Creative design thinking for a complex world

The Innovation, Design, Engineering and Applied Scholarship (IDEAS) program is designed to graduate students with the skills needed to confront challenges found in the study of science, engineering, business and other areas where creativity and problem-solving skills are essential. The objective of each IDEAS course is to learn how to think.

This STEM-based program encourages creative design thinking and engages students through a hands-on approach to innovation, problem solving, teamwork and collaboration. Whether they are designing a house, an electric car or a water system, students learn how to define problems, develop solutions, test their ideas and work as a team in real-world situations.

"The IDEAS program was a big reason I chose the school. I wanted to be able to pursue more applicable STEM courses,” said Margaux Barthelemy ’21, an IDEAS student who helped to design and build a robot and participated in the 2018 FIRST® Robotics Competition as a member of the robotics team.

Classes are designed to be fun, challenging and hands-on, blending experiential learning activities with the use of technology, including CAD and MATLAB software, a 3-D printer and CNC Machine, as well as opportunities for class discussion, brainstorming sessions and field trips. Course selections range from robotics and building design to machine design, where students built a drone, and process plant design, where students built a working scale model of a cogeneration plant. Even if they aren’t taking any IDEAS classes, students have the option of joining the Engineering Club and the IDEAS Center is open for students to work on projects after classes have ended for the day.

“To any makers who are looking for a school that gives them the tools to build anything, their imagination is the limit in the IDEAS Center,” said Riley Pengue ’19, who has taken several IDEAS classes and was also a member of the school’s robotics team.

IDEAS courses will emphasize:
  • The development of a mindset for creative thinking
  • Being creative and innovative when solving problems
  • The importance of attitude, knowledge, imagination, and evaluation when finding solutions
  • The principles for improving divergent thinking - how to brainstorm, make connections, link ideas and work "outside the box"
  • Methods to be a creative thinker
  • How to define problems and determine their limits
  • Techniques for presenting solutions
  • Working as a member of a multifunctional team
  • Time management, scheduling, and tracking progress
  • Organizing meetings, keeping records, and generating action lists
  • Monitoring costs to build and operate machines, systems and processes

Courses Offered in 2018/2019

List of 9 items.

  • Innovation & Engineering

    The objective of this IDEAS course is to learn how to define a problem, develop solutions, be innovative, think outside the box, document and present ideas, and work as a team.  Students will work in teams to complete challenges such as building pressurized air rockets and a rocket launcher, a remote control car, a water filter, a wind tunnel, and other similar projects. Teams will be given a description of the challenge, criteria used to measure success, and will then design, build and test their solution.
  • Robotics I and II (Automation Engineering)

    The objective of this I.D.E.A.S. course is to learn how robots function.  Students will learn how sensors collect information, how extenders work to move in one to six axes, how end effectors complete the task, how the drive provides power, and how a controller that is programmed to do the assigned task runs the whole thing.  We will be building a robot as a team to enter the FIRST® Robotics Competition, while at the same time learning how to define a problem, develop solutions, be innovative, think outside the box, document and present ideas, and work as a team. Same basic course as Robotics I, with students expected to be working at a higher level and leading the Robotics I students.
  • Machine Design I

    The objective of this IDEAS course is to learn how machines operate. We will look at electric motors, simple machines, and other mechanical devices in order to understand how they work. Students will be introduced to the field of mechanical engineering.  The primary project will be the design and fabrication of a machine selected by the students.
  • Introduction to AutoCAD

    The objective of this IDEAS course is to learn to use Autodesk software packages AutoCAD and Inventor. Students will spend most of their time on the generation of 2-D and 3-D drawings of various objects, machines and structures.  This course will benefit any student interested in taking any of the other I.D.E.A.S. courses as it provides a tool that can be used to improve the speed and quality of any design.
  • Introduction to MATLAB

    The objective of this IDEAS course is to introduce MATLAB, a high-performance language for technical computing that involves the integration of computation, visualization, and programming in an easy-to-use environment where problems and solutions are expressed in familiar mathematical notation. We will use data collected from various sources to explore the functionality of this software.  MATLAB is used in many university courses and in the industry to allow users to understand large amounts of data.
  • Water Systems Design (Environmental Engineering)

    The objective of this IDEAS course is to learn about various aspects of water and wastewater treatment, and associated distribution and collection systems.  Students will be introduced to the field of civil and environmental engineering.  We will carry out extensive testing of the drinking water on campus, learn and document where and how much water is used, examine system components to understand how they function, review the regulations around drinking and wastewater, and make suggestions for improvements.  We will also spend time touring local water and wastewater plants, and assembling a reverse osmosis system similar to that used for desalination and high purity water production.
  • Building Design I (Architecture)

    The objective of this IDEAS course is to design a structure of the future, creating a unique building that will include a layout and architectural features that meet the end user requirements. Students will be introduced to the field of architecture.  As a team they will develop a plan that is attractive, functional, innovative, energy efficient, and full of modern conveniences. They will monitor cost in order to meet the owner’s budget. Although the primary objective is to develop a design, at the same time students will be learning how to define a problem, develop solutions, be innovative, think outside the box, document and present ideas, and work as a team. This course includes learning to use Autodesk Revit software for any student who has or is taking Intro to AutoCAD.
  • Construction Management

    The Gunnery is constructing the new Arts & Community Center on campus with most of the work being done during the 2018/2019 school year. We are offering a unique opportunity for a small group of students to be involved in the design and management activities for this project.  Students will learn all aspects of construction management from observing trades, attending coordination meetings, understanding how cost and schedule are maintained, and all aspects of Green Building design. They will develop a brochure on the structure’s features, design passive graphics to be installed at various locations to inform visitors of the building’s high points, write procedures that will be used to maintain this building, prepare and present progress updates to the school community.  Students will work with the building management contractor to develop active graphics that will be used to display the current operation of the building. These graphics, which will be displayed on monitors located at key locations in the building, will also provide information on activities and other information of interest to the community. Please contact Mr. Blaustein for further details.
  • Process Plant Design

    The objective of this IDEAS course is to design all aspects of a typical manufacturing plant such as a beverage bottler, an automated warehouse, or a similar type of facility.  Students will be introduced to the field of chemical engineering.  Students will produce piping & instrumentation diagrams (P&ID), flow charts, floor plans, process and utility equipment requirements, specifications, and requests for quote, a manufacturing plan, and other associated documents.  They will learn to define a problem, develop solutions, be innovative, think outside the box, document and present ideas, and work as a team.  This is a very challenging course, but it is also a fun opportunity to be innovative while learning about the engineering process.
One goal of the IDEAS program is to provide students with opportunities and experiences (including field trips) that encourage further study and motivate them to enter engineering or related fields in college. During the 2017-2018 academic year, IDEAS students visited:
  • Kohn Pedersen and Fox architects, New York
  • U.S. Army 1109th Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group (TASMG), New London
  • Naval Submarine Base, New London
  • Town of Washington Fire Department
  • Gowans-Knight, fire apparatus and equipment, Watertown
  • City of Waterbury Water Treatment Plant
  • City of Waterbury Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • Automated Materials Handling, Bridgeport
  • Quantum Biopower, Southington
  • City Bench, Higganum
  • Fairfield University’s cogeneration plant

The Gunnery

gps address: 22 Kirby Road, Washington, CT 06793
mail address: 99 Green Hill Road, Washington, CT 06793
tel: 860-868-7334
Contact Us
Founded in 1850 by abolitionist, educator, and outdoorsman Frederick Gunn, The Gunnery is a coeducational college preparatory boarding and day school for students in grades 9 through 12/post-graduate. Dedicated teacher-mentor-coaches challenge students to reach their full potential in a home-like setting where character and citizenship are valued as much as intellect and achievement. Individualized attention and high expectations help young learners develop not only the skills and confidence they will need in college, but also the moral compass and love of learning that will serve them well in life. The school attracts ambitious, academically curious students who will both shine as unique individuals and thrive as contributing members of a deeply connected community. By the time they graduate, Gunnery students have become well rounded, grounded young adults with a sharpened sense of who they are and who they want to become.