We make space for innovation.

The Sea Crest School Innovation Lab is a K-8 makerspace dedicated to creative problem solving, tinkering, and prototyping. This industrially designed space is complete with flexible work tables, hand tools, 3D printers, foam cutters, vinyl cutters, and a HandiBot programmable router.

We make space to explore, take risks, and try again. Follow us on Twitter @InnovateSchool, and read our blog below.

— Innovation Lab & Design Thinking

Innovation Design ThinkingThe Design and Innovation Program at Sea Crest is building up steam! There are students coming in all day to create a huge range of projects. While they are having a blast creating, it’s important to point out how the program impacts children in the long run.

Many of the jobs that exist today did not exist twenty, ten or even five years ago. If current trends continue, it’s likely that many of our children will go into careers that don’t yet exist and demand a great deal of adaptability.

We can prepare them for this shifting landscape with two essential problem-solving skills: empathy and grit.

Innovation Design ThinkingThese two skills are the backbone of our innovation program and design thinking. Each of the students’ projects begin with a challenge that needs solving. Next, they go through the design process, which consists of four steps: find it (research), sketch it (brainstorming), build it (prototyping), and share it (gathering feedback).

As students go through these steps, they learn to see things from another person’s perspective and to adapt ideas to fix complex problems. Below are some examples of the challenges they are solving:

Kindergarten & 1st Grade
How might we use simple machines? [Experiment with simple machine combinations to solve problems]

Innovation Design Innovation Design Thinking

2nd & 3rd Grade
How might we keep better track of our things in class? [Create custom logo stickers for your things]

Innovation & Design Thinking

4th & 5th Grade
How can we address small inconveniences around the school? [Add plants to the garden area, reduce noise in the locker area, and more]

Innovation Lab Design Thinking Innovation Lab Design Thinking

Middle School
How might we help teachers have more functional classrooms? [Build storage, adjust lighting, add plants, etc.]

Innovation Lab Design Thinking Innovation Lab Design Thinking

How might we give the kindergartners more choice time options? [Build and donate a variety of toys]

Innovation Lab Design Thinking Innovation Lab Design Thinking

— A community celebration of science and innovation

Congratulations to the seventh-grade students on such a successful Science Festival and Innovation Exposition! We were all impressed by their hard work and the deep knowledge demonstrated in their projects. A special thank you to Mr. Twining for getting our students prepared for the event and Ms. Giacotto for helping to organize.

Thank you to the eighth-grade students for your dedication by running the amazing science stations, which the entire school enjoyed. This K-8 event was open to the public and a fantastic opportunity to celebrate science and innovation. There were a number of inventive projects, experiments and hands-on activities for all ages!

Thank you also to our parent volunteers and judges. We could not have done it without your help!

Science Festival Science Festival Science Festival
Science Festival Science Festival Science Festival


— Students build solar suitcases to power a school in Africa

Sixth-grade students are building Solar Suitcases to power a partner school in Kenya, Africa.

We Share Solar is an education program in Berkeley that links science and technology with international philanthropy and service. Through building the Solar Suitcase (a 12-volt DC stand-along solar system that can power lights, cell phones, and small electronic devices) students learn how solar electricity works.

After they’ve built the suitcases, students will write letters to the students in Kenya and deploy the solar units for immediate use.

we share solar suitcase science we share solar suitcase science we share solar suitcase science


— Students explore new areas of science

Sea Crest expands science fair categories. Published in the Half Moon Bay Review on Wednesday, January 17th. By Sarah Griego Guz.

The science fair is a rite of passage for many middle school students. Many adults remember sweating out the details the night before the big day in a final attempt to consolidate months of work on a tri-fold display board.

Sea Crest School has folded this event into an open house and schoolwide science festival that is suitable for all ages.

The hands-on happening offers innovative science experiences such as a banana keyboard made courtesy of Makey Makey. The electronic invention connects everyday objects to computer programs.

The standard science fair challenge is great for students who are wired to conduct experiments and are interested in specific topics, but others view the science fair with apprehension because they can’t find a question that interests them. Sea Crest Middle School science teacher Matthew Twining decided to modify the assignment.

“Traditional science fair projects appeal to a subset of the students,” said Twining. “There are students who are interested in engineering or environmental topics. I wanted to give everybody a chance to do something more closely aligned with their interests and aptitudes.”

Taking a page from Pasadena schools’ successful Innovation Exposition, Twining added categories for Invention, Environmental Innovation, Reverse Engineering, and Science Fiction.

Seventh-grader Chase Urban has been working on a project in the Reverse Engineering category.

“I couldn’t find a project or a question that I wanted to answer,” said Urban. “I like taking things apart. I liked the idea of taking the digital camera apart and mapping it all out and figuring out how it worked.”


— Astonishing, student-driven behind the scenes

Our students were widely involved in putting on Seussical, The Musical. Middle School students were given the choice to perform or support the behind the scenes through various elective classes during their second trimester, what we call explorations. Some of those who decided to work on the behind scenes were able to design, 3-D print and craft all sorts of props in our Innovation Lab. Others used their artistic skills in the Art Room to create the artwork that served as backdrops during the performances and the cover of the program. Amazing examples of collaboration and creativity, and how we all came together as a community to put on the most colorful, animated show that we have ever created!

Seussical Props

Seussical Props

Seussical Props
By Ambar Pina

— Lower school students built a Galileo’s ramp in the iLab

Our lower school students demonstrated their interest in science and invention skills during their after-school hours in the iLab. After studying Galileo’s theories, they decided to build a Galileo’s ramp. They were so proud of their creation that they shared their project and discoveries with the rest of the school in an all-school assembly. What a fantastic opportunity to share knowledge and celebrate community.


— Invention convention in the iLab

In science, our second graders completed their unit on Simple Machines with an Invention Convention in the iLab. They discovered that simple machines are part of bigger, more complex machines that make our work easier. The students designed, sketched and built their own inventions using recycled/scrap objects. They tested different ways to move loads more easily using less force. They shared them with their classmates and took them home. We have a lot of inventors in this group! The students also participated in a handy dandy gadget scavenger hunt, where they needed to identify the types of simple machines found in household items like scissors, can openers, nutcrackers, etc.

Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade

Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade

Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade Invention Convention Innovation Lab Second Grade

Parents, thanks for your help gathering materials and for the extra hands in the iLab!

— In the News: Challenge within a chair’s construction

The Half Moon Bay Review published an article about our seventh graders’ project in the Innovation Lab: Challenge within a chair’s construction: Educator looks at everyday objects in a different way. They prototyped four chairs out limited materials as part of their Explorations and the results were remarkable.

Sea Crest School students were recently challenged to think outside the box — outside the cardboard box, to be exact.

As part of a semester-long exploration class, aspiring makers were required to enhance an old office chair using nothing more than masking tape, cardboard and hot glue.

The lesson took place in the Innovation Lab, a maker-space where tinkering is not only encouraged, it is expected.

“During the summer, I saw a lot of old chairs in the hallway that were going to be thrown out,” said Patrick Neary, Innovation Lab manager at Sea Crest School. “There was a lot of cardboard that was also going to be thrown out. I thought maybe there was a way to upcycle both slightly and see what we could do with them.

“It occurred to me that the curved, rotating chair was a common thing, almost in contrast with these big square boxes,” he continued. “One of the things that I was concerned with was challenging the kids about their basic assumptions about things.”

Before the course, most students would look at the chair and disregard it as a utilitarian object. After completing the project, it was clear that the students would no longer take the art of sitting for granted.

Innovation Lab Chair“To get started, the kids had to think about how does this chair come about?” said Neary. “Once they re-examined this common object, they could start to reinvent it.”

Part of that process included deconstructing a few samples in order to gain a clear understanding of how the chair worked.

Innovation Lab Chair“Some of the students used power tools, like drills, to pull out the screws,” said Neary. “The students then had to figure out how many screws were used and why.”

Once the kids understood how the chair worked, they were challenged to improve upon the design. Neary created four teams. Students drew lots to determine who was in each group.

“It was random,” said Neary. “Some students liked the partners they were grouped with, others had never really talked before as partners.”

The newly created groups started sketching out their ideas as they began working to build a better chair.

Once the drawing was complete, the makers-in-the-making moved into the physical world of construction.

“The students experienced obstacles of different viewpoints and agendas that required that the students collaborate, negotiate and corporate,” said Neary.

The students worked hard on their final designs, pieces of cardboard that were held together with nothing more than masking tape and hot glue.

The groups then presented their projects to a panel of judges that assessed the projects on the basis of collaboration, the mindful use of the materials, the overall design aesthetic, and the cleanliness of the final construction.

There was also one more catch, the completed prototype had to support the weight of the intended user, whether a student or an adult.

The results were stunning to say the least. One group opted for a minimalistic design going heavy on the masking tape. The end product was a sleek chair sure to hold up under the average adult. Others were more creative, adding butterfly wings, cup holders, and slots for books.


Seventh Graders’ Makey Makey Musical Instruments

What is a Makey Makey?

A Makey Makey is an invention kit that turns everyday objects into touchpads by combining them with electric circuits, alligator clips, USB cables and the internet. With Makey Makey projects, students can do art, engineering and everything in between!

Makey Makey started out as a project by two students at MIT Media Lab as an academic and artistic project. Now it’s both a business and a project with thousands of community collaborators, with more joining the ranks of inventors everyday.

Our Seventh Graders built Makey Makey musical instruments as part of the Explorations curriculum under the guidance of Ellyn Kohrs, Technology Integration and Computer Science Teacher. They made musical plastic animals, drum sets, a floor piano, a stuffed animal band and a foil key instrument.

They also had the amazing opportunity to share their inventions with Third Grade, who had a blast playing the instruments and learning about electronics, conductivity, circuits, programming and music!



Connor made a drum set out of pipe cleaners and gold pin heads. The way the drum set is set up the crash cymbal is at the top left and the drums are in a triangle.


Charles made a piano out of plastic animals. He has an entire key from middle C to high C. To play the piano you hold the earth and then touch the copper tape on top of the animals.


Billy built a drumset with two drums, a high-hat and two drumsticks. It is made out of cardboard, copper, tape, pencils, aluminum foil, a makey makey set and chromebook. To play it, you hold the drumsticks without touching the aluminum foil and tap the copper.


Conor’s instrument is a piano and the piano goes from A to G. The piano is made out of tinfoil wrapped around cardboard. To play his piano, you hold the earth which is the yellow alligator clip and you touch the cardboard wrapped in tinfoil and it makes the noise.


Maisie made a piano out of carpet squares for stability wrapped in tin foil to be conductive. To play you take off your shoes and touch the aluminum foil.

Seventh Grade Makey Makey Musical Instrument

Mikalee demonstrating her stuffed-animal band and sharing important concepts, such as electric circuits and connectivity, with third graders while they were all playing music and having fun.

Launching Origami Rockets

Middle School students have been prototyping a standardized propulsion system for their origami rockets. Originally, students used lung power and plastic straws to launch the rockets, but they soon found there was too much variability in people’s lung capacity.

“We wanted to see if we could create a uniformly reliable way to propel the little rockets,” said Innovation Lab Manager Patrick Neary. “That way, the standardized propulsion would give us all a better idea about the aerodynamic properties of the individual origami techniques.”

To complete the project, students were given straws, recycled plastic bags, various sizes of plastic cups, masking tape, and (at a student’s suggestion) lemon juice and baking soda.

Origami Rockets

Sixth Grader Ryan Rose Grout measured and prepared baking soda and lemon juice to test a chemical propulsion for her origami rocket. “This was a great attempt to provide a more complex solution,” said Mr. Neary.

“At the outset, the students were pretty skeptical about how much they could actually accomplish with the basic materials that I provided,” said Mr. Neary. “However, just a few minutes into the class, all of the students were deeply engaged in figuring out how they could get their rockets to move. It was very gratifying to see that transformation, where the students became so completely focused on creating a solution to the challenge. Every student did successfully complete a prototype by the end of class, and some students actually created several variations following unsuccessful testing.”

Seventh Grader Cole Ramsey designed and prototyped a multi-chambered propulsion system. The chambers are intended to multiply the chemical reaction, producing a greater amount of gas than would a single, one-time mixture of baking soda and lemon juice.

Origami Rockets

Origami Rockets

Eighth Grader Jake Metz had multiple successful propulsion attempts using an inflatable plastic bag with multiple straws.

Origami Rockets

“The straws fed into a plastic cup, which concentrated the compressed air around the origami rocket contained within the cup itself,” said Mr. Neary. “A very unique and innovative solution!”

Paper Engineering

Middle School students have the opportunity to choose from a number of Exploration electives each trimester. One of this trimester’s Explorations is “Paper Engineering.”

Students are exploring the properties of paper while designing and constructing small-scale, stand-alone structures. Paper is the only material allowed – no adhesives or additional supports. For the final design project, an overhang and an interior hollow space will be required.

Paper Engineering

Paper Engineering

One example of the class in action:

“For this assignment, our goal was to create a standing structure using just one piece of 8.5 x 11 copy paper,” said iLab Manager Patrick Neary. “I led them through a few simple steps for folding and cutting the paper so that we had four equal sections with which to build the outer layer and four smaller sections for the inner layer.”

To test the strength, students then carefully placed different objects on top of the structures.

Paper Engineering

“Some were unsuccessful, which is very much a part of the process of building and testing,” said Mr. Neary. “And, some were very successful! When the first student carefully succeeded in putting the can of pens on his paper structure, the buy-in by the other students to also succeed went up 1000%.”

Click here to view more photos, and click here to read more stories about our Innovation Lab!


Origami Rockets

Origami Rockets

In today’s Origami Rockets Exploration, students tested for the first time how far their rockets would travel. There were two teams: Team Danielle, and Team Ryan-Rose. The goal was to cumulatively measure three tries by each team member, with the overall highest cumulative distance per team determining the winners.

Students used plastic straws to propel the little rockets with their breath. iLab Manager Patrick Neary had one stipulation: each student needed to propel his/her own rocket forward along the length of two tables.

“I did not say that they had to shoot them in the air, only that they had to go forward on their own,” said Mr. Neary. “The innovation that Danielle came up with, and which everyone immediately copied to their own benefit, was that she kept the rocket on the surface of the table! She determined a way to stay within the rules, but instantly tripled (or more) the absolute value in distance that her rocket traveled.”

Origami Rockets Exploration

Connor Johnstone’s rocket traveled the farthest of them all.. on each of his three tries! The incredulous roar of the crowd was so fantastic that Ms. Giacotto had to come down to see what all of the cheering was about.

“That was one of the best moments I’ve ever had here,” said Mr. Neary. “It was so great to see Connor achieve that!”

Our School at the NAIS Annual Conference

Each year, the National Association for Independent Schools (NAIS) hosts an Annual Conference. This year’s conference is taking place in San Francisco, and the theme is “What’s Your Story? The Power of Trailblazers, Catalysts, and Calamities.”

All of our faculty and staff will be attending the conference on Friday, February 26th (school will be closed for a Professional Development Day). In addition, Sea Crest is benefitting from several exciting opportunities:

On Wednesday, February 24th, our SoundWaves and Middle School choirs are performing in the lobby of the Moscone Center for all registrants.

On Thursday and Friday, Innovation Lab Manager Patrick Neary will be showcasing Sea Crest’s iLab as one of only five Bay Area makerspaces featured at the conference.

On Thursday from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m., Head of School Tekakwitha Pernambuco-Wise and Board Chair Amy Ramsey are leading a session titled Supporting Heads: Sustaining a Flourishing Leadership Partnership. Based on a survey of more than 250 heads of school and trustees, this presentation will examine how trustees can best nurture mutually beneficial relationships and sustain heads in their positions for the long term. The session will take place in Room 3003 of the Moscone Center for conference attendees.

On Friday from 8:00 to 9:00 a.m., Dr. Pernambuco-Wise will also be leading a session titled Herstory: Behind, in Front of, and Next to Every Female Leader, There is a…. Her co-presenters are Penny Bach Evins, St. Paul’s School for Girls (MD); Stephanie Balmer, Harpeth Hall School (TN); and Ann Klotz, Laurel School (OH). Dr. Pernambuco-Wise will discuss how to encourage, celebrate, and cultivate future and current leaders. Conference attendees will be able to attend this session in Room 2007 of the Moscone Center.

Follow us on Twitter for updates: @SeaCrestHMB and @InnovateSchool.


Innovators’ Symposium Recap

Sea Crest School’s Second Annual Innovators’ Symposium focused on the intersection of Innovation and Community. Hands-on workshops for Middle School students covered topics such as coastal pollution, group theory, venture capitalism, and the human brain. Speakers included physicians, professors, scientists, and Google’s Director of Education and University Relations.

The keynote speaker, Katlyn Grasso, shared her experience as a young CEO and encouraged students to have confidence in their ideas.

“The most successful entrepreneurs are incredibly determined and persistent,” said Grasso, who is the Founder and CEO of GenHERation. “I really encourage you to follow your dreams. Go out there and never take no for an answer.”

After the keynote, Katlyn led a workshop for students called The Perfect Pitch: How to Sell Yourself in Any Situation.

“I had a wonderful time at the Innovators’ Symposium and was impressed by the curiosity of the young students,” said Grasso. “I look forward to seeing how the students apply the insights from the Symposium to better the Sea Crest community.”

To learn more about all of the speakers and the topics they addressed, click here.

Innovators’ Symposium 2016

Sea Crest School’s Second Annual Innovators’ Symposium will take place throughout the day on Friday, February 5th. Nineteen scientists and innovators will be on campus to lead hands-on workshops for our Middle School students.

We encourage you to read in detail about the workshop sessions, which include “How Neurons Grow,” “Pollution at Pillar Point,” and “Design Thinking and Innovation.”

The Keynote Speaker from 8:45 – 9:45 a.m. will be GenHERation Founder and CEO Katlyn Grasso. Ms. Grasso speaks nationally about entrepreneurship, technology, and the advancement of women. She has been a featured speaker at the Forbes CMO Excursion, the Young Entrepreneur’s Academy CEO Round Table, and many more events at the intersection of innovation and community.

The Symposium session leaders are:

  • Dr. G. David Adamson, Medical Director of Palo Alto Medical Foundation Fertility Physicians of Northern California
  • Will Agramonte, venture capitalist and Sea Crest School alumnus
  • Tim Allan, Water Resources Engineer
  • Elizabeth Andruszkiewicz, ‎Graduate Researcher at Stanford University Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Dr. Stephen Baccus, Associate Professor at the Stanford School of Medicine in the Department of Neurobiology
  • Dr. Barbara Brott, Senior Research Associate in the Department of Biology at Stanford University
  • Dr. Scott Brozell, software package contributor and researcher focused on theoretical and computational model development
  • Dr. Loretta Camarano, Assistant Professor at Samuel Merritt University School of Nursing
  • Katlyn Grasso, Founder and CEO of GenHERation
  • Dr. Adam D. Hughes, Drug Discovery Project Leader and Senior Director in Medicinal Chemistry
  • Dr. Maggie Johnson, Director of Education and University Relations for Google
  • Bryan Kohrs, Research Associate in Discovery at Amunix, Inc. and Sea Crest School alumnus
  • Dr. Dan Marquess, Chief Scientific Officer at UNITY Biotechnology
  • Christopher McKenzie, Senior Development Engineer with Oxford Instruments, X-ray Technology
  • Dr. Jennifer Robinson, Program Manager of the Nutrition Studies Group at Stanford University
  • Dr. Elizabeth C. Squiers, Deputy Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of Clinical Development at Quark Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  • Dr. Antitsa Stoycheva, biotech research scientist with a focus on computational drug design and bioinformatics
  • Dr. Carol Winograd, Professor Emerita of Medicine and Human Biology at Stanford University and Vice-chair of the J Street National Board
  • Dr. Terry Winograd, Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Stanford University and founding faculty member of the

As part of the day’s events, Middle School students will take notes and draw sketches about their chosen workshop sessions. At the end of the Symposium, students will meet in their Advisory houses to reflect and share feedback with faculty.

This year’s Innovators’ Symposium was organized by Head of School Dr. Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise, Director of Marketing and Communications Kat Clark, Science Teacher Rob Kashima, Technology Integration Specialist Ellyn Kohrs, Spanish Teacher Michaela O’Connor, Fifth Grade Humanities Teacher Emma Samuels, and Director of Admission and Development Michael Thompson. A special thank you to Administrative Assistant Cathy Greenwald and parent trustee Sarah Griego Guz for helping to make this day possible.

If you know an innovator interested in speaking at next year’s Symposium, please contact Dr. Tekakwitha M. Pernambuco-Wise.


Invention Convention!

The Second Grade Simple Machine unit concluded with a successful “Invention Convention” in the Innovation Lab. Each child designed and built a machine using recycled materials. Thank you to our families for sending in reusable items, and a big shout out to the parents who volunteered to make it a fun learning experience for everyone!


3D Printing in Tinkering Workshop

Last week in Tinkering Workshop – an after-school Extended Day Program for Second and Third Graders – students had a special request. Previously, they had built a catapult and examined the effects of changing the length of the lever on the fulcrum. This time, they wanted to use the school’s 3D printers to create a familiar figure: R2D2. iLab Manager Patrick Neary agreed, as long as they designed it from scratch.

“The students were already aware that our MakerBot printers will only print one color at a time,” said Mr. Neary. “As such, a discussion ensued about which of the available colors would be best, and they decided on white plastic for the final 3D print with different colors of indelible Sharpie markers.”

The Middle School Exploration class 3D Apps for 3D Printing is currently working with Tinkercad, so Mr. Neary thought that this would be a great program for the Second Grade students to start with. The students had a little exposure to Tinkercad as First Graders and they were excited to start using the program again now.

“Using the iLab Mac laptops, I signed each student into Tinkercad. A third laptop was used to find a good reference photo of R2D2. Here, a student is shown working with Tinkercad primitive shapes (cube, cone, cylinder, etc.), to create his initial R2D2 model. The screenshot of his Tinkercad session represents 45 minutes of work. To quote a notable Star Wars character: ‘Impressive. Most impressive!’”

Tinkering Workshop


Innovation Lab Manager Patrick Neary was thrilled with these students earlier today:

“I had been thinking of ways to organize some of the iLab’s raw materials and came up with a design to recycle (important!) some of the sturdier cardboard and galvanized pipes.

I had just finished creating the holes in the cardboard in which to run the stabilizing pipes, when the ‘SuperKids!’ from Fourth Grade snack recess came into the iLab.

Immediately, they wanted to help!

Working together, they coordinated, organized, supported, considered options, helped each other, pushed and pulled, and never, ever argued! Fantastic!”

Second and Third Grade Bridge Building

Second and Third Graders were challenged to build a bridge using only blocks of wood. No glue, tape, or any other materials were allowed. Once they determined that a counter-weight on either end was the key to success, they began to test the mid-span weight by putting more rows of blocks out into the middle.

Next week: twice the distance!

Sixth Grade Raw Egg Challenge

Sixth Graders participated in a fun engineering challenge in the Innovation Lab. They were tasked with moving a raw egg unbroken from one end of a table to the other. Aside from releasing the egg with their fingers, they were not allowed to use any human energy as the force to move the egg.

“The girls’ team worked furiously,” said iLab Manager Patrick Neary. “They were so fast and collaborative. It was pretty cool to witness.”

Watch the video of our Middle School girls hard at work:

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