The Design Lab: What is it?

This year, the Grace community will experience a greater variety of amenities with the addition of the fourth floor and the lesser talked about design lab. You may be wondering, what is it? The design lab, also known as the “Maker Lab”, is a space dedicated to classes and clubs and independent projects of any discipline, but many are within the realm of STEM. Laser cutters and 3-D printers are just the beginning of the technologies that will become available in the space.  Interestingly, the space where the fitness room was located in previous years, and where the design lab is now, was initially designed to be used for robotics, but the need for a fitness room presided over the design lab. All of the equipment is not here yet, so the space is not completely finished, but, when it is, the possibilities will be endless.

Currently, some physics, advanced physics classes, DTC classes, as well as the robotics club and the science olympiad team are using the space. Those who take physics in the design lab are using the circuits, probes and counter space to supplement what they would do in their normal classes and labs. Robotics classes, on the other hand, are specifically designed for the space. High school classes are not the only ones using the space. Already, the plan is in place for 7th and 8th graders to use the 3-D printers.

So, why does Grace have a design lab? In order to get a better idea, I talked to Mr. Wong, Physics Teacher and Dr. Ali, Chief Technology Officer, who are heading the new design lab, and both discussed their interpretation of the purpose of the design lab. Mr. Wong explained that prototyping has become much more efficient with the design lab: “It’s really focused on rapid prototyping, meaning helping an idea become a reality.” Dr. Ali stated: “Having a challenge or question or need and finding the solution through representation that’s physical is the purpose of the design lab.”

Another important, and often overlooked, aspect of the design lab is the type of learning that it inspires. Dr. Ali spoke passionately about the importance of creative learning and design thinking that he hopes the design lab will foster. “Learning is moving much more towards the process of design and envisioning and a creative process than it was 10 or 20 years ago. There’s a way of learning that involves listening and, but there’s also a way of learning that involves doing and the understanding comes through doing.” The design lab offers a way to learn and understand differently. When talking about the future of the design lab, Dr. Ali hopes that “he can inspire other non-stem classes to find something useful in the design lab.”

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