iDesign-M at Laney College

July 16, 2012

“Taking this class makes me think that what I’m learning is useful,” says Sonia Xu of Alameda High. “I actually got to use some of the math I learned in school here. It was kind of weird to use the stuff I learned.” Sonia is one of 18 high school students taking part in the Laney College Machine Technology department’s iDesign-M summer program.  High school students from around the Bay Area signed up for the free, two-week concurrent enrollment program at the college in Oakland, California. Through the program students have the opportunity to work with their hands, create something using machining equipment, all while earning college credit.

“Our hope is to introduce students to the world of making things.” says Peter Brown, a machine technology department instructor. “We have to draw their imaginations in. We do that by offering a project that they get to take home with them. Something that sparks their imagination and gets them thinking.”

Some students designed metal cars, some designed a small tank, others a rocket ship, one student made a Christmas tree. Then it’s time to bring their designs to life. Using powerful machines that cut hardened metal with violent precision, the students manufacture their designs. On the shop floor instructors and assistant instructors helped the students through the design, scaling, and setting up the machines to determine the cuts.

Rodger Sunday is one of those assistant instructors. He came down from Portland Oregon just to help with this program, “It’s important to give back,” he says. Rodger is a former machine shop student that returns during the summer to be an assistant instructor. And the students clearly respond to instructors like Rodger that were once in their shoes. “These are some good teachers, plus they are in our age range.You can connect with them,” says Eunique James, a recent graduate of Oakland’s Fremont High School who will be off to UC Santa Cruz for school in the fall.

When students apply the math they’ve learned in high school to design and construct their own ideas  the classroom comes alive. Scott Rowland puts it best when he describes the classroom experience as “stepping into the math problem, you’re looking at the graph from a new angle. You’re seeing your metal being cut the way that you draw it on a piece of paper; the way that you want it to be cut. It’s really cool.”

As students used their brooms and brushes to tidy up the shop, it was clear that respect for the workplace was one of the underlying lessons here. Students learn safety first and then how to work the machines, but the most important lesson — preparation and attention to detail leads to respect and success.

For more information on Laneys iDesign summer program visit:

For more information on the Laney Machine Technology department you can visit them at:

iDesgn-M  is sponsored by Laney College, the City College of San Francisco and the California Center for Applied Competitive Technology with major funding from the Bechtel Foundation.

Written by CLP Staff
Photos by Dan Figueroa