Where Creativity Comes to Life


Photo Courtesy of Allyson Tabayoyong

Freshman Nick Hsu makes use of the machinery to drill a hole through a PVC pipe.

Anthony Chan and Ki Joon Lee

Throughout November, the Innovation Lab attached to the Student Commons bustled with freshman science classes working on aquaponic systems, their first semester Genius Project in which groups create a self-sustaining agriculture system.

The Innovation Lab is an important asset to the learning experience, especially in S.T.E.M.-related studies and projects. Each student can utilize the Innovation Lab to enhance their part in the project, making the project unique to the creativity of the owner.

“The entire experience of creating this blueprint, building it, running into roadblocks and trying to create solutions on the spot to fix their systems [is] all real-life experience that you can’t replace with something from a textbook or even a typical lab,” science department chair Erin Arredondo said. “Engineering itself is a very valuable experience that they can apply.”

The tools in the Innovation Lab brings students’ ideas to real-life through customizable tools and numerous design softwares. The lab encourages students to go beyond simply imagining and planning; it tells students to go hands-on by building and printing models.

“The Innovation Lab… helps us learn more than an in-classroom experience,” freshman Manan Mendiratta said. “We wouldn’t have any creativity [in the classroom] because then everything would be pre-built. The fact that we are able to build it helps everyone have an original project.”

The Innovation Lab is equipped with tools from essential woodworking equipment to an industrial-grade 3-D printer and a laser engraver. The Innovation Lab also holds lesser-used machines for specific situations like sewing and working with PVC pipes. These tools provide the support required for almost any student projects.

“Part of Portola’s vision was that we were going to give the students experiences in terms of what they might experience in the real world,” library media specialist Pamela Quiros said. “Having that kind of different high-end equipment gives students the ability to practice.”

The Innovation Lab has endless future implications in the senior Passion Projects such as craft, product design or in-depth experiments. The Innovation Lab will push the students to pursue uniqueness and passion throughout their journey through high school.