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CAST Tech moving forward to become first high school in nation to offer UX track

CAST Tech photo
CAST Tech was featured on KSAT’s Blake’s Brainiacs on Aug. 24 for two “firsts.” In addition to being the first high school in the nation with a UX pathway, CAST Tech also is the first high school in the state to be Red Hat certified, an endorsement for cybersecurity. Watch the news segment.

When CAST Tech opened its doors in the fall of 2017, students knew they were going to be getting a unique, technology-focused education. And now in its second year, the school, with the help of industry partners, is moving forward to become the first high school in the nation to offer a track in UX.

Short for ‘user experience,’ the track is described as the overall experience the user has with using or interacting with anything from a web site, mobile app, to a customer service department. UX includes many facets from information architecture, visual design to the psychology of the consumer just to name a few.

“Google Classroom is a perfect example of UX in action,” said Belinda Medellin, technology teacher at CAST Tech. “The site design is extremely clean and functional, and Google is constantly working to improve the site based on user recommendations and interactions. It is not just about a site that looks good; it is about keeping users engaged and incorporating research into the site’s design and functionality.”

Medellin was originally hired to teach Digital Art and Animation, but through a classroom project saw that she needed to expand the school’s curriculum so that her students would be marketable for well-paid jobs upon graduation. 

“Last spring we did a project-based learning unit in my digital animation class, and it was exploring careers in the digital art field,” said Medellin. “I was showing them how to use job boards like Glassdoor and LinkedIn, and then we went to Salary.com. The kids discovered that the national average for a graphic designer was $35,000.”

Being a single mother herself trying to save money for her child’s college education, Medellin knew that a salary like that was not going to encourage her students to go into the graphic design or animation field. She began researching how she could prepare her students for jobs that could sustain the type of lifestyle that they wanted after high school and college.

“Last January, I started researching how to improve our course offerings and came across UX,” she said. “I reached out to one of CAST Tech’s industry partners and just like that, we had set up four workshops to see if students were interested in and able to ‘get’ UX. They did, and faster than the teachers!”

With student interest and ability established, Medellin incorporated a variety of UX methods and skills into her existing curriculum. And, she is not going to stop there. On Aug. 31, 2018, just a little of a year from when Medellin first had the idea, a group from CAST Tech, USAA, Jungle Disk, and Rackspace gathered together to finalize a new UX track that they plan to present to the Texas Education Agency for approval this fall.

“UX is an area with a tremendous growth opportunity in terms of the industry need, worldwide,” said Amir Samandi, mentorship coordinator at CAST Tech. “Our industry partners were really excited to work with us on this project because the field itself is burgeoning right now.”  

Medellin says that is hard to believe that they have gotten so far in the process of adding a UX track in such a short amount of time, and she says it would not have been possible without the support of her fellow teachers and her principal, Dr. Melissa Alcala.

“I have to say thank you to Dr. Alcala,” said Medellin. “She is such a great leader who lets us try new things for the good of the kids. And the teachers, we are all on the same team and are working together. We want this because it is for the kids, it is not about me, me, me. We are going to create a better San Antonio, together.”