Making Makers
Sandia Prep's DesignLab is a community-oriented makerspace where science, engineering, technical, and visual art enthusiasts meet regularly to share, explore, innovate, and collaborate using textiles, electronic hardware, manufacturing tools, and programming techniques.

The DesignLab is home to DareDevil Design, Entrepreneurial Studies and Innovation, Engineering, and two new courses: Architectural Studies and Product Design.

Together, these courses involve students in myriad competitions and challenges. The alliance among engineering, art, and design becomes evident to students through such projects as:

  • Designing cityscapes for the National Future City Competition
  • Conceptualizing assistive technology solutions to increase the economic mobility and earning potential of people with disabilities
  • Visualizing efficient and environmentally friendly furniture based on biomimicry
  • Two-week hack-a-thons that ask student teams to solve contemporary issues, such as challenges to virtual learning and what a post-COVID restaurant might look like
  • Under Global Goal 2: Zero Hunger, students are designing a vertical, affordable garden to allow low-resources families to grow their own food, thereby achieving food security and improved nutrition.

  • A resource that creates the opportunity to put theory into application, where failure is a welcomed component and there is no penalty to fail
  • A place for engaging learners in creative, higher-order problem solving through hands-on design, construction, and iteration; one that facilitates experimental play that engages students
  • A community workspace for budding artists, craftspeople, engineers, makers, hobbyists and hardware developers
  • A movement to empower students as creators and tinkerers

The DesignLab includes:
  • 3D printers
  • Laser-cutter equipment
  • Auto-CAD software
  • Woodworking tools
  • CNC router
  • Mobile workstations
  • Cricut Maker
  • BIBO dual-extruder/laser engraver 3D printer
  • Makyu Form Box
  • and much more!

  • To provide innovative tools, so that students can develop ideas and try implementing them
  • To act as an incubator; a space where students can go to learn the skills to create things and have access to the tools necessary to create them
  • To balance social interaction with individual exploration, while keeping students close enough together to inspire each other with ideas
  • To partner with other programs and groups on campus, such as science, art, and broadcasting

DareDevil Design
A workshop environment where students (in a 6th-grade course and a 7th-grade course) engage in creative, critical, and constructive processes to develop products, ideas, and projects to help communities. Daredevil Design will participate in nation-wide challenges such as the Future City Competition, in nonprofits such as the Lantern Project, and endeavors with local organizations. Students conduct a “Presentation of Learning” to demonstrate their skills, understanding, and growth.

Entrepreneurial Studies and Innovation
A senior capstone course that develops an entrepreneurial mindset and teaches problem-solving skills that are essential to a student’s success later in life. The course provides students an opportunity to work with Albuquerque entrepreneurs, who present real-world business problems outlined in a scope of work, complete with hard deliverables and deadlines. Having done research, conducted customer interviews, and worked as a team to devise a solution, the students pitch their solutions directly to the business CEOs. In the fourth and final project, students work together to devise a concept for a business and pitch it “Shark Tank”-style to real investors.

Architectural Studies
This class is based around the three main principles of architecture- form, function, and material. Students will explore a brief history of architecture and how it impacts our lives on a daily basis, and how we can use architecture to improve our lives with minimal environmental impact. Students will design, sketch, render, and fabricate an architectural structure that shows aesthetics in its form, serves its function, and considers what materials would be ideal to support their ideas and designs.

Product Design

In this class, students investigate the functionality and aesthetics of common objects and challenge themselves to improve them using design thinking and craftsmanship. Students explore the function, form, and materiality of certain objects and products, and learn through brainstorming, sketching, and creating prototypes as well as innovating real-life solutions and using the design process to demonstrate problem-solving, and artistic solutions.


In 2014, a handful of members of the Sandia Prep faculty got together to discuss how to steer our successful educational institution in a direction that upheld the high standards and rigors of a well-rounded, academic curricula, but regain and embrace at its core what students are all about: being children, curiosity, and play.  

2014: This was the premise: Standardized testing, lectures followed by exams, and vocabulary quizzes that were more about short-term memory than understanding words and language conditioned 21st-century students to “get it right.” Instead of asking, “Can I do it this way?” or “Can I try to solve it my way?” students were constantly inundating teachers with such questions as, “Is this right?”, “Is this want you want?”, and “What do I have to do to get an ‘A’ in this class?” Along the way, young learners had suppressed their curiosity and creativity and replaced them with the anxiety of failure. Our small cohort of educators was exasperated since this was neither teaching nor learning. It was time for an environment where students could unlearn how to be good at school and become better at failing.

Sandia Prep’s Autonomous Creative Environment, or SPACE, opened its doors at the start of 2015 school year as a place for students to explore and tinker, the first of its kind in a local school. From carpentry to electronics and circuitry, to 3D printing and hackspaces, SPACE invited students to come during their free periods and enjoy the opportunity to create and collaborate, but most importantly, to fail. Since it was not a formal class, students felt much more comfortable with trying new things and working with previously unknown materials and tools. For two years, SPACE served as the school’s makerspace as well as the center for teachers to bring their students to work on larger, more intensive building projects.

At the end of each school year, the evidence was clear: Under the intrinsic motivation of creating for fun without the fear of failing, students were much more productive and likely to explore topics and themes outside of their comfort zones. 

For the next couple of years, faculty took the SPACE model and worked on developing a more structured program. From these endeavors, the school introduced robotics and later a complete grade 8-12 engineering program. Using the engineering design process, students explored the principles of engineering and incorporating the experience of failure into their learning.

In 2017, Prep launched DareDevil Design as a design-thinking program for grades 6 and 7. The two-year program, repeatable, asked a simple yet powerful question: How can we make the world a better place by making for others? Prep added the step of empathy to the design process. By implementing this step, students conducted research through interview to understand the needs of others. On the other end, in grade 12, Entrepreneurial Studies and Innovation (ESI) gave seniors a more elaborate method: Through interaction with local startup companies, students helped companies with their most pressing problems. Both DareDevil Design and ESI’s curricula hinged on the idea of Purpose-Based Learning -- having students participate in solving real-world problems by working alongside real-world experts. 

The SPACE’s influence continued to evolve, and by 2019, the program was ready to encompass a growing number of disciplines and educators who craved collaboration on projects and challenges. The result of many conversations, the DesignLab @ Sandia Prep centered on existing objectives of making the world a better place and purpose-based learning but expanded its vision to adopt the Global Goals for Sustainable Development.

These goals, created in 2015, have the power to create a better world by 2030, by ending poverty, fighting inequality, and addressing climate change. Integrating social, economic, and environmental advancement, these goals represent the most ambitious agreement for sustainable development that world leaders have ever made.