Mater Dei Students Learn Innovation and Invention

By Nicole Gregory     4/15/2016

More than 90 juniors and seniors and 10 teachers from Santa Ana’s Mater Dei High School got a hands-on experience about what it’s like to be an inventor on April 4, when they visited the Innovation Lab in Newport Beach.

Working in small teams, they designed and built mini prototypes of a medical-related product, then had to come up with creative ways to pitch their invention to others.

“We wanted to show them that the journey doesn’t end with making a good product,” says Marc Habib, executive director of Operations and Product Development at the Innovation Lab, who helped organize the day. “These are skills that apply to making anything, whatever career you choose.”

The Innovation Institute, founded by St. Joseph Healthcare, is a for-profit partnership of five health care systems, led by Joe Randolph, former COO of St. Joseph. One arm of the Institute is the Innovation Lab, an “incubator” dedicated to identifying and developing creative new ideas to improve healthcare, from medical devices to software.

Habib’s hope was that the high school students would enjoy the spirit of competition and challenge during the daylong event, and have the opportunity to be successful. He added that the event appealed to artistic-leaning students as well as kids already interested in science and engineering.

“It was great — the kids enjoyed thinking outside the box,” says Mater Dei High School Dean of Students Kathleen Immel. “They were very engaged.” Students participated in the event voluntarily.

Members of the lab staff at the Innovation Institute demonstrated why some products are commercially viable and some are not—good lessons in what makes any invention successful.

“This is a great program and we plan to continue to roll it out across high schools to inspire students to seek improvement and change in the world through innovation,” explained Sr. Diane Hejna, CSJ, vice president of Mission Integration for The Innovation Institute.

A unique aspect of the Innovation Lab is that anyone can submit an idea for a new medical device or health care product—not just employees of the member health care systems, but anyone in the general public, even teenagers.

This fact intrigued the students, Immel says. “They were excited to learn that if they have an idea they can bring it – that ideas can come from everyday people.”