Palisades Charter High School

Pali STEAM Shop

Welcome to the STEAM Shop Innovation Lab





PCHS is an independent public charter school that welcomes 2,900 students from 100+ LA area zip codes. We offer robust educational opportunities across the 9-12 curriculum and throughout our afterschool sports and performing arts programs. The Pali STEAM Shop is our innovation lab in a converted industrial arts classroom. It serves as the center point of our campaign to build an engineering pathway offering hand’s-on/mind’s-on activities in formal and informal formats. Our aim is to offer new ways to engage students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) through computer science, engineering, and robotics.  Additionally, the Pali STEAM Shop serves as a model for other public high schools facing the common challenges of public school innovation: funding, developing standards-based curriculum, and the UC A-G entrance requirements.


The US has an estimated 2 million unfilled, well paying, STEM jobs.  Generally, our public school system lags behind other industrialized nations in graduating students who go into STEM careers.  Additionally, minorities and socio-economically disadvantaged students are significantly underrepresented in STEM fields.  Thus the Pali STEAM Shop is a makerspace with a mission: We aim to offer underrepresented students increased access to STEM career pathways. Innovation labs that blend traditional shop tools with digital technologies promote differentiated learning and allow a wider range of learners to tackle and master STEM challenges. We believe that innovative concepts like wearable tech and 3D printing provide unique engagement opportunities that lead to student driven learning and youth entrepreneurship.


History and Recognition


The Pali STEAM Shop program began in the spring of 2013 when our Executive Director, Dr. Magee, and PCHS board members toured the Stanford Design School’s Transformative Learning Technologies Lab (Fab Lab). Stanford and the MIT Media Lab share the credit for the educational innovations that makerspaces provide: a constructivist approach to engineering with an emphasis on programming and physical computing that blends new digital technologies with traditional shop tools. Makerspaces and Fab Labs often promote collaboration over competition, serve as incubators for new inventions and businesses, and promote a culture of freedom to fail as an integral part of developing a growth mindset. The philosophy of ‘positive pivoting’ has been core to the program’s growth as the STEAM Shop team navigated the funding and curriculum challenges common to educational innovations. The lab is located in our former Auto Shop classroom, which was had been used for school storage for over a decade. Our Director of Operations, Dave Riccardi, is a ‘car guy’ whose personal passion has been to revive Auto Shop at Pali. (See a short video about the Auto Shop reopening here: ) Our long-view approach, combination of Auto Shop with Innovation Lab,  and our public school status make the STEAM Shop program unique in the field of making in education, which has led to presentations at six leading educational conferences:  California Stem Symposium, LACOE Digital Educator Conference, EdCampLA, LEAD 3.0, UCCI Curriculum Conference and MakerFaire San Mateo. Additionally, our STEAM Shop staff lead, Donna Mandosa, was named an Excite Award recipient from the MIT-Lemelson Inventeams program for her team’s DIY, landmine detecting robot concept.



Current and Future Projects


The Pali STEAM Shop serves as a home base for eight engineering clubs: Robotics, Rocketry, Arduino, iOS App Development, Untiy game design, Intro to Ciding, 3D Printing and Auto Shop. Our Pali Robotics Club competes in the annual, worldwide VEX Robotics Competition, designing and building a robot that can navigate an obstacle course, pick up objects, and perform other tasks symbolic of the roles robots play in the workplace, industry, and space exploration. It is an engineering challenge designed as a game. While competitive in nature, the challenge does require collaboration among teammates in the design phase and across teams during events. Our Rocketry Club is a new addition to the campus this year. It was formed in December 2014 by a group of students who wanted to learn about rocketry through the Team America Rocketry Challenge (TARC), an annual competition for which students must design rockets that safely carry an ‘egg astronaut’. Both robotics and rocketry are mentored by our Technology Director, Donna Mandosa, and require a similar mix of digital tools for 3D design and traditional tools for building. Our Arduino, Unity, and 3D Printing Clubs were all founded by students driven to explore new tools and new skills. Our Auto Shop Club meets twice a week with Mr. Ricarrdi leading the students through the challenge of restoring a mid-1960s Mustang.


In the upcoming year the STEAM Shop engineering programs will expand by adding severa activities: Tinkering Studio, Open Lab, and Community Membership. The Tinkering Studio will be a mentor-led opportunity for students to learn about electrical engineering by restoring old audiovisual equipment. PCHS has many record players, film projectors, and other early ed tech tools that can be salvaged for such creative investigations. Open Lab will provide free access time for individual students and/or classes to use the innovation lab tools for personal or academic projects. For example, these may include earthquake resistance construction projects, DIY air conditioners, or interactive art exhibits. Community Membership will allow non-PCHS student members of the community (parents, neighbors, and students from our feeder schools) to access the lab. As we do with our on-campus aquatic center, we will offer monthly memberships that promote community engagement and provide access to resources most families can not afford.

For more information and to join our program please email or go to our main site


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Palisades Charter High School      15777 Bowdoin Street, Pacific Palisades, CA 90272      Tel: (310) 230-6623      Fax: (310) 454-6076

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