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Revamped Upper School Computer Innovation Room Allows For Flexibility And Adaptability

The upper school Commons’ student activities room has transformed into a lively technology room for the computer science program.

Andrew Mouzin

The upper school Commons’ adaptable student activities room, which once housed a student cafe and zen room, has transformed once again into a lively computer innovation room for the computer science program.

The room’s metamorphosis started three years ago, as the school was looking to upgrade its computer science program. “We needed to find the right person to take over the program and to manage the robotics program, which we did with Ryan Baber,” upper school principal Mike Hill said. “We then tasked Ryan to transform the room into a place that would not only be great for our school and students, but also provide the flexibility needed to grow the program.”

For the next year, Ryan researched how other schools designed their technology rooms, and used his experiences working at independent schools in Los Angeles and as director of the getCoding Initiative at the non-profit, 9 Dots, to create an inviting, working environment.

“I found the best spaces allow for free movement, multiple configurations and separate areas for instruction and work,” Ryan said.

Taking notes from the other computer innovation rooms in the lower and middle schools, all of the tables are on wheels, which allows for increased space and accessibility. New whiteboard tables act as note-taking boards for students in classes such as computer “Boot Camp,” computer programming and web design. Sixteen desktop computers that took up most of the floor space has been reduced to 10 and moved to the edges of the room. Some of the desktops are on raised table tops, where students can either stand or sit on stools, while the others are at a more traditional desktop height. “The space is what I call, 'techumenical,'" Ryan quipped. "We allow for a mix of stationary desktops, laptops, iPads and student-owned devices. It’s not built for just one type of instruction.” 

The space also contains three 3D printers for the 3D printing class, and plenty of storage to house various cords, motherboards, hard drives and more that will be needed for students to build computers in the classroom, or for programming the robotics team’s creation. 

“I love the new room,” Mike said. “It’s exactly what we want for our students. It’s flexible and also visible to our students in the Commons, so they can see what their friends and fellow students are creating in the room. We can’t wait to see what they accomplish in that space.”

Ryan is excited to be teaching in the new space and his computer science classes. “I love project-based learning, problem-solving and ‘debugging,’” he said. “With the updates to the room, it allow us to make the program our own and to continue to innovate. It feels very much alive.”