process from idea to product.
The process tests not only the design skills that they have acquired during their time in the class but also their project management abilities, as they learn how to plan their time, set realistic targets, review their work, and take creative risks. Here are just a few of the projects that Advanced 3D Design students worked on during the spring term.
Ethan Z. ’21: Tensegrity Table
Ethan was fascinated by the idea of building a tensegrity table— where structural integrity is based on a network of continuous tension—as it incorporates his passion for design and mathematics. He designed several tables on paper before choosing a final design. He used Sketchup software to ensure everything was drawn to scale and accurate before sending it to the 3D printer, then spray-painted his bases and used fishing wire cut at precise lengths to create the necessary tension for the table to stand.
“This project allowed me to express myself and my interests,” Ethan says. “I got to plan my workflow and manage every aspect as a professional designer would have to. This class has taught me to break up my projects into smaller pieces to get work done faster, and it has also taught me valuable craftsmanship skills.”
Astrid O. ’21: School Redesign
When Astrid decided that she wanted to design a better school for her younger sister in Honduras, she reached out to parents, students, and the head of her sister’s school to research their needs and their limitations. She also researched materials that would be affordable for construction and how different colors affect a student’s mood and productivity. She created a model of her redesigned classroom using Cameyo and the laser cutter.
“The project is meaningful to me because it is related to both education and my sister,” Astrid explains. “I wanted to create a sense of hope that making a change in a small school was possible and making the prototype was a step forward to- wards this dream. This year, I’ve learned about structural design and the craftsmanship behind certain products, but I’ve also learned why the effort you put into creating a product is important for the consumer and yourself as a designer.”
Ava C. ’21: Pop-Up Book Design
Ava has always loved origami and visual design, and combining those two interests into a 3D book that “comes to life” was an appealing challenge. First, she researched different pop-up book designs online as well as origami tutorials. She wanted her book to be able to be mass-produced, which influenced her choice of design. Ava also created prototypes in different styles. For her final design, Ava used the CAD program 2D Design to create scale replicas of the paper parts, and she used the laser cutter to cut them out of construction paper, showing how pop-up books could be machine manufactured.
Ava notes, “I’ve always loved to experiment with origami as well as visual design. Taking these interests one step further by creating a marketable product that could help others was very meaningful to me. It was fascinating to learn how to make a design manufacturable; not just as a one-time art project, but as a convenient, easily mass-produced product. Advanced 3D Design has helped me step outside of my comfort zone. Trying new things and taking creative design risks has changed my mindset so that I am more open when it comes to non-design-related areas as well.”
Machias P. ’21: Biomimicry
Machias wanted to explore biomimicry as it combines nature and design. He was
particularly interested in incorporating it into building design in ways that are structurally safe and reduces a building’s impact on the environment. Incorporating environmental safety, durability, and cost, Machias explored a variety of design ideas, such as using spider webs and leaves, to add strength to glass and shelves that mimic the design of mushrooms growing on trees.
“Biomimicry is nature and design combined,” says Machias. “I love everything about nature, so when I heard about this project, I knew what I wanted to do. Throughout the year, we have used the design process, and the more you use it, the easier it gets, and your designs get better. I used to rush everything to be ahead, but you don't want to do that in design. I improved my way of doing things by taking my time and trusting the process.”

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