by Kasper Halevy (’24) | February 3, 2023
On January 10, the Eggers Innovation Center opened for the first day of classes after winter break. While the building is now home to most science and mathematics classes, co-curricular STEM clubs are also thriving in the space.
Robotics is likely the largest benefactor of the new facilities, which feature a spacious lab. “We’re getting a lot of brand-new, massive machines that otherwise would not have fit in the old lab…[such as] laser cutters, tons of 3D printers, and all sorts of tech that we now have the room and capabilities to use,” said Robotics team president Aarush Kachhawa (’23).
For over a decade, the robotics program operated in a small two-car garage, which was not only a technological but also educational constraint. With the significantly expanded space of the new lab, Robotics team moderator Mr. Mike Chechelnitsky sees the lab as a facilitator for the potential future integration of robotics into the academic curriculum.
Other hands-on STEM groups are also utilizing the new space. For example, Women in STEM Club co-founders Nadine Nguyen (’24) and Kavya Ummethala (’24) shared how space limitations in the portables previously hindered demonstrations and experiments: “We tried extracting DNA from strawberries, but because there was not enough space with the portable desks, we had to push [the activity] back.” Arduino Club president Utkarsh Agarwal (’23) explained that the expanded space allows for the storage of circuit kits in various locations around campus. Additionally, the increased flat-surfaced table space in the open labs has allowed Science Olympiad teams to add critical “final touches” to their build projects and to conduct “practical lab work” in preparation for tournaments, according to team president Ishan Pachauri (’24).
Another new feature of the Innovation Center is the abundance of power outlets, which Agarwal said is a significant upgrade from the sparse and inconveniently placed ports in the old science building. Likewise, Pachauri expressed that the power cords on the ceiling are “especially helpful for the wiring of the buzzer systems, giving us more space and less tangling of wires.”
While the spacious design of the building enhances many technical aspects of STEM clubs, the Innovation Center’s openness serves as a social stimulant as well. Kachhawa explained how the compact garage could have appeared daunting to potential new members, whereas the more open and welcoming robotics lab may generate more interest. The team is no longer confined by the old lab’s size, he added, enabling the club to form secondary competition teams and “spread innovation and engineering principles to everybody.”
Similarly, Builders’ Club president Aarav Sontakke (’25) shared how the layout of the Innovation Center increases the “visibility” of activities like Lego building or an egg drop competition. Even for clubs that do not need the hands-on features of the Innovation Center’s facilities, Math Team co-captain Will Li (’23) explained that because many students “wander after school” to explore the building, they are naturally drawn to new clubs.
Ultimately, the goal of the Innovation Center is to facilitate the spread of ideas and bring them to life. Lancer Tech League (LTL) moderator Ms. Shraddha Chaplot believes that the Innovation Center will play a crucial role in executing abstract ideas: “We often have activities or fairs where students are sharing something with their peers, but it’s something on a computer or code running. I want them to make it more visual and understandable for those people who do not code… I feel that in the Innovation Center, they have a lot more space to create [in] the Innovation Lab and a lot more space to display.”
The new speaker spaces also promote the transfer of knowledge between the Saint Francis community and experienced professionals. One such event that will leverage the new facilities to host guest speakers is LancerHacks VI, the sixth annual Saint Francis hackathon scheduled for February 11. “We previously used a makeshift speaker area [in] the library, but now we actually have dedicated speaking spaces like the gathering stairs or the Black Box Theater,” noted LancerHacks VI organizer and LTL president Ruhi Yusuf (’24).
Whether by delivering much-needed technical upgrades or increasing interest in STEM activities, the Innovation Center gives everyone an opportunity to create. As Ms. Chaplot said, “The building provides materials to bring whatever you’re dreaming of to life and gives you the skills to do that.”
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