Upper Canada College’s new Atkins Family Design Lab has opened and, with its variety of tools, materials and everything else it has to offer, it should be a popular space.
“There is everything from simple workshop tools, including screwdrivers and a drill press, to a variety of 3D printers and a laser cutter,” says Design Chair Paul Miskew.
“The laser cutter is an amazing tool for rapid prototyping and forces boys to think about how two-dimensional cuts can be combined to make a 3D model.”
The Design Lab has a station for soldering and electronic fabrication, while small-scale electronics will give students the opportunity to wire up their visions and link them to the digital world, says Miskew.
The Design Lab has a large assortment of VEX robotics gear, including a variety of metal struts, various gears and electronic sensors that will enable students to build robots.
Not everything is high-tech, however, as boys will also have access to Lego pieces to help build their designs.
The Design Lab, on the third floor of the Upper School, includes breakout rooms where teams of students can develop an idea and build. There’s a monitor station where boys can project and share ideas.
Each Year 8 student has a place to store his work and there’s space for the Year 9 product class. There’s also additional storage space for students working on non-class projects driven by personal interests.
The Design Lab will be used during the day by all Year 8 students and Year 9 students in the product stream. Students, staff and faculty are free to use the space from 3:30 to 5 p.m., Monday to Friday.
“Every day after school we have boys in the space either building robots, collaborating on a design plan, or using the available tools,” says Miskew.
“One thing that gets us really excited the collaboration that will occur. The ability to have students in the space from across grades and disciplines means they can support each other and seek out experts in our community. In addition, the knowledge and skills that are here will be shared vertically in our community, raising everyone's design game.”
UCC’s Horizons program will run a coding and design program after school on Tuesdays beginning later this month. The Grade 8 students participating in the Horizons special needs program will consider empathy as the first stage of designing a product to facilitate the life experience of their younger buddy, according to Director Jyoti Sehgal.
UCC has embraced design as an approach to learning and it needed a space where boys could engage in this process and collaborate with their peers.
“With this space the boys can go through the whole cycle, including prototyping their design plans,” says Miskew.
“We have had many students designing and building at the school for a long time. We wanted to have space where they could do this and also create an opportunity to draw in other students.”
The Design Lab opened during the last week of September, and students building robotic designs and laser cutter demonstrations helped launch the space. Guests had the opportunity to ride a robotic chair that could be turned into a backpack for easier mobility.
“We had some boys sharing their work, including some interesting technology that reads brainwave patterns and processes them for input to a computer,” says Miskew.
“We demonstrated a product produced by a Year 8 last year which allowed them to shoot a smooth, continuous shot when filming. The product was built using 3D printing technology and some ingenuity.”
The launch drew initial interest in the Design Lab and Miskew believes it will continue to support learning in all areas by students and UCC community members alike.
“We want the students to have the ability to design, create, innovate and collaborate with people who they don't necessarily see in their day to day school life.”