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The Hotchkiss EFX Lab: A Modern Day Playground

It is no secret that STEM labs are popping up on campuses across the country. Still, some schools are taking design-thinking spaces to a whole new level, and Hotchkiss’s EFX (Engineering, Fabrication, Exploration) Lab is one of these places. Their 3,136-square-foot lab provides space for students to ask big questions, collaborate on even bigger ideas, and engineer their own answers into tangible technologies.

Last Fall, the Hotchkiss community got their first peek at the impressive lab. First impressions were highlighted in the Fall 2017 Hotchkiss Magazine article,”The Class of 2017 EFX Lab: Engineering, Fabrication, Exploration.”

“What might you imagine happening in here?” Economics Instructor Adam Lang asked students in his Design for Social Impact class as they toured the new Class of 2017 EFX Lab. “Industrial design!” shouted one student. “Art and architecture projects,” chimed another. Robotics, engineering, science, math, chemistry, photography — “the possibilities of how to use this bright new space seemed endless to students.” The Class of 2017 EFX Lab: Engineering, Fabrication, Exploration (Hotchkiss Magazine)

Since opening its doors, the EFX Lab has been home to many class projects. Last winter, an AP Physics class used the space to invent and design new musical instruments. According to an article written for Hotchkiss News, “The students created prototypes of 3D-printed, laser-cut and Arduino-controlled instruments, including an instrument they named a “clute,” a cross between a conventional clarinet and a flute; a “do taar,” a two-string instrument modification of the Eastern one-string setaar; and the “marble xylo,” a percussion instrument, which resembles a xylophone.” Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Physics Students Create Music (Hotchkiss News)

The students didn’t have much experience with playing musical instruments, but they used fundamental themes learned in class like wavelength and frequency as a foundation to build their designs. The article continues, “Instructor in Physics Anju Taneja said the project helped students realize that design is an iterative cycle of prototyping, testing, isolating flaws, and constant refining, which requires a lot of patience, commitment, and work.” Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Physics Students Create Music (Hotchkiss News)

The EFX Lab is fully stocked with tools to support each student’s workflow including a prototyping studio, a CNC (Computer Numerical Control) router, a large format digital laser cutter, 3D printers, soldering stations, a band saw, drill and wood press, and Arduino kits. However, it is important to note that building a state-of-the-art STEM lab is by no means a prerequisite to creating design thinking curriculum. What you really need are passionate teachers who can inspire students not only to ask the challenging questions but to come up with their own innovative answers.

Photos and videos provided by Hotchkiss.


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