Industrial Design alum’s unique approach wins major teaching award

Peter Wachtel (Industrial Design, 1990) was recently awarded $50,000 for winning the 2019 Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence in Product Innovation and Architecture.

Wachtel teaches product innovation, design, and architecture at Adolfo Camarillo High School in Camarillo, California. Since joining the school three years ago, he’s reimagined an out-of-date woodshop program and created his school’s product design and innovation pathway, which has since been adopted by 40 other high schools across the country. His curriculum combines manufacturing and building trades with arts and entertainment, while the coursework is dual-articulated with several community and state colleges and aligned with the needs of businesses and the local carpenters’ union.

The HFTS award program also noted that Wachtel’s approach, which emphasizes creativity, draws students from every grade, and the number of female students quadrupled from eight to 32 in two years. Roughly 90 percent of Wachtel’s students pursue further education, studying engineering, architecture, design and trades. Wachtel was also a semifinalist for the prize in 2018.

Following graduation with his bachelor’s degree from CCAD in 1990, Wachtel earned his master’s degree from the Pratt Institute and taught at Parsons School of Design, Otis School of Design and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He also worked as a designer and inventor for Mattel, Six Flags, Universal Studios, and other companies.


Read more about the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools award, Peter Wachtel’s career, and his profound influence on his students here.