Nine New Developments in IDE

Nine New Developments in IDE
  • Makers
Janice Lewine

As the department continues to offer some of the most innovative learning opportunities at Ravenscroft, we highlight what’s new this fall in Innovation, Design and Engineering.

The Innovation, Design and Engineering Department continues to offer some of the most innovative learning opportunities at Ravenscroft. Through hands-on learning, educational technology and design thinking, students in grades K-12 master critical skills while enhancing their ability to solve real-world problems.

Here, we highlight what’s new in IDE this fall — including faculty members, technology and applications, and opportunities for students in all three divisions to extend their learning.

3 New Faculty

Upper School robotics and engineering teacher James McFarland

Upper School computer science teacher Mariam Elias

Director of Educational Technology Mitchell Carraway

This cross-divisional, interdisciplinary team includes Danny Carlson in the Lower School and Melissa Spainhour, Michelle Nunalee and Aimee McCall in the Middle School. They’ve recently been joined by three new colleagues, each of whom brings their own area of expertise and unique lens to the department’s work in innovation, design and engineering.

  1. James McFarland, who joined the Upper School last fall, teaches Honors Robotics, Honors Engineering and Design & Making and serves as one of the coordinators for the Keim Center’s Innovation Lab. He earned a B.S. in information and logistics technology from Virginia State University and later pursued an M.Ed. in STEM education (engineering/technology) from NC State. He has 10 years of experience in teaching engineering and technology courses.
  2. Mariam Elias joined the Upper School this fall as a computer science teacher, covering courses ranging from the introductory level to honors and AP topics. She has been an instructor at NC State’s College of Education, teaching courses in graphic communication and technology/engineering for four years. She holds a B.S. in technology, design and engineering education (with the highest honor, summa cum laude) and an M.Ed. from NC State and is working on an Ed.D. in learning and teaching in STEM there now.
  3. Leading the IDE Department is Mitchell Carraway, who joined Ravenscroft as Director of Educational Technology in August. He holds a B.A. in elementary education and an M.A. in educational technology from North Carolina Central University. For the past seven years, he worked as Director of Technology at a charter school in Charlotte.

“I’m a teacher at heart, having taught elementary school. I’m excited to jump into this role and work with teachers about incorporating technology in their classroom,” Carraway said. “Ravenscroft is an awesome place to be and a new place to grow.”

3 Expanded Technologies

Clockwise from top left: Lower School students’ designs from TinkerCad were brought to life using 3-D printers; Digital Media II students Layla Wood ’28 and Zuri Settles ’29 created this commercial using WeVideo; an Upper School computer science student learns programming using zyBooks.

The world of technology and innovation is always moving forward. Here are just a few of the tools our students are exploring this fall.

  1. Ravens in all three divisions are benefiting from the recent addition of four 3-D printers to the Keim Center’s Innovation Lab, which allows them to see their work products more quickly — a particular boon for Lower School students as they get excited about what they can produce using Tinkercad, a computer-aided design (CAD) program for 2-D and 3-D dimensions. Some of the products they’ve produced in Danny Carlson’s IDE classes, such as a keychain and book bag tag, are produced in physical form on the printers and laser cutter.
  2. Middle School students in Digital Media II are advancing their skills with the use of WeVideo, an online video editor that not only features easy-to-use editing tools and screen-recording capability but also allows for real-time collaboration. Using their phones to film and edit their digital stories, Ravens have created a “mystery product” commercial, a “Take Me There” video incorporating a green screen, and a five-second video that tells a complete story, from beginning to end.
  3. Upper School computer science students are now using zyBooks, an online tool that uses animations to illustrate complex coding concepts and make learning more engaging. ZyBooks features thousands of questions integrated into the content to help students understand concepts that come to life through animation, and built-in questions offer instant feedback. Ravens are completing project-based assignments using zyBooks.

Elias was instrumental in bringing zyBooks to the Upper School. “The cool thing about zyBooks and using it in programming and coding is that the [integrated development environment] is built in, so they don’t have to use any other environment to code,” she said. Challenge activities, labs and tests are incorporated in zyBooks, which is also linked to Canvas, making it easier for students to complete the coursework.

Joshua Ward ’26, who’s taking Honors Computer Science with Elias, said he found zyBooks to be very helpful. “It explains everything you need to know in relation to the piece of code you are learning about. The challenge activities, participation activities and labs are a fun way for us to get hands-on experience with writing the code we learn about,” he explained. “I wrote a program that plays Rock, Paper, Scissors and enjoyed the challenge of figuring out what code I needed to use to get my program to work.”

3 More Ways to Grow

Clockwise from top left: TDM II students Reyna Williams ’28, Bogi Megyeri ’28 and Ziqi Qiu ’28 assemble projects in the Middle School MakerSpace; in this photo from the 2022-23 school year, Lower School IDE teacher Danny Carlson guides Jax Dudek ’30 and Jude Cafaro ’30 in project work; an Upper School student scrolls through modules and resources available in the AP Microeconomics course on One Schoolhouse.

Throughout the department, innovative programming and access to tools — both cutting-edge and retro — encourage students to stretch their imaginations and think outside the box. “The common thread through the entire program is developing a love for all things innovation,” Carlson said. “There is a strong focus on observation, learning from experiences, identifying problems and developing solutions, and turning good ideas into great ideas.”

  1. Expanding on the knowledge of the design process gained in Think It! Design It! Make It! (TDM I), students in Melissa Spainhour’s TDM II elective designed and built — using power tools, miter boxes and more in the Keim Center Innovation Lab and additional materials in the Middle School MakerSpace — a functional woodworking piece to be used by someone in their home. As Spainhour said, “Students take TDM II because they like to prototype, design and make things with their hands.”
  2. Capstone projects in many of these courses give students the opportunity to synthesize and apply what they have learned across the semester or year. Carlson’s fourth-graders, for example, will be challenged to design what he calls a “contraption” for the lab’s aquarium, while McCall’s Digital Media II students will work as a team to write, film and edit an original six-minute video, which will be screened in Jones Theatre at the end of the semester.
  3. Upper School students looking for opportunities this fall to lean into their passions have had access to a number of asynchronous online courses offered through One Schoolhouse. Ravens in Advanced Seminar: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, for example, are discovering the most effective machine-learning techniques and are gaining practice in implementing them while also examining the ethical issues around AI.

For Chief Technology Officer Louis Tullo, who oversees the strategic alignment of the IDE Department with Ravenscroft’s mission and current strategic plan, these opportunities are a direct outcome of the way the members of the department work, independently and together, to identify opportunities to engage students in meaningful projects and equip them to take their places alongside other innovators of today and tomorrow.

“Ravenscroft is a wonderful community that focuses on people in their own leadership capacity. It’s been great seeing us come together and do some amazing work, which is very much connected to everything that happens in the school,” he said. “That’s the fun thing about working in tech at a school — it’s the glue that holds everything together.”


TDM II student Carter Burns ’29 works in the Middle School MakerSpace to complete the tray he made for his family.

Sometimes, cutting-edge classes incorporate tools with actual cutting teeth!

Expanding on the knowledge of the design process gained in Think It! Design It! Make It! (TDM I), students in TDM II are using their creativity for projects in woodworking, laser cutting, creative fashion, cardboard design and a design of their choice. In their first project, Ravens created a functional woodworking piece to be used by someone in their home. They incorporated the full design process of scaling it on graph paper, using Tinkercad to create a 3-D image of their piece and then building their piece after being introduced to the safety protocols of power tools, miter boxes and more in the Innovation Lab.

“We go through the Ravenscroft design process: discovering, imagining, planning, developing, evaluating, delivering and reflecting,” Spainhour explained. “The purpose of the class is to hit home the design process and to understand what a designer goes through, whether they’re designing a car or a toothbrush.”

Spainhour’s TDM II students shared their thoughts about the course and their recent woodworking project:

“We were tasked to make what a family member wanted and then make a quilling card to deliver the project to the person. What I enjoyed most about my woodworking project was the quilling and building a shelf,” said Chase Freeman ’29.

Riley Shoemaker ’29 said, “I really enjoy the creative work we get to do and learning how to use different tools or materials to design different things. I made a bathtub tray so you could sit in the bath and read, watch a show or just have something to put things on. I enjoyed cutting and painting the most for this project. I found those steps really fun.”

“I had taken TDM I last year, which was a way to be creative and express myself,” said Graham Sundstrom ’29. “I knew that we would create projects of choice in TDM II. Seeing my project come together was a fascinating experience. We used saws, drills, nail guns and more. I loved being able to work with my hands and get the resources and support to solve problems that I face in the real world. For my project, I made a wooden sign.”

Carter Burns ’29 took TDM II because “I love to build things. I made a tray for my mom and me to share at home. It can be used for breakfast in bed or doing homework on the couch. I enjoyed most the designing of my tray and then seeing it in real life. I also enjoyed putting the final vinyl on and adding the handles.”

The bathtub tray Riley Shoemaker ’29 made for her family is proudly displayed in their home.

Above, an Upper School computer science student learns programming using zyBooks, one of the exciting updates in IDE this fall.

Above, the 2022-23 Automated Admiralty team’s robot gets an adjustment.


At Ravenscroft, innovation and philanthropy go hand in hand. Students have gained immeasurably from the generosity of families and supporters who have long supported STEM education.

Varsity Robotics “Controls Their Destiny” With Successful Season (March 21, 2023)

Lower School Innovation Hub “Creates an Amazing Learning Experience”
(Feb. 18, 2022)

Gifts Fund Technology and Classroom Innovation (Fall 2019)

Where Creativity Meets Technology + Resources (Summer 2018)