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Middle Schoolers Design for a Better World

By Dan Lenzen, assistant director of the Innovation Lab
In Design and Innovation, Middle School students redesigned pipette and test tube holders for the La Jolla Institute for Immunology.
Middle School students in the Product Design elective partnered with La Jolla Institute for Immunology to help solve a need. The scientists were in search of a uniquely-designed pipette and test tube holder. Who better to charge with this challenge than students of the Innovation Lab?

La Jolla Institute is a world leader in immunology research and is San Diego’s only research institution focused solely on solving immune system diseases. Its mission is to improve human health and fight diseases, including type 1 diabetes, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and asthma, through cutting-edge immunology research.

For the first time, Middle School students in Design and Innovation partnered with an outside organization to solve a problem. Currently, in the market, there are overly specialized storage containers that do not use space efficiently and are intended for mass storage, not actual usage, which do not fit the needs of La Jolla Institute.

In the elective, students learned the principles of 3D modeling and the challenges of building parts with 3D printers. They used SolidWorks, a professional level 3D modeling software. These skills were applied directly to the project.

In addition to learning software tools, students spent several weeks undergoing an iterative process of defining the problem, sketching possibilities, modeling and 3D printing. Throughout the six-week process, they tested their development with the users and received feedback from the scientists and refined their products based on the critique. Culminating the project, scientists from La Jolla Institute and the LJCDS staff judged the students’ designs on a variety of criteria, including stability, fittings and aesthetic appeal.

“The innovation that the students brought to the pipette/tube holder project was astounding,” shares Paola Marcovecchio, microscopy specialist at La Jolla Institute. “The students showed how exceptionally talented they are by the precision of the fittings and the out-of-the-box designs they came up with. The class as a whole displayed some really artistic and mature designs, and we are excited to implement these holders in our lab space.”

The 3D model files are online at the NIH 3D Print Exchange, Thingiverse and on the Innovation Lab website (www.innovation-education.com). The models are currently being tested in La Jolla Institute’s labs and are viewable in the display case in front of the Innovation Lab.


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