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Solution Assessment—“It’s a Problem”

By Matthew Abbondanzio, assistant head of school for design and innovation
Some days I feel cursed. I can’t help it. It’s constant and uncontrollable. I have to admit it. I have a problem. I am addicted to assessing solutions around us. I can’t go into a store without touching everything. My wife will be on task picking up the items we came in for, and I will be two aisles over examining a new product on the shelf.
You remember that package you picked up last night that some unconscionable person already opened? Well, that was me. I have to see how these things are made and question the need that it is solving. My wife listens to me rant about the inaneness of the Scrub Daddy, the ridiculousness of a drive-able suitcase scooter (yes, this exists) or why a designer thought that it was a good idea to put a bottle opener on the bottom of a men’s sandal that will inevitably be walked into a public bathroom.

As critical as I am of some solutions, I am in awe of amazing, thoughtful and elegant solutions. For example, the Toro Tissue Ring by Vessel, a now-defunct home goods design company, is a beautiful polished chrome ring that sits on a pile of tissues allowing you to pull a single tissue through the ring merely by its weight. The Rinser Brush has won several international design awards. It is a toothbrush with a simple molded feature in the handle that reverses the direction of falling water from the faucet to make a water fountain for rinsing.

During spring break, I stayed at a hotel in Vancouver that has no buttons in the elevator. Outside the bank of five elevators is a touchpad to enter your desired floor. Based on the current positions and destinations of all of the elevators, it selects the most efficient one for you, puts your floor in the queue and tells you which elevator will be yours. It wasn’t until I experienced this new system that I realized just how disconcerting the lack of buttons inside an elevator can be and how much trust I put into the standard elevator interface that could very easily be wired to be as effective as a Fisher-Price® Bubble Mower.

Though I am a little extreme when it comes to the solutions—the innovations—that exist around us, the goal of the Innovation Lab at LJCDS is to instill a perspective in our students to examine the world around them. The team that spans all divisions is dedicated to teaching our students to understand why things are the way they are, question the norm and develop the skills to develop elegant, effective solutions that will change the world.

We have had some great success in the past, and this year is no different. Students like Anthony Altala ’20 and Emiliano Padilla ’20 are creating a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system to help parents in Lower School sign out their students more efficiently. Ryan Castanon ’19, Nick Clark ’20 and Ken Lew ’20 are designing and building a Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) milling machine from scratch. Valentina Ricardo ’19 is developing an ethically sourced clothing app that allows shoppers to learn in real time about the working conditions of the factories that are making the clothing that they are viewing.

If your child hasn’t taken one of our courses yet, please encourage your child to do so. It will change 
our lives.


La Jolla Country Day School

9490 Genesee Avenue
La Jolla, CA 92037

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