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European Innovative Teaching Award

DesignSTEM: e-Tools for the Integrated Education of Design and STEM

School: Kuressaare Ametikool


Topic(s) addressed

Design-intensive industries play a vital role in the EU economy. The European Commission aims to increase the use of design for innovation and growth across Europe; raise awareness of how design-driven innovation increases efficiency in public services and drives business growth; create capacity and competencies to deliver these policies. Education and training both play a fundamental role in achieving the aforementioned objectives as they work towards the internationalisation of education and the growing use of digital learning, while supporting the creation of flexible learning pathways that are in line with learners' needs. The objective of DESIGNSTEM was to contribute to educators and learners in the fields of design and STEM by devising, building, and disseminating work methods and resources; support synergies between education, research, and innovation activities; facilitate the digitisation of quality learning content; and promote the use of ICT as a driver for systemic change in order to increase the quality and relevance of open design and STEM education.

Target groups

The primary target group was design students aged 15-25 from applied/vocational/college design schools, and their teachers aged 25-65. The secondary target group was secondary and vocational school students aged 15-18 studying STEM subjects, and their teachers aged 25-65, with both target groups consisting of Estonian, Finnish, Greek, Dutch, English, German, Italian, Portuguese, and Slovenian participants. The total number of participants was 408, of which 19 were engaged with project management, 137 participated in short-term learning and training activities, and 252 involved with project outputs.


A total of 7 workshops had been organised in the space of 3 years, during which 10 educational organisations had devised, designed, and built DesignSTEM -, an open source, no-sign-in, free web platform (Fachwerk). It was designed and coded specifically for the creation of interactive, user friendly, attractive e-learning objects, such as dynamic mathematics, 3-D models, generative design, VR-experiences and many other code-based interactive elements that can be easily changed, adapted, and shared online. This included approximately 100 interactive components where teachers and students can build custom-made projects plus several interactive "playgrounds," where components can be mixed, matched, and experimented with, plus 5 popular code libraries that are accessible from the components. DesignSTEM was innovative in the sense that it facilitated cooperation among STEM and design field representatives from different education levels (secondary and vocational schools to universities and research centres). Furthermore, DesignSTEM was also innovative with regard to its web platform; although education curriculums and classroom learning methods are undergoing enormous creative disruption, there has yet to be a comparable paradigm shift in e-learning as to the authoring/content creation experience. Furthermore, while web browser technology is advancing at an increasingly faster rate, e-learning content creation often relies on the technologies introduced a decade ago and is unable to capitalise from the new possibilities being offered by the latest browser technologies. As such, DesignSTEM had adopted a radically different approach; the platform was optimised for the very latest Web technology such as real-time communication, connectivity with external devices, using media feeds from web cameras, 3-D modelling, and VR spaces in the browser. The DesignSTEM web platform (called also Fachwerk) provides a glimpse of the future possibilities in education technology, and functions as an ever-advancing platform for the testing of new ideas that may take education to the next level. As such, the DesignSTEM platform aimed to improve authoring experience and content reuse instead of existing e-learning tools. In order to do so, the team needed to learn from communities that use technologies for educational, creative, and exploratory research purposes. Currently, a new version of the platform is already being developed - Visualia.


All DesignSTEM workshops involved teachers and students of host schools. The DM web platform was structured to have two technical layers; in the "lower layer," the Fachwerk web framework supports a wide range of use cases that are not limited to the scope of design/STEM e-learning objects. In the "upper layer" on the other hand, DesignSTEM learning objects function as technical demonstrations of what is possible. There are a number of additional features that the Fachwerk framework provides; for example, music education (the framework contains components to connect musical instruments and sound generation), data visualisation (bringing in external data sources and transforming them into a visual language), real-time communication (learning objects can be connected to each other, providing peer-to-peer communication channels from and to anywhere), a comprehensive suite of 3-D graphics and VR, features to export learning objects such as tangible 3-D-printable objects and tools for teaching computer science topics such as data structures and state management.


DesignSTEM’s partners identified and mapped 320 of the best methods, tools, and case studies for the teaching of design and STEM subjects:, which facilitated the gaining of new knowledge and skills in design and STEM teaching (5E model; individual, societal and vocational relevance of STEM; prototyping; integrated education; e-learning; new trends in interactive STEM and design resources). Each partner authored at least 1 long-term e-learning project and also contributed to many others while working with approximately 100 design and STEM concepts/principles that are relevant to graphic design, multimedia design, 3-D design, decorator-stylist craft, textile craft, leather craft, ceramics and pottery, woodworking, and furniture and interior design. Furthermore, each partner brought (to the first workshop in Helsinki) 100 STEM/design concepts that were narrowed down to 50; designed and developed approximately 15 long e-learning projects for 50 design and STEM concepts; and composed approximately 75 short-term exercises and tasks for integrated design and STEM lessons.


The project’s impact on participants, participating organisations, and target groups during and after the project saw improved knowledge and skills among teachers as to the teaching of integrated design and STEM subjects; improved knowledge and skills among students and graduates on design and STEM concepts following their use of the e-toolkit; better student employability due to their enhanced knowledge and skills; and, new knowledge for partner organisations on education in other EU countries and new contacts for further co-operation. The project’s impacts on relevant stakeholders include the e-toolkit which will be available to all design schools, vocational schools, secondary schools, colleges, and organisations in order to promote design, STEM, e-learning, and innovative educational tools across partner countries and in the EU, while contributing in the long run to better skilled and educated employees for EU companies.
The project’s results reached target groups via out-of-house tests, seminars, camps, conferences, academic papers, and the media. The feedback received was positive and enthusiastic – for example, the Estonian Academy of Arts has shown interest in using the project's framework as an e-learning platform for the EAA Open Academy. Another case is that of the Science Centre of Tartu University, which is using the platform for the development of e-learning projects in its new Erasmus+ Strategic co-operation project "Evidence," towards fostering science-based decision-making in schools on health issues (viruses, radiation, etc.). The German partner was also asked by the Ministry of Education to provide teacher trainings based on DesignSTEM, and, the Kuressaare Regional Training Centre is currently using the platform on a daily basis to build educational materials (teachers) and portfolios (students).

Project category
  • VET schools
Project year
  • 2021



Faculty of Information Studies




HMC College


ITT Buonarroti-Pozzo


Middlesbrough College

United Kingdom

Polytechnic Institute of Braganca


The LUMA Centre of Helsinki University


Tartu Art School


University of Piraeus Research Centre (UPRC)