College of Lake County’s Baxter Innovation Lab Helps Prepare Students for STEM Workforce
Renovated lab brings College of Lake County students a high-tech hangout where they can program, design, and tinker
A new lab in the College of Lake County’s (CLC) Technology Building houses a variety of sophisticated machinery: 3-D printers, laser cutters, and CNC (computer numerical control) mills surround movable tables and chairs. Shelves and cases display everything from laser-engraved wood boxes to 3-D printed objects such as a cell phone amplifier and a mechanical hand.
Welcome to the newly renovated, student-run Baxter Innovation Lab that supports the college’s Engineering Department. The 1,400-square-foot space, nicknamed the “Fab Lab” by the college, offers a variety of software and equipment that helps prepare students for STEM-related careers. According to the college, the lab “promotes experiential learning with a culture of innovative design, making, tinkering, and hands-on activities.”
The Baxter Innovation Lab is open to all CLC students. It also hosts enrichment programs for students in grades 1 – 12, as well as private meetings for companies and other organizations.
Before the renovation, the space was divided into two rooms: one held the 3D printers for CLC’s Engineering, Math, and Physical Sciences divisions, while a larger room was filled with trainers for the mechatronics program. The rooms were only occupied during regular class time.
The new Baxter Innovation Lab removes the wall and unites the two spaces, allowing students to work together on class-assigned projects or pursue individual initiatives. Students are encouraged to use the lab outside of class time.
“Around the college, there are many casual spaces for the students to gather outside the classroom, but there weren’t really any hangout and/or study spaces specific to the engineering program,” said Rob Twardock, engineering department chair. “The Baxter Innovation Lab provides that unique space for our students.”
Legat Architects’ Monique Taylor helped the college choose lighting and colors.
What was once a space with two gray-dominated rooms cluttered with equipment has now become an open lab that promotes collaboration and innovation. Rubber sheet flooring replaces the old vinyl composition tile (VCT) and an acoustic cloud hovers over the gathering area. The new color palette combines red, charcoal, yellow, and blue.
Taylor said, “We selected the colors to energize the space without overwhelming it. They add to the industrial feel of the space, but also fit the context of the campus.”
The renovation also installs a large window in the formerly solid corridor-facing wall. The window entices passing students to observe the lab’s gadgetry and activity, and perhaps explore the engineering program.
This project was supported by Baxter International Inc.
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