The Castle Production Lab at Norwin High School


Aylee Hornstrom and Paige Tokay

This year Norwin High School opened the Castle Production Lab, a student run lab that offers full-scale graphic design experience and promotes STEM learning among special education students. Students without disabilities work alongside students with disabilities to run the business and create productions that the castle lab is selling, an incredible opportunity for all involved.

Norwin video production club

The production lab is a business in the business hall at the high school that creates prints of different products, including stickers, yard signs, banners, and photos. Each design can be personalized in any way a customer wants. In order for all this printing to happen, the production lab contains a special software that is used to design all the projects; designs made through Canva can also be printed.

“We plan for the CPL (Castle Production Lab) to be an authentic business that serves the district and the community, complete with a website and online ordering capabilities,” said special education teacher and head of the lab, Mrs. Cheplick. “Right now, however, we are starting at ground zero, developing the business plan, designing the aesthetics of the lab itself and training students to use the software.”

Mrs. Swick and Mrs. Cheplick work to educate students on running a STEM-based business. These students have an opportunity to work with others and gain business experience that cannot often be found in school, and are assigned specific jobs to help run the production lab.

“I am part of the marketing team,” said new member of the Castle Production Lab, Hayden Douglas (11). “I think of ways to promote and share our business. I come up with new ideas that we can start producing, and any ways to improve the company in general.”

So far, the production lab has been a big hit with all students involved. Many Norwin students are excited for the opportunity to work in a business environment, as well as share their ideas and make their own products for much cheaper than they would be to buy.

“I think the print shop is a really cool and easy way for anyone to have the ability to share their ideas, or create things for personal uses,” said Douglas. “Whether they’re promoting a business or making a banner for a senior night, they now have that ability for cheaper than ever. It lets everyone’s creative minds come to life. The workers in the shop also acquire real life experience on running a legit business. Everything from marketing to accounting to designing. It’s all needed to run it.”

The Castle Production lab was made possible through generous grants from the Norwin community Foundation and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“We received $1,000 grant from the Norwin Community foundation to get us started,” said Mrs. Swick (Instructional Technology Support Teacher). “And were then awarded a $10,000 grant from the Pittsburgh Penguins foundation to purchase all of the equipment needed to have a full-service student-run print shop at Norwin High School.”

Any students of Norwin High School are welcome to join the Castle Production Team. Anyone interested (graphic design, printing or sales) can scan the QR code located at the entrance of the Lab in room 121 to complete their application.

Pullquote Photo

The workers in the shop also acquire real life experience on running a legit business. Everything from marketing to accounting to designing. It’s all needed to run it.

— Hayden Douglas, Castle Production Lab worker

“We have about twenty students currently active in the Castle Production Lab. Thus far, students have been receiving training on all elements of the business including graphic design account, marketing and sales,” Mrs. Swick stated. “These students have taken a leadership role and are truly building this business from the ground up. The Castle Production Lab allows students to explore areas of interest while mentoring others who have an interest in STEM fields. I am always amazed by their creativity and technical skills. We cannot wait until we are able to fully open our business to the Norwin community.”