How We are Different/News

How We're Different

Far exceeding the common offerings of a “maker space” or “technology,” La Jolla Country Day School (LJCDS) provides students the advanced resources, guidance and space they need to become true innovators. Students are taught the skills necessary to create anything that inspires them, but also to be able to identify what problems they should be solving by employing the design thinking process. 
We have invested in employing and growing a staff with industry experience to develop and teach the design and innovation courses. Our industry experts are dedicated to connecting students with the world to establish relevance in the classroom. 
With expert leadership and effective employment of the design thinking process, our students have accomplished a number of inventive projects. Under the guidance of our innovation team, students have built two 120W 4’x2’ laser cutters from scratch; a vacuum former; an automatic guitar tuner; complex vision systems; museum exhibits; interactive theater technology that allows the viewers to feel the emotion of the actors; and innovative consumer products such as a multi-drink travel mug, unique dissolvable creamer package system for coffee and a self-growing golf divot replacement system.


Innovation Space: The Beginning

Innovation Space: Philosophy

Building a Laser Cutter


Hour of Code
For the second year, kindergarten through eighth-grade students participated in Hour of Code, a global movement that celebrates computer science. The goal is to have students (and adults) of all ages complete activities that relate to the growing field of computer science to prepare them for our increasingly computer-driven world.

Making the World a Better Place Through Design Thinking
On Tuesday, May 16,  the Mobile Countertop group, consisting of students Spencer Alligood ’18, AJ Dhus ’17, and Skylar Kelley-Duval ’19, presented their invention of a lapboard for cooking for people in wheelchairs to help improve safety and independence for those who are unable to utilize their kitchens fully. They are one of nine groups in the Design Thinking to Open Entrepreneurship class who participated in a yearlong project in partnership with 
Ottobock, a company whose mission is to restore and improve independence for people with mobility challenges.

Tiny Torreys Learn About Coding
Tiny Torreys met with Lower School computer science and innovation teacher Andrea Flagiello to engage in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) activities this past month. She brought several Fisher Price® Code-a-pillars™, which allow children to explore basic concepts of coding. Each body segment of the caterpillar has a different function. This can include the simple movements of accelerating forward and turning right or left in various degrees to stopping and singing or repeating any action. When put together, the caterpillar moved according to the order of functions attached by the children. It wasn't long before the students figured out how to build the longest caterpillar and enjoyed watching it inch along down the sidewalk. 

What is Design Thinking?
Terms like STEM, STEAM, maker space, design thinking or innovation are used interchangeably, especially in the school setting, but what do they mean? I believe these terms are used to answer the same question: How do we make K-12 education relevant and give students a competitive advantage in college and their careers?

Waiting Tables: A Prerequisite for Good Design?

It was the end of summer in 1995 when I was told disappointing news by the owner of the startup company in Saratoga Springs, New York where I was a co-oping. Counter to his promise during my interview, he would not have the money from his investors to pay me. In fact, none of us would be getting paid for the countless hours we spent that summer tearing apart and re-engineering an old Cessna to develop his dream of a low-cost composite wing airplane. So, rather than going back to school in the fall without money, I headed home to Dallas, moved in with my folks, Costanza-style, and started looking for another co-op job. Since landing my next dream gig would take some time, I did what all dreamers do…I waited tables.

Innovation Lab featured on
LJCDS uses design thinking to teach students how to identify a problem people don’t even know they have. One team of upper schoolers recently discovered a dramatic disconnect between how much water people think they’re wasting and how much is actually being wasted; now they’re looking for ways to bridge that gap. Another team, working for an international organization, is creating a strategy to more effectively distribute hydration systems on the playing fields. And another group is researching and developing social and technical solutions to manage residential noise.

Building the Laser Cutter
Walking into the Innovation Lab, students hear Mr. [Matt] Abbondanzio’s music playing in the background and they know it’s laser cutter day. Excitement immediately builds.

As the first group of students to take LJCDS’s newest course, Design and Innovation, 22 Upper School students in two sections were charged to build a laser cutter—a technology that uses a high-powered beam of focused infrared energy from a CO2 laser to precisely cut or etch materials.

The State of Innovation
I can’t believe it is almost March. The year has flown by and so much has been accomplished. It all started with an underutilized parent’s lounge that was reimagined into a fully functioning Innovation Space. That space began with a small group of student interest and is now bursting at the seams with its use.The successes over the past few months have been varied and amazing.