The new Whitaker Lab, located in part of the basement at Menlo, was designed to provide work areas for Applied Science Research (also known as ASR), Engineering, Robotics, MBEST, and other science-related courses. Although it is not entirely finished, the new lab has new equipment and much more space than the rooms used before for these courses, earning it very positive feedback.
With a laser-cutter and three-dimensional printer, the lab has all brand-new pieces of technology. Engineering teacher Joanie Banks-Hunt said that in addition to the laser cutter, there are also “some very interesting saws that if you wanted, you can create crown molding. They’re that sophisticated with the cuts that they can make.” Although the Robotics class will not be using the lab until later in October, Robotics student sophomore Jamie Corley said that she is “looking forward to utilizing the new equipment.” The new lab also features various outlets connected to the ceiling with extension cords so that students can plug in portable tools and work on their projects more easily. Another M-BEST participant, freshman Lila Gornick, said that “the outlets that drop out of the ceiling are helpful.” Gornick also said that she loves how the lab is so spacious so all of the
M-BEST participants easily fit into the lab. Senior Julia Heimark, ASR student and Teacher Assistant for one of the Engineering classes, says that the “opportunity to do something in a bigger space” and the “more tools and more materials” is “especially is a big deal.” Banks-Hunt, who teaches her engineering classes in the lab, says that there is a big difference between the previous math classroom she worked in and the new lab. Banks-Hunt said, “we were always trying to make that classroom fit the type of environment we needed” and as a result, people would be “spilling things, melting solder on the carpets and we would keep having to get the carpets replaced.” She also noted that in the classroom, “you couldn’t see all the students – everyone was really packed together.” She says that “in this [Whitaker Lab] environment, you have all the space in the world to think. And you also have all the equipment, it’s visible, and it has a garage-shop feel so I think it brings out the innovator in the students.” Heimark agrees with Banks-Hunt, saying that in the previous Engineering room, “there were fewer outlets, it was more stressful, and you could only do so much with what you had.” But now, Heimark says, “everybody has what they need” and “you can get a lot more done in a shorter period of time.”
The Whitaker Lab has not been fully completed –the official opening of the lab is October 30. Banks-Hunt said “the construction part is finished but the tools that we would like to train our students on are still coming in.” She also said that some of the equipment needs to be attached to the floor to ensure that they will not move around and hurt someone. Plus, the lab “hasn’t gotten all the workbenches,” Banks-Hunt said. She added that she “thinks it looks great, everyone’s impressed when they come down and the environment is immediately noticeable that it’s a special space for students who want to engineer things.”
Although the new Whitaker Lab is still dealing with its final touches, Menlo teachers and students have been very positive about the space so far. Banks-Hunt says, “I love the new Whitaker lab. It’s actually more than I expected it to be. It’s the total environment to enable students to grow and learn a bit about engineering, and design, and applied sciences.”