Where are the STEM-savvy high schoolers who’ll fill tomorrow’s talent pipeline? At Oracle’s headquarters in Redwood Shores, California, they’re in a brand-new building right on the corporate campus. Design Tech High School, or d.tech, is a 550-student public charter school founded on the empathy-centered problem-solving approach to learning called “design thinking.” The school had been without a permanent home since its 2014 launch; in 2017, the kindred design-minded spirits at the Oracle Education Foundation proposed an innovative public-private partnership.
The foundation donated land plus $43 million to design and build the school, where Oracle employees now tutor and mentor students, supervise internships and teach classes on topics such as coding and electrical engineering. They also volunteer in the school’s 8,000-square-foot Design Realization Garage — a fabrication space equipped with power tools, 3D printers, Arduino boards/software (microcontrollers used for designing digital devices) and more — where students build prototypes of projects such as wearables and Internet of Things devices. “We’re trying to develop creative confidence,” d.tech Co-Founder Ken Montgomery told Wired. “Kids don’t just passively receive things; they actively design them.”
D.tech’s young designers retain intellectual property rights to their inventions, which are showcased at the annual Oracle OpenWorld conference. Last year’s entries included a smart hospital room that uses biometric sensors to respond to a patient’s emotional state and a thief-proof purse that sounds an alarm if anyone but its owner tries to open it.