On any given day, visitors to Hewitt’s O’Hara Family Innovation Lab might smell the burnt wood of the laser cutter, see traces of sawdust left over from a woodworking project, or hear the hum of a 3D printer bringing student designs to life.
The Innovation Lab was created to provide Hewitt students with opportunities to make and design using both hand tools and digital fabrication methods. Whether students are building picture frames, printing 3D recreations of an artifact from ancient Greece, or repairing electronics, their work in the lab helps them learn about the product design process, including steps such as representing designs, measuring dimensions, and working with a variety of materials.
Every Innovation Lab project makes use of several different technologies, showing students that every tool has its uses and a maker must learn to choose the most appropriate tools for each task. In just a few short months, Hewitt’s middle and upper school students have produced a variety of creative projects in the lab:
- In Paddle Boats: Design It, Build It, Race It, a middle school elective, students are using digital fabrication and hands-on building to make custom paddle boats for a water raceway. Many aspects of the project are led by the students through collective decisions or voting.
- The entire fifth grade used the laser cutter to collaborate on a puzzle, with each student etching a word inspired by their grade-level theme, independence, on their puzzle piece.
- Eighth grade visual arts students are learning to plan, measure, cut, and fasten wood as they build handmade picture frames. They have used hand and power saws safely and effectively and relied on their laptops and the laser cutter to code designs to etch into their frames.
- Upper school Advanced Robotics students are making their own programmable hardware by designing and creating custom circuit boards with lights that flash in different patterns, to be milled on a Carvey CNC mill.
- In Design & Making, an upper school elective, students are working through the design thinking process to create helpful classroom or office tools. With the variety of digital fabrication tools available in the lab, students are able to take their ideas from paper sketches to functional objects like custom file organizers and compact office shoe racks.
Work in the Innovation Lab touches on the academic pillars that ground teaching and learning at Hewitt. As Hewitt’s middle and upper school technology integrators, we spent time researching which tools and technologies would bring the most exciting and integrative projects to our community. We participated in workshops, attended conferences, and visited similar spaces in other schools before developing projects that would offer Hewitt’s students and teachers a sense of what is possible in the lab. For the students, working in the Innovation Lab encourages presence, as they have to remain mindful and self-aware as they learn how to safely and effectively utilize new and complex woodworking tools. They also practice empathy as part of the design process, thinking of the people who will use what they make and what their needs may be.
Within the Innovation Lab, Hewitt students are experiencing rich, hands-on learning as they become makers, builders, and creators.