Abuzz with invention in a typical year, the Carter Innovation Studio (CIS) is a focal point for hands-on work at Athenian. In its bright, airy spaces, students can be found focusing on their creations as they drill, saw, draw, create 3D models, or bring robots into motion for major competitions.
Home to the school’s engineering, architecture and making classes, the studio also hosts Athenian’s robotics and entrepreneurship programs. While it’s quieter now, plans that have been on hold due to COVID-19 are regaining momentum – a tiny homes project with the architecture program is in the works, and a hydroponic garden project is brewing.
CIS Director Vivian Liao is in charge of long-term planning for the lab, and is excited to have students back in person.
“It’s a nice energy to have students back. I like seeing them focus on their projects,” Vivian says.
At the beginning of of this 2002-21 school year, Alicia and Vivian spent time putting together kits for students in CIS classes so that they could work on projects at home. Now, with the school on an alternating-week in-person schedule, they are making improvements in the lab in preparation for its return to full activity. They are conducting maintenance on the machines and tools and have ordered a new professional-grade Ultimaker 3D printer.
With architecture and engineering back in person, small groups of students may soon be allowed to use the machines. One of the challenges now is to figure out the flow of people through the shop and the safe shared use of tools.
“We are just in the process of figuring out how we can let students do hands-on work while maintaining the hygiene and safety standards that COVID requires,” Vivian says.
Trained as a furniture designer at the Rhode Island School of Design, CIS Shop Manager Alicia Wang makes sure everything is running smoothly in the CIS, maintaining the machines and the facility. In preparation for students coming back to campus, Alicia has been organizing and labeling materials, and has cleaned up the hydroponic towers outside so that students will soon be able to plant vegetables hydroponically.
Alicia is interested in making of all kinds, and was drawn to Athenian’s experiential model.
“I feel like hands-on learning, this approach, is not the norm, and that’s also an experience that I’ve received in my own education in furniture design, so I want to see what it’s like to build a community that centers this type of education.”
While students are still learning online, using Arduino or online rendering software, Alicia notices how happy they are to be back in the shop.
“They pick up like nothing happened,” Alicia says. “They’d sit down and just start chatting and working on their stuff, and that’s nice to just hear in the background while I’m doing other things in the shop.”