Engineering & Design Lab

Established in 2013 to encourage and foster community using creativity and new technologies across diverse curriculums, GA’s Engineering & Design Lab (EDL) is a space for taking ideas and bringing them to form as STEM, art and design, and humanities projects. In addition to integrated projects, students from all divisions are offered STEAM-focused programs and courses, and “making” is an integral part of our girls’ learning at school. Our courses engage students in the process of building something from the bottom up, while solving problems, experimenting with new ideas, and learning from mistakes.

How We Teach

Equipped with high- and low-tech tools to “think” with, students’ understanding of various math, design, science, computer science, and art concepts is enhanced through project-based work. The knowledge structure of the lab is democratic—information is shared as solutions are explored together. Students engage all areas of thinking and learning by combining real-world skills and problem solving with the creative process. All students in our Upper School Creative Technologies and E&D course offerings track their learning and process in a maker portfolio.


The EDL is a fully-equipped, digital fabrication space with machines which include 3D printers, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, and CNC machines, where the digital and physical worlds to come together enabling students to design for the future. In addition to digital manufacturing capabilities, our space offers carpentry and hand-building tools, microcontrollers, electronics, and a wide variety of materials for building. Students and faculty across divisions have access to the space and support for their projects.

Program Overview

Lower School

  • Group IV Greenwich Academy Makers and Engineers: For the yearlong GAMES project, fourth graders create toys for their Group I “Little Sisters”

  • Group III Birdhouse Building
  • Group I Tinkering Minds: Students engage in hands-on experiences with tinkering, failing, readjusting their strategies, being creative, critical thinking and finding alternative solutions to problems. The focus is on learning by trial and error.

Middle School

  • Imagine, Design, Build: This class focuses on the intersection of 2D and 3D approaches in art to help students develop their design, building, and spatial skills. This technical art elective uses design and digital fabrication machines, like the laser and 3D printers for creating art.
  • Synth Lab: In this elective, students design and decorate the case for an electronic musical keyboard using a laser cutter and 3D printers. They then hand-wire the electronic circuits, learning some electronic theory and troubleshooting skills along the way.
  • Tinker Club: This team of middle schoolers meets weekly for open building, tinkering, and creating.

Upper School

  • Art and Code: This elective uses algorithms to create art. The intersection of creative coding and machine expressions come together in this course.
  • Digital to Form: A class dedicated to prototyping and building sculpture and full-scale furniture using the laser cutter and CNC machines.
  • 3D Design for Fabrication: This elective dives deep into STEAM concepts through fabrication for 3D production. 3D modeling, 3D printing, mold making, and making using experimental materials for digital fabrication are covered in this course.
  • Creative Technologies: This elective focuses on physical computing and programming microcontrollers to create interactive art work.
  • Honors Engineering and Design I: Inventor’s Workshop: This course invites innovation, creativity, and invention through fun and whimsical project prompts. Students cover core technical learning in design, building, digital fabrication, creative coding, programming microcontrollers, and electronics.
  • Honors Engineering and Design II: Inventions That Make Life Better: In this course students engage with the cyclical engineering design processes to come up with solutions to problems they care about and have impact outside of the school walls.

Erin Riley is the Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Jackson Director of the Engineering and Design Lab at Greenwich Academy, where she teaches classes and facilitates projects with faculty at the intersection of engineering, design, and art. Additionally she teaches a studio course in Creative Technologies at Columbia University’s Teachers College in the Department of Art and Art Education. Erin is among the first cohort of Senior FabLearn Fellows at Stanford University where she writes on the topic of maker education and curriculum design, and creates tools and resources for educators. During the summer, Erin works with middle school-age students on STEAM projects at REACHPrep, an educational access organization for underserved students. Erin holds an MFA from Maryland Institute College of Art and has a forthcoming book, The Art of Digital Fabrication, from Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.