The Design Lab

The Design Lab is a dynamic and experimental learning space at French American and International that offers a multidisciplinary curriculum for students in grades 6 through 12. In the Design Lab, hands-on projects and the design process are integrated into classes as diverse as Science, Visual Arts, and Math. 

Projects include:

  • Creating a "shake table" to study seismic movements in the Bay Area
  • Constructing kinetic toys by incorporationg mechanical movement
  • Designing a solar collector, a device that helps to understand how to harvest energy from the sun and convert it into electricity
  • Assembling a digital instrument

The lab is equipped with state-of-the-art technology, such as:

  • 3-D printers
  • Mills
  • Laser cutter 
  • Foam cutter
  • Design tools and engineering software enabling students to create, produce, and build unique designs and prototypes.

About Design Thinking

We guide our students through the design thinking process. A problem-solving strategy developed by the Stanford University product design department and formalized by the Stanford, the process incorporates design-thinking principles and technology, with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).

Design thinking projects encourage the development of creativity and innovation skills by integrating discovery activities such as researching, observing, exploring, collecting information, experimenting and building.

The design team develops pedagogical strategies showing how the design thinking cycle supports projects in any curricular area. Implementing design thinking in the classroom provides an opportunity to couple the Sciences and Arts, using methods and principles from each in the design process. It offers a cross-disciplinary curriculum in which students are forced to think across disciplines in order to become better innovators and designers.

Design Tech Classes

Grade 9 Research and Design

Ninth-grade students combine creativity, technology, and essential skills in the Research and Design class. The year-long course offers students a project-based approach to learning the design process and the technology required for Industrial and Engineering design. Students design projects from ideation to creation using the technology in the Design Lab, including 3D printers, an industrial mill, and a laser cutting machine. They also learn how to navigate essential software and web-based apps, how to blog with style, and how to do basic programming and coding.

An important aspect of the 9th-grade class is the integration of cross-curriculum subjects and themes within the projects. The course is offered in a blended learning environment, allowing students to personalize their learning and make connections in their world. The course also provides students with opportunities to achieve mastery in many skills required for college and career readiness. Additionally, the course is a foundation for students as they progress in their academic path at International High School, either in the IB or the French Bac curriculum.

Grade 10 IB Design Tech Elective

This UC-approved Design Tech course is offered as one of the Arts electives in 10th-grade. The program helps foster a community of interdisciplinary, experimental, innovative and forward-looking thinkers engaging in design and technology with a strong focus in science. Core concepts explored in the IB Design Tech program include:

  • The design cycle
  • Product and industrial design
  • Environmental design
  • Product innovation and architecture
  • Knowledge of materials
  • Strategies for product development and evaluation
Grade 11 IB Design Tech Class

The 11th-grade IB Design Tech class was launched in the fall of 2016. Students are introduced to cutting-edge tools and equipment and participate in a variety of workshops at community-based makerspace, TechShop San Francisco. 

Workshops include:

  • Woodworking
  • Vacuum forming machinery
  • Metalworking 
  • Welding
  • Computer-controlled (CNC) ShopBot machinery
  • Waterjet cutters

About the Design Tech Team

At French American and International High School, we believe that new learning strategies puts the design thinking process at the core of the curriculum in order to develop critical thinking. Design Tech works closely with all academic departments within the school, including Science, Arts, and English, in addition to collaborating with librarians. 

Barbara Abecassis, Design Tech & Art Teacher
A French native and a bilingual educator, Barbara Abecassis has spent the last 15 years working as an architect in San Francisco. A multidisciplinary and lead designer, collaborative and pedagogical thinker, Barbara has many years of experience developing innovative design solutions for educational and professional users.

Rob Cowen, Physics & Design Tech Teacher
Rob has a Master's degree in Engineering from Durham University, England, specializing in electrical engineering and renewable energy. For four years after university, Rob worked in London as a building services design engineer for a global consultancy firm. Following this, he retrained as a physics teacher and spent five years teaching in northwest London. He is now teaching IGCSE and IB Physics, and IB Design Technology at French American International School.

Patrick Ester, Technology Integration Specialist
Patrick spent eight years working at the international schools in Boston and Dallas before joining the French American International School. Patrick earned an MA in French in 2007 and an MA in Emerging Media and Communication 2015. He is currently the Technology Integration Specialist for grades 4 to 9.

Xavier Le Renard, Lab Assistant
In 2007, Xavier Le Renard earned his Master's Degree in Architecture while in Nantes, France. After coming to San Francisco in 2008, he taught Architecture as an elective to middle school students. He is currently the Lab Technician at French American International School and teaches design and tech classes.


International High School

150 Oak Street

San Francisco, CA 94102-5912

Phone: 415.558.2000

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An independent Pre-K through 12th grade co-educational day school in the heart of San Francisco. The school delivers a rigorous bilingual (French/English) immersion program through middle school, culminating in either French Baccalaureate or International Baccalaureate program in its International High School.

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