Computer Aided Design

This semester CAD students are learning different design programs, and how to work with clients to bring an idea to its finished product. This post features four students from Mark McElroy and Justin Marslender’s class. Here they share why they are enrolled in CAD, and talk about their first individual design project. Later in the semester, we’ll check in with the group as they redesign common space for high school students.


CAD Jenny
Jenny, grade 9

Jenny loves work with a purpose. She is interested in engineering, and is comfortable with computers and design. During middle school, Jenny found a knack for robotics and other programming tasks. Scheduling her freshman year, CAD was open. Her first project was one of the most challenging 3D prints in the class, but for good reason. Jenny created a nameplate for Sharon Surette, a middle school science teacher who needed not only a nameplate, but a way to organize her desk. Because Ms. Surette enjoys birding, Jenny designed a bird nest with tiny egg shell cups to hold paper clips or erasers.

One of the best parts of working with clients is getting ideas that don’t come to my own mind. I am given a purpose [in designing] and that motivates me.
– Jenny

CAD Nest nameplateThe nameplate was so delicate Jenny had to be careful as she trimmed the product. When leaves and twigs forming the nest broke, she had to glue the pieces in place. Part of working in the design process is returning to a client for additional feedback. Showing Ms. Surette the 3D print, Jenny asked what she might improve before calling the product finished. After a few brushes of paint, the nest was ready for Ms. Surette’s desk.

Kazuha is interested in design and joined the class to learn more about available design programs. Her father works in computer programming so she sees similar work at home, but she is now interested in taking a concept through its iterations in a program to a final, physical product.

CAD Kazuha
Kazuha, grade 10

Kazuha designed a nameplate for Steve Mullins, a high school learning support teacher. When Kazuha arrived at KIS last year, she began working with Mr. Mullins to learn the English language. Knowing Mr. Mullins well helped Kazuha when she asked for his input on a design. She believes a client needs to be honest about his or her wants. The challenge was how to incorporate all the elements in a single nameplate: Mr. Mullins loves the yin yang symbol, the color orange, the number fifty-five, and nature.

Reflecting on designing, Kazuha says she values simplicity so it is no surprise that Mr. Mullins’s nameplate is one of the cleanest 3D prints of the class.

CAD Michael
Michael, grade 11

Since Michael was a child, he liked to build, draw and design. He joined the CAD class because he expects the concepts to be useful beyond this semester, even into his university studies. He is hoping to pursue medical school or bioengineering, fields which require the ability to observe and be open to different solutions. Michael practiced these traits while working with his nameplate client, high school associate principal Anthony Poullard.

The thinking process – Stanford Design Thinking – is fascinating. Having a name for what you’ve been doing validates the process.
– Michael

Though the final product was not quite what Mr. Poullard had in mind, Michael accepted the feedback. There’s some pressure to satisfy the client, Michael says, You have to be willing to change things. You also have to be comfortable giving advice.

What I want to do is software design. I’m working on my portfolio now and it’s all drawing, 2D, but I need to learn the programming.
– Stella

CAD Stella
Stella, grade 12

Stella is planning to major in design next year. She is interested in computer graphics and product design, and has made good use of her elective options at KIS, taking a variety of art and graphics classes. Stella appreciates the freedom in CAD class. Here she can try a lot of ideas, and when working with clients, she needs that flexible approach. Stella is most interested in efficiency and convenience, helping people navigate the world.

She designed a nameplate for Spencer Selbo, one of her high school art teachers. The printing was messy, she she had to glue broken parts back together before delivering the piece to Mr. Selbo. Her design may be inspired by Mr. Selbo’s ideas, but the finished product also reflects Stella’s own appreciation of simplicity.


Thank you Mark McElroy, Justin Marslender, and all CAD students for opening your class. Mike Bycraft teaches a second section of CAD as well.

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