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Marlborough Public Library’s Makerspace: An Innovation Studio Project

A client needed a design for a new makerspace. That's where NEIA's 11th grade came in.

Francisco, who teaches Innovation Studio 11 at NEIA, knew he wanted to do something in space design this year. Not fully architecture, not fully interior design, just letting his students design and create spaces. The first step? Find a real-world client.

“We contacted the library here [Marlborough Public Library] and I sent an email,” Francisco recounted. “When they wrote back, they mentioned the idea of a makerspace, that they hadn’t designed and had been thinking about. And I was like, ‘That’s awesome. Let’s make this happen.'”

These sorts of collaborations are vital to NEIA’s curriculum. Our academic setting gives students a setting where there are stakes, but there isn’t pressure. There is no money on the line, they can feel free to  be creative, try new things, take big swings, fail, learn from those failures. Through this process, they’ll be well-prepared for whatever comes after high school.

The class took the five-minute drive to the library to gather research and see the potential space. They stepped into the proposed space and got right to work taking precise measurements. To answer the question, “What do Marlborough residents want out of a makerspace?” they interviewed the staff and teenagers at the library and put up a flyer that led to a survey for adults to give their input.” Meanwhile, they were learning some basic tools for design, and learning about negotiating and presenting from Baldev, NEIA’s entrepreneurship teacher.

Each group made a “concept collage,” essentially a cutout proposal that allowed for individual furniture to be moved around the space, as well as a blueprint. The Marlborough Public Library Director and their Head of Themed Services visited NEIA to see the students’ proposals and give feedback. With these valuable insights, the students could begin revising and 3-D modeling (using a tool called Blender).

Once the groups had 3-D designs of their revised proposals, they invited the library representatives back to campus. But this wasn’t just any presentation: our guests could walk through the designs in Virtual Reality while the students narrated their tour. They didn’t even need to imagine what it would be like to walk through the students’ proposals; they could actually do it!

The library representatives’ responses were very positive. Francisco was encouraged by the project’s finale. “They wanted us to send them the renders of the 3D images of the final proposals for them to have. If we can make an impact in any way, and they maybe use our renders somehow in the process, I think that’s really cool.” While the library couldn’t promise that the designs would be implemented, or that project would be finalized anytime soon, it was still such a valuable experience for our Innovators. Some might have even discovered a new passion.

“One student, he’s awesome,” Francisco said. “He’s a natural. He has great instincts. I was so impressed by how thorough he was with his proposal. After the project, he wanted to know, ‘How can I get more into architecture?’ And now he just signed up for a Passion Dive in architecture. Now he’s thinking, ‘Do I want to go into interior design, or do I want to go into architecture?’ That question wouldn’t have been posed at all if he hadn’t had this opportunity.”

 

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Yesterday, our mini inventors went to the Boston Museum of Science to see real life inventions and creations. They dove into design processes to ultimately guide them in their creation of a product which they will be presenting tomorrow!

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This week our mini inventors will be focusing on coding and prototyping. Yesterday, students prototyped a lamp, and today, they did the same with a sound machine. Students then used human-centered design to understand how to improve the product for the user by interviewing classmates and staff. Friday, students will present to their classmates, staff, and families their chosen projects starting from their beginning sketches to their prototype to the final product.

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