STEM Micro Campus: Middle School Converts Computer Lab into Innovation Space

STEM Micro Campus: Middle School Converts Computer Lab into Innovation Space 

If there's one thing a robotics class needs, it's floor space. Otherwise, students can't really test their creations. Gaining room for that and giving the kids workspaces where they could leave their projects to come back to later were two of the goals for converting a traditional middle school computer lab into an innovation lab at Chatham Middle School in New Jersey. The lab is also used for coding and computer aided drawing and design lessons, as part of a "STEM micro campus" within the building.

Danielle Dagounis, supervisor of the design & technology department for the School District of the Chathams, said a major consideration for the redesign was coming up with the right kind of furniture. Most of the pre-packaged offerings were either too big or too small, and they lacked the space underneath to store both the CPU and a keyboard, thereby freeing up the surfaces for assembly work.

STEM Micro Campus: Middle School Converts Computer Lab into Innovation Space 

The district eventually chose to use Collab active learning conference tables from SMARTdesks. The design allows for pairs of students to work alongside each other, each with his or her own monitor on the table top and a slide-out keyboard. The tables are located over power connections, with conduits containing the electrical wiring and cabling leading to pop-up power and data boxes on the tabletops. CPUs are grouped under the tables in the center area around those conduits.

STEM Micro Campus: Middle School Converts Computer Lab into Innovation Space 

Dagounis chose a maple-veneer top to go with the butcher block used in an adjoining prototype lab, which holds 3D printers, laser engravers and vinyl cutters.

"Amazing." Dagounis said, in a statement. "It was important to be able to realize everything in the vision. We wanted the kids to be excited about the new innovative space where they would do new, innovative things. Paying attention to the little details was really important to us."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.