4; ATTRACTING AND EMPOWERING STEM
Stephen Blair, PE, LEED AP
Preparing enough STEM graduates to drive the scientific breakthroughs and technological innovations of tomorrow will be a daunting task for colleges and universities
across the country. Here are three ideas every university
should consider when rethinking their STEM learning
spaces to better recruit and retain students for the future.
1. Get out of the basement. Traditionally, STEM teaching labs and research spaces were located in building
cores or basements. These underground “lairs” were
uncomfortable and uninviting to students and faculty
using these facilities. Instead, science should be “on display”—place classrooms and labs in public, high-traffic
areas. Instead of solid walls, expansive floor-to-ceiling
windows celebrate the sciences and allow passersby the
opportunity to observe research and watch it unfold.
This helps make science an approachable, open process,
and as an added benefit, it gives universities the chance
to show off their cool research equipment.
2. Embrace startup culture. A key component of successful STEM programs is experimentation. For example,
if you look at the most successful technology startups
over the last 10 years, very few started in formal academic settings. More often than not, they started in
garages or coffee shops—places with more sofas than
fixed bench space. There’s a lot STEM learning environments can learn from these spaces, specifically in how
they encourage free thinking and experimentation.
3. Infuse appropriate technology into S&T academic
environments. The flipped classroom is a pedagogical
model that has students watch video lectures and complete
homework prior to class. Doing this creates richer face-to-face interactions; instead of listening to a lecture, students
spend their time asking questions, participating in hands-on
activities and even getting involved in real university research
efforts. On the most dramatic end of the spectrum, some
universities are using virtual reality, simulation and gaming
to inspire and educate future STEM innovators. These tools
allow students to quite literally take part in technology.
Read the full article: http://bit.ly/1VlqW8h
4; FLEXIBILITY—IT TAKES A PLAN
Greg Muth, LEED AP BD&C
Tsoi/Kobus & Associates
Research labs need to be able to adapt to change.
Science is changing, new equipment is being developed,
and funding priorities shift, so modern labs must incorporate some degree of flexibility to deal with this. You
start with what are the limits of what you can achieve
in your lab. What is a flexible modification and what is a
fundamental redesign. How far can you bend your facility before it breaks?
A flexibility plan needs to start with what are the
outer boundaries of what you are willing to have
your facility be. There is a quality that we like to call
robustness that we define as the extent to which a
building’s systems can support program changes.
Decreasing robustness limits a lab’s flexibility while
increasing robustness to accommodate a greater range
of flexibility adds both construction (capital) and
operating (expense) costs. So it’s a tricky balancing act
finding the right mix, but it’s important to recognize
this balance once you start planning renovations.
Another question that the flexibility plan needs to
address is how long can a renovation take? A day?
A week? Longer? Can the renovation be done while
the lab is in operation or will there be down time?
Obviously it will be cheaper to do the work during
working hours, but if work has to be done after hours
or on weekends, this needs to be factored in.
Working with a client in New York City, we found
that we could get a full 40-hour week by having
contractors work triple shifts over a weekend because
schedule and downtime concerns outweighed budget
Read the full article: http://bit.ly/1UmFPXx
The GVI/CTRC put science on display with open windows and highly collab-
orative lab environments. Image: Tim Wilkes Photography
Jackson Labs utilized a ballroom design with movable casework along with
a demountable partition to allow expansion of wet lab space into dry lab
space. Image: Bob Benson