Upper School Design Engineering & Computer Science

Our Upper School Design Engineering & Computer Science program, based in the I-Lab, begins with a core curriculum for all ninth graders. All ninth graders begin with one semester of design engineering and one semester of computer science to lay the foundation for the broad array of electives that make up the heart of our Upper School program. In addition, the I-Lab itself serves as a resource for teachers from other disciplines who are interested in integrating hands-on design and engineering projects into their curriculum.

Upper School I-Lab teacher and students gather around the bike they're designing and building.

Ninth Grade Core Curriculum

Ninth graders all take Intro to Design Engineering, where they gain hands-on experience applying strategies and tools of the Design Thinking process to challenges that affect the Nueva community. They also take Introduction to Computer Science which exposes them to programming concepts and languages. Students learn how to program in a modern and industry-relevant programming language (currently Python) and to approach tasks with a programmer’s mindset, fostering both problem-solving skills and practical scripting proficiency.


The core curriculum serves as a launching pad for our elective courses, which cover an incredible breadth of subdisciplines and special topics. These electives range in both focus and rigor, allowing students the unique opportunity to explore the fields of design, engineering, and computer science at an unmatched level. 

Our electives are designed collaboratively by faculty and students, so that our program remains responsive to the current and ever-evolving interests of our community. Examples of elective courses that have been offered in recent years include: 

  • Advanced Programming Workshop
  • Building Electric Bikes
  • CAD for Manufacturing
  • Computer Internals
  • Computer Security
  • Cosplay, Toy Design or Wearables: Introduction to Mechatronics
  • Creature Comforts (Designing Habitats for Rescue Animals)
  • Design Engineering for Social Good
  • Engineering and Fabrication Workshop
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Fabricating your Artistic Vision
  • Functional Programming
  • Introduction and Advanced Machine Learning
  • Introduction to Data Analytics
  • Introduction to Mobile App Development
  • Introduction to Robotics
  • Intro to Virtual Reality Development
  • Object-Oriented Programming
  • Product Design

Co-curricular Opportunities

The I-Lab at the Upper School campus offers open shop hours every day, so students can work on projects outside of class time. Examples projects include a pool table for community use, a video game version of a novel, an app to help students navigate the Nueva class schedule, and an exoskeleton suit to help rescuers lift more weight. Students in our Upper School also have the opportunity to engage with our co-curricular offerings, such as FIRST Robotics and Invention Studio.