CHS Innovation Lab Grand Opening

February 22, 2019

Sometimes the best ideas start with a simple email.  The new Innovation Lab at Chantilly High School began with a communication to the Foundation for Fairfax County Public Schools from parents who wanted to make a lasting donation to the school and its students. Principal Scott Poole said the parents – Sekhar and Malini Puli – founders of the nonprofit organization Asha-Jyothi, had observed the growing popularity of makerspaces in schools and wanted to provide all Chantilly students with the opportunity to explore their own ideas. Poole engaged Chantilly Academy administrator Scott Settar, who has a background in career and technical education, and suggested creating a technology-focused makerspace.

  The lab, which has a direct link to the five attributes of Portrait of a Graduate, is in a corner of the school library.  Using the Pulis’ vision of having the space resemble an Apple store, it sports floor-to-ceiling glass walls, whiteboard walls on which students can take notes and share ideas, and multiple stations for students to use, explore, and experiment individually or collaboratively.

Sekhar Puli said one of the organization’s goals was to contribute something that would help students go above and beyond.  “We hope these kids will be able to change the world over the next 20-25 years,” he said.

The Innovation Lab has a specialist on hand to provide support and guidance to students upon request.  Students are free to stop by the lab before or after school; some classes will be visiting the lab as a group.  Student volunteer Benjamin Blue set up the electronic scheduling, enabling students to sign up for stations, which is displayed on a monitor outside the lab door. He said that videos have been created, accessible via QR codes, to help students get started. The goal is to have students support each other in the lab, collaborating and learning from each other as they work at one of the available stations:  take-apart technology, audiovisual studio, VEX robotics, Arduino, 3-D print and scan, and game design.