The projects students work on in STEM labs bring out their creativity, and lab spaces should be just as inspiring. There are many ways fab labs and engineering labs can become modular, flexible spaces that support students' imaginations and teamwork. Here are some ways your lab space and equipment can promote collaboration for the long term.
Modular Lab Layouts
Equipment, furniture, and storage placement can significantly impact how students engage in a space. It can also make a difference in the longevity of the lab.
There may be ways you can re-arrange equipment and tables for an existing lab that will make it more modular. For example, open up areas for students to gather and work together in groups by placing equipment along the walls. Put storage in overhead shelving or separate rooms or closets, so it's organized but out of the way.
For a new construction lab, you get to start with a blank slate! Select your equipment and evaluate your learning goals for the lab, for the near term and long-term. Design the lab and its mechanical, electrical, and plumbing in a way that allows for changes and upgrades in equipment as technology advances without needing to rebuild.
Mobile Carts for Equipment
You don't need to keep all of your equipment in a stationary setting. Laser cutters, collaborative robots, and 3D printers can be placed on wheeled tables or mobile carts to move through a lab. For example, the cart pictured below brings Universal Robots collaborative robots around the lab. It's on wheels so students can work right alongside them, and it includes places to store the wiring and controller for easy mobility.
Furniture on Wheels
Tables and chairs on wheels open up many possibilities for how students interact in the lab for project-based learning. You can move tables into different formations so students can work together in small pods or practice presenting to the class.
You don't need to be restrained by large or cumbersome equipment when designing a STEM lab. Between space planning, furniture, and selecting equipment that can become mobile, you can have a lab that gets students collaborating in ways that keep them engaged and exploring their creativity.