Phyllis M. Taylor Maker Lab: Designing a New Experience

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Brittney Giardina and Erin Fortier, Editor-in-chief and Editor

Mount Carmel Academy enhanced their curriculum this year by creating the “Design Cycle Experience”–a multi-step approach to class projects–and by adding the Phyllis M. Taylor Maker Lab to campus.

The Maker Lab consists of 16 3-D printers and one laser engraver that students use to create whatever they can imagine. The lab’s overall goal is it to enhance the learning experience for students and supplement what they are being taught in class.

“The idea of the Maker Lab came out when we had the desire to create an innovative curriculum and knew that 3D printing would be instrumental in helping us in project based learning and our design cycle experience,” said Ms. Beth Ann Simno, school principal.

The funding for the Maker Lab was written through a grant that Mrs. Sue Buras and Sister Camille Anne collaborated on and given through the Phyllis M. Taylor Foundation. The school received $200,000 to create this all encompassing, multifaceted learning facility.  

“The Maker Lab is a hands on creative space for students of MCA where they can utilize 21stcentury skills along with current technology to create innovative designs. The Maker Lab has been used to topographical illustrations in geography, anatomical models in science classes, and jewelry in art classes.” said Maker Lab Coordinator, Mrs. Jeanne Rachuba.

One project in particular was pioneered by Mrs. Peavey, a World Geography teacher. The project’s goal was to address the problems surrounding shantytowns–a collection of makeshift homes or “shanties”–around the world.

“Small groups were assigned a specific shantytown and by using the Cubs Create Design Thinking, they conducted in-depth research about their assigned shantytown to get a better understanding of the lives of the people, the issues or problems they deal with on a daily basis, as well as propose logical solutions to combat these issues,” said Peavey.

The students were asked to create a model of their solution if there were no limits placed on the materials they could use. Freshman Madison Gomez took it a step further by creating an actual 3D model of her group’s solution.

Gomez’s group’s shantytown was Jakarta, Indonesia and the specific problem they chose to address was water pollution. Their solution was to create a filter that would separate the trash from the water and to have a water tank that would distill the water for drinking and bathing.

The Maker Lab’s goal is to help Mount Carmel’s students be more creative and take more of an initiative during projects–and so far, this has been a success.

“It will help the students become more aware of the processes involved in designing for the future. Anything from a bolt that can be used for a wheelchair or a simple keychain design can be made. The creativity is in the research and trial and error attempts in the design process,” said Simno.

This openness and willingness to embrace learning, creativity, and mistakes is what the Design Cycle and the Taylor Maker Lab are all about. And it looks like these new additions have a place in the school’s long-term future.

Simno went to say that “Anything we can use to help our students understand the STEM process is important in which the Maker Lab was a part of the process. The future job perspectives for this generation are yet to be determined, so it is our responsibility as educators to prepare our students for the world that awaits them.”

So, go out and make something.