campaign stories

Innovation Center

The Workspace of the Future

In the first week of October 2016, Lake Forest Country Day School opened a cutting-edge, 2,800 sq. ft. Innovation Center in the heart of the School. Housed inside sleek, curved glass walls, the Innovation Center is a place where students combine technology and art, imagination and ingenuity to create nearly anything they can dream. While the essence of the space is child-driven, the concept was born from a fundamental tenant long-held at LFCDS: industries change, but a student will always need to be able to communicate an idea in a meaningful yet novel and creative way. “Research estimates that 60 percent of the jobs our students will fill have yet to be created,” says Head of School Bob Whelan. “Not only are critical thinking, and completely new avenues of creativity imperative, but perseverance is as well. Do you have the character to stick with a problem and see it through to resolution? When children have agency with learning, it becomes part of their fabric.” The Innovation Center offers students the opportunity to integrate and analyze information across disciplines to solve problems.

The LFCDS Innovation Center is divided into three connected creative spaces – the Think Tank, The Innovation Lab, and the Robotics Lab. In addition there is a separate Tool Room nearby.

The Think Tank

The Think Tank is designed to be a space where students of all ages are able to imagine, dream, and ultimately hatch their plans. Inviting bean bag chairs are sprinkled between low slung tables and wiggle stools, made complete with a backdrop of stadium seating and walls and cabinets made of a special material intended to be written upon. Comfort and inspiration are key in the Think Tank as visitors may range from a preschool class brainstorming how to keep their cucumber plants from toppling as they grow, to Upper School students mapping out lesson plans that incorporate games and activities to teach social-emotional strategies to younger students.

The Innovation Lab

With flexible seating for more than 50 students, the Innovation Lab is the place to prototype, build, test, and redesign. It is a space that combines the nostalgia of shop class with the adventure of cutting-edge technology. The centerpiece of the room is the media wall, which features nine flat-screen televisions able to display individually, split into eighteen screens, or project as one giant (81 sq. ft.) image. There are shop tables, writable tables, and tables resembling large puzzle pieces, which can be configured in myriad ways.  Walls and cabinets are all writable surfaces, as are three towering, rolling marker boards. Students have access to both a large green screen and a smaller green screen. Nearby in the Tool Room, there are three large 3D printers designed to handle big jobs as well as four smaller, more nimble portable 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, and a laser cutter. Multiple drones, Google virtual reality tools, iPads, and iMac computers are available to support student exploration. Yet there is an undeniable draw to more traditional tools such as hammers, files, nails and screws, saws, rulers and tape measures, exacto knives, glue guns, soldering irons, sand paper, drills, dremel sanders, pliers, sewing machines, and much more. All have a place in this high-tech lab where learning takes on a whole new dimension.

The Robotics Lab

The Robotics Lab houses two practice tables and all the components necessary to compete in the First LEGO League’s LEGO Robotics tournament. There is storage for all robotic components, and each LFCDS Robotics team has its own cabinet in which to store supplies. There is designated shelving for the robots, processors, motors, and various LEGO pieces. In the Robotics Lab, the walls and cabinets are writable surfaces, and there are the planning and meeting tables separate from the practice tables. LFCDS Robotics teams have been to the Regional tournament fourteen times and in each of those showings, at least one team went on to the State tournament. Many LFCDS teams have won these awards multiple times. The idea behind the Innovation Center is to provide an extraordinary space for students to develop responses to opportunities. It is meant as an environment to stimulate hands-on learning while validating both successes and failures in order to encourage students to dream even bigger. “We want our space to be the modern equivalent of the garage where a few forward-thinking kids started Apple,” said Mr. Whelan. If excited, engaged students who clamor for more and more time in this remarkable environment are any indication, LFCDS is well on its way to being exactly that kind of space.

Class Projects in the Innovation Center:

  • -Grade 3 students communicated with former LFCDS science teacher David Thesenga, who is on a scientific expedition in Antarctica.
  • -Mr. Crofts’ Grade 8 students argued their first amendments in the Innovation Lab, which took on the look of a high-tech courtroom.
  • -Grade 2 students explored different types of dwellings all over the world.
  • -Grade 7 has devised water filtration units from recycled materials.

Mr. Stuckslager’s Upper School math classes will use drones for several upcoming projects including determining velocity, introducing 3D graphing, studying GPS coordinates, and mapping the LFCDS campus – including monitoring the School’s Outdoor Lab as it changes through the seasons. Said Mr. Stuckslager, “With our state-of-the-art lab, with the phenomenal tools and technology, and especially with these new drones, I’d say the sky is the limit!”