An Innovative Learning Space
Colin Morris

It’s been over a year since our Senior School’s design lab debuted, and it’s proven to be a great new learning space. It was designed with robotics and design thinking classes in mind, and the space also includes a Harkness set-up, which fosters collaborative learning.

Rather than have it become another science lab, great thought and planning helped ensure it has a unique industrial design lab look and feel. There are exposed ceilings which allow for outlets that hang down for easy use. The Harkness table has a uniquely designed shape that adjusts to various sizes easily and is also at a standing height to match up against the counters that surround the room. With everything on wheels, the room is constantly reconfigured to support collaboration and activities in groups of all sizes.

Students have been able to utilize this new space for various classes, including Computation Thinking, Electronics and Robotics, and Physics. They are using the learning space to prototype solutions to complete challenges and create various open-ended projects of interest. Some projects from last year include a Bluetooth-connected plant health monitor, a handheld game, and a music page turner for a piano.

Most tools in the lab are displayed and available for easy access, as safe and appropriate use is taught and always expected. Some of the standout tools include three 3D printers and a laser cutter. The ability to create with these tools feels almost limitless, and we are continually exploring how they can be used beyond the robotics classes. A few curious Physics 11 students last year even utilized them to help prototype their projectile launchers.

A cornerstone of the robotics program is VEX V5 robotics and was key to many design decisions for the lab. It is an advanced level educational robotics system that forces students to consider the programming and design of their robot. Each year the Grade 10 class competes in a school-based tournament called Swept Away, which is a fast-paced robotics game about scoring points by moving balls onto your opponent’s side of an 8’ x 8’ field. The robotics club also uses the space to compete in the VEX Robotics Competition (VRC), an international competition that presents students with a unique game each year for them to design and develop a robot. This game is played on a larger 12’ x 12’ playing field, so you can see why having everything on wheels is such an important aspect of the design lab.

Our students constantly impress me with what they develop and how focused they can be on very challenging tasks. The community’s support for the design lab and its components is so graciously appreciated. I look forward to continuing to support our students learning and growing in this innovative learning space this year.

If you have a passion or background in robotics or knowledge of the VEX robotics competition, I would love to hear from you. Mentoring plays a huge role in the structure of the VRC, and something I hope to bring to our students as the robotics program and club develops.

Contributed by Colin Morris, Physics/Robotics Teacher