Year 8: Product Design & Digital Technologies A Year in Review

In 2018 the New South Wales curriculum of “Mandatory Technology” was changed to include a new curriculum area: Digital Technologies. This area is more “STEM”-based, including electronics, systems design, coding, and Computer Aided Design & Manufacturing (CAD/CAM). This was a new curriculum area for many NSW schools, who had previously taught more traditional workshop skills. Schools had to readjust resourcing and staff specialisms to be able to implement some of the technologies required. At AISHK, we embraced the changes, as we had already implemented excellent CAD/CAM teaching and learning resources in previous years. Year 8 students previously had been taught 3D modelling and laser cutting – we just had an additional challenge of adding electronics and coding to the units.

Schools going online during the pandemic forced us to re-engineer the units; we suddenly did not not have access to the specialist resourcing that we usually have access to. Staff had to get creative, and further “outside of school” activities had to be developed. That’s how the current iteration of Year 8 Product Design & Digital Technologies was born.

In 2021 Year 8 students worked through a year-long fully-integrated Product Design & Digital Technologies course. Using project-based learning, students’ projects become more self-led and complicated throughout the year. Skills built on skills, manufacturing and technological techniques converged to produce more complex designed and engineered products. The evolution of skills and projects could be clearly seen throughout the year!

The year started with 3D modelling, moving into an understanding of systems design: how systems link, and inputs and outputs. From there, students began to learn Adobe Illustrator, a professional-level vector graphics-based CAD program. Students then combined these skills with traditional analogue workshop skills. They designed a piece of jewellery where the mould was produced digitally, then cast in metal using a blowtorch!

From there, they built on their Adobe Illustrator skills: students designed and developed their own “flat-packable, coded container”. The container could contain anything they wanted and had to contain a working and coded micro-controller: students wrote their own design briefs and had their own design goals. Some chose to go a more traditional route: a jewellery box with an alarm; while others experimented with motion sensors and motors.

This was a particularly complex project which saw students using a number of different resources and manufacturing techniques: applied mathematics, engineering skills, Computer Aided Design (Adobe Illustrator), laser cutting, coding an Arduino (a mini computer chip), and linking sensors to outputs. Students were required to work closely with the department technician as there was a detailed prototyping development process- students had to be very organised. This gave students excellent project management and communication skills.

Our students demonstrated advanced skills throughout the Year 8 Product Design & Digital Technologies course. We are particularly proud of the independence and self-reliance of our students. In many schools, these projects are bought in as kits. However, at AISHK these projects are built from the bottom-up. Each component is taught by staff, and developed by the students themselves. By the end of Year 8, our students have a very wide range of skills in their personal toolkits that will help them in years to come!

This year, we followed 4 students during their design journeys: Maxine Tsang, Sienna Woodyard, David Dang, and Jacqueline Chung. 

In video 1 students discuss their initial design process: developing the metal casting mould for jewellery and prototyping for the container box.

In video 2, we revisit the same students to see how the container box turned out.

Thank you to Maxine, Sienna, David and Jaqueline for participating in the documentary process and discussing their work so authentically and confidently. Thank you to the staff who helped produce the videos: Claire Lo, Jen Ng, and Michel San Juan. An especially big thank you to the teachers of Year 8 Product Design & Digital Technologies: Nancy Mitchell & Andy Griffiths and to technician Justina Dear. Major projects need major teaching and resourcing!

Thank you to AISHK for resourcing the department well and especially the two new laser cutters, which manufactured all of the Year 8 projects!