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“Fab Labs, Innovation Centers, Maker Spaces – Oh My!”

05.11.15 / Kelly Bliss

At the recent AISNE (Association for Independent Schools of New England) Spring Conference, ARC co-presented with representatives from St. Mark’s School and The Roxbury Latin School on “Creating Innovation Centers”.  A room full of independent school business managers and administrators were intrigued about what these much talked about facilities are, how to identify existing space on campus to be repurposed for one, and what the recommended steps are to create the right innovation space for their institution.

Jan Taylor and Steve Dadagian of ARC described a spectrum of innovation spaces, ranging from clean, group study areas to dirty, noisy workshops. Impressed by the possibilities, excited school representatives asked, “How big should the space be? How many students can safely work in the space at a time? Should we have 3D printers, CNC routers, or lathes?” Based on experience working with a variety of educational institutions from independent schools to colleges and universities, Jan and Steve clarified that the secret sauce is really determining the program. By identifying program goals and objectives first, the rest of the answers will fall into place.

 

Roxbury Latin School, Fabrication Lab, West Roxbury, MA

The Roxbury Latin School and St. Mark’s School both shared their real-world case studies, describing their goals, process and solutions. As ARC outlined at the beginning of the presentation, all three innovation spaces at these two schools varied in size, equipment and environment. RL creatively repurposed a dark, unwelcoming fitness room into a dynamic and flexible IDEA Lab that attracts students for their burgeoning Math-Science Investigations curriculum. Nate Piper and Glen Ryan of RL described the terrific new space as “transformative and engaging” to students now, and they plan to add more classes to support the students’ rapidly growing interest.

Roxbury Latin School, Fabrication Lab, West Roxbury, MA

Bob Meyer and Michael Wirtz of St. Mark’s School detailed their thoughtful journey and strategic planning which has resulted in two transformative innovation spaces within their school. The Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning was created out of an underutilized, dark gathering space and now promotes vibrant student/faculty interaction and offers flexible meeting areas for groups large and small. The new STEM Center, which will open in August, integrates the math and science departments and features flexible labs and collaboration areas, glass walls that allow for transparency, and workshops for robotics, woodworking and other hands-on learning.

St. Mark's School, STEM Center, Southborough, MA

The energy in the room for this session was high both on the part of the presenters excited to tell others about their wonderful new fab labs, innovation centers and maker spaces, as well as within the audience as other schools wanted to learn more about how they could get one. ARC sees tremendous interest from clients in these collaborative, hands-on spaces and we enjoy working closely with institutions to create facilities that foster energy and enthusiasm among students and faculty.

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