In January 2018, Design Tech High School (D.Tech for short) — a public charter school with a planned enrollment of 550 students — will open its doors, literally right on Oracle’s Silicon Valley corporate campus.
While the real estate was a donation by the Oracle Education Foundation, under the guidance of Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz, D.Tech founder Ken Montgomery says that the real reason they were hyped to partner with the tech titan was for access to their talent.
“The building is great, but the real resources we’re getting is access to all the Oracle employees and volunteers,” Montgomery said at a media event on the Oracle campus at the D.Tech construction site on Thursday.
As Business Insider previously reported, over 57 Oracle volunteers have already worked with D.Tech students since the school started operating out of its temporary digs in 2014. Projects have included a pickpocket-proof purse, which syncs with a ring the owner wears to determine who’s reaching inside, and soccer shin guards that contain sensors so coaches can create real-time heat maps of player movement.
Notably, says Colleen Cassity, executive director of the Oracle Education Foundation, while D.Tech students get perks like the use of Oracle’s fitness facilities, they take the separation between corporation and education very seriously.
For instance, the company’s volunteers are actually trained to step back if there’s even a remote possibility that any of those student projects are commercially viable — volunteers “waive all patent rights” when they take the gig, she says.
Indeed, she says, it’s already happened once: Oracle volunteers had to recuse themselves after students built something that could one day be a real product. Still, she says, Oracle’s legal department donated their expertise to the students, pro bono, helping them secure their intellectual property rights.
That could be taken as an example of Montgomery’s vision for what makes D.Tech special: The school’s “intersession” program sees the planned curriculum take a two-week break every quarter for students to explore elective classes in fields like photography, robotics, and video game design, taught by professionals, like Oracle employees, in the field.
The idea, Montgomery says, is that in the age of Google, it’s not information that’s at a premium, it’s “taking that information and putting it to action.” To that end, D.Tech is focusing on personalizing each students’ curriculum, guiding them towards the intersession classes that best suit their interests and ambitions. It’s a vision that jibed with Oracle, Montgomery says, deepening this partnership.
The end results are tangible, finished ideas, giving them experience as they go into higher education or their later careers.
“The ones who are doing the beat after high school or after college are the ones who had the chance to create something when they were still in school,” says Montgomery. “That’s what schools should really be focused on.”