By Matthew Abbondanzio, assistant head of school for design and innovation
Read how far the Innovation Lab has grown and what the future holds.
The Innovation Lab at La Jolla Country Day School is celebrating its fourth year in existence, and I couldn’t be more proud of what the students and innovation team have accomplished.
We have come a long way from our humble beginnings of just one teacher, a couple of courses and a single room with only a few tools. We now have a full-time staff of seven dedicated individuals who serve nearly 75 percent of the student body. There is a dedicated Lower School innovation lab, Middle School computer lab, robotics lab and virtual reality/computer lab. In the last several years, we’ve expanded the capabilities of our main lab with more equipment, including our student-built laser cutter in 2015. Students are currently creating a CNC milling machine so we can program the cutting of aluminum and steel into shapes. The opposite of a 3D printer but with metal.
What differentiates us from other schools are our educators and students and their commitment and accomplishments.
Lower School computer science and innovation educator Andrea Flagiello teaches our youngest students how to adapt to and learn from new software, text-based code and program robots through LEGO’s EV3. Students also learn the basics of electronics and mechanics.
In Middle School, Jeremy Bank, a degreed aeronautical engineer, teaches fifth- and sixth-graders Java coding. Bob Simon joined us this year to teach seventh- and eighth-graders the basics of the lab equipment. Luna Kim is also new to the team. She is a UX designer and developer who teaches seventh and eighth graders (and next year, Upper School students) how to design and program effective mobile apps. As lab manager, Tomas Robinson interacts with every student in the lab and helps with advancing their skills outside of the classroom and extracurricular lab projects. Dan Lenzen, assistant director of the Innovation Lab, collaborated with the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) and guided Middle School students in designing and developing tools that LJI’s lab scientists now use! Read more in this La Jolla Light article.
Darren Cameron, computer science lead, also from the computer science industry, has built a virtual reality (VR) lab, teaches students to develop VR applications and prepares students for the AP. Next year, he will work with advanced students on projects for industry. For example, students will develop a database to help a nonprofit be more efficient, VR applications to provide an interactive virtual tour of a museum, or algorithmic code to help fight cancer.
With expertise in design research, Dan Lenzen has connected Upper School students with companies such as CamelBak, Ottobock and LJI. This year, students designed, developed and produced products to present in a booth at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago. They pitched their products to industry executives and were featured on WGN-TV news. Thanks to their well-executed developments and pitches, some students may even get a licensing deal or two. Read more about their experience.
As students and faculty learn and grow, the future of the Innovation Lab is exciting. Are we going to develop sustainable student-run businesses or contract student services to corporations? Either way, we know what is to come will continue to be more advanced and impactful. Please join us for the ride!
For more information or to be on our mailing list, please check out our website: www.innovation-education.com for details. Mailing list signup is on the bottom of the main page.