One of the oldest and most historic spaces on campus is now home to the most technologically advanced academic workspace at Taft. After months of renovation, Taft's new STEM laboratory— science, technology, engineering, and mathematics— is as an active innovation hub on the first floor of CPT Hall.
Built in 1926, CPT is home to classrooms and common spaces that are central to the school's history. From Bingham Auditorium and Lincoln Lobby to the Choral and Woolworth Faculty rooms, generations of students have lived and learned in CPT. The addition of the STEM laboratory takes that learning to new heights.
"The renovation was very carefully, very thoughtfully considered," explains Science and Mathematics Teacher Dan Calore. "Our intent was not to design a space that would meet our immediate needs, but to project our future needs and incorporate the technology and technology support that would increase our capacity moving forward, allowing us to effectively integrate advances in the STEM fields."
The STEM laboratory incorporates three distinct but connected spaces: a somewhat non-traditional classroom, a workshop or "makerspace," and an advanced technology center. Each is large and open, with design elements and components built in to maximize both flow and function.
"The classroom section is designed to be an open thinking area," says Calore. "Making it a little bit different than a traditional classroom setting. It has high top tables and chairs, a workstation in the back with built-in counters, Apple TV, and Bluetooth connectivity to the most advanced interactive white board option, which allows students to project their work from their seats. It is an easy space for people to share ideas in—to function more as a collaborative, sounding board room than a traditional lecture classroom."
The classroom opens to a large workshop that contains some tools and equipment, including a large, circular saw, that are found in traditional industrial arts spaces. The practical usage, says Calore, will be far from traditional.
"We've designed the build room not to be a carpenter shop, but to be a space where all kinds of different manufacturing, innovation, and mechanical engineering projects can be built and maintained. It's designed to allow us to do different types of build projects all on a smaller scale. For example, we'll build some of da Vinci's machines, all scaled to table-top size."
The workshop also offers access to the laboratory's advanced technology center, the piece of the lab that will likely adapt, evolve, and grow more than any other, incorporating new technology to keep pace with advances over time.
"The three big, key pieces of equipment currently in use out in the engineering world are the laser cutter, the CNC machine, and the 3D printer," explains Calore. "We feel that those pieces are the cornerstone of learning for engineering students today, and should be incorporated into program; that may change with advances in the industry, with advances in our STEM curriculum, or with the addition of new projects to our build portfolio."
Calore also notes that those pieces of equipment can be put to use throughout the school. He has already had requests from the Admissions team to develop 3D printing projects for use during their travel at home and abroad, and he envisions teachers across disciplines—from English to the Arts—incorporating advanced technological capabilities into classroom projects.
"The hope is that it will become kind of a project-based learning center that all of the students at Taft can benefit from," says Calore. "It will be a multipurpose space for multidisciplinary learning."
Taft's new STEM laboratory was made possible by the generous gift of an anonymous donor.