A community of innovators and creators in our new MakerLabs

Our new MakerLabs have propelled Norfolk Collegiate’s innovative learning to higher heights.

Last year, with the help of our Annual Auction Fund-an-Item, the concept of our labs came to life when Brendan Hoyle, theater director and coordinator of maker education, proposed a makerspace movement. The goal was to enhance Collegiate’s curriculum by establishing community hubs of innovation throughout our lower, middle and upper school campus. Hoyle received $25,520 to bring the idea to fruition.

Since the start of the school year, our students have created Keva Plank towers, wooden and 3-D pieces, puzzels and more. 

New technology such as a CNC Router, 3-D printers, laser cutters, hand-powered tools, computers, Lego® Robotics and littleBits Electronics have been added to the spaces. Other fascinating items that have been introduced to our students include Osmo, a unique gaming accessory for the iPad that includes coding and tangram; Ozobot, a small, smart toy robot that empowers students to code and connect the physical and digital worlds; and MakeyMakey®, an invention kit that allows them to combine art and engineering with the Internet. 

Our labs are labeled one through three with MakerLab 1 in the lower school, MakerLab 2 in the middle school and MakerLab 3 in the upper school.

“We are having an absolute blast in MakerLab 3,” said Hoyle. “Recently, our upper school students have served as assistant teachers in MakerLab 1 at the lower school. Both the upper and lower school students have loved the opportunity to work together with these emerging technologies.”

 “I’m really enjoying the MakerLab this year because there are so many new tools at my finger tips,” said Sarah Philpott ’17. “Like with the laser cutter, I was able to make a personalized gift for my boyfriend and that was really special to me. I created a bird out of a block of wood, which is a symbol of kindness.”

“The entire space is very open and provides an outlet for creativity,” said Hailey Bartel ’18.

“What I like about the MakerLab is that you can think of anything and create it,” said Mia Mathas ’18. “This year I learned how to use the power tools to create something that I can use personally or that our theater production team can use.”

“One thing I like about the labs is that it teaches us new tools such as MakeyMakey®, which uses electrical currents to program a keyboard,” said Trafton Addison ’17. “The space encourages growth in an academic area that a lot of schools don’t offer. It’s nice to see how we are broadening our horizons.”

Keva Planks have been all the rage at our lower school, and Hoyle’s hardest blow hasn’t knocked down some of our lower school students’ towers.

“The lower school is in love with the MakerLab,” said Melissa Silverman, lower school science teacher. “All classes have experienced the lab at this point. Students used Keva Planks in teams to build the tallest tower possible that would withstand Mr. Hoyle's hardest blow. Students enjoy working together and strategizing an engineering plan. They also spend time with Osmo interacting with tangram shapes to solve challenging puzzles; use Sphero to practice coding; enjoy the Makey Makey® micro controller to turn everyday objects into programmed controllers to create music in a computer program; and they also draw code on poster boards to control Ozobots.”

“We can build anything that is in our brain in the MakerLab,” said Gavin Rodden ’28.

“I love going to the MakerLab,” said Austin Hrisko ’25. “Programming the Spheros is my favorite [because] I like changing the colors and programming it to move wherever I want it.”

“It is so fun to learn in the MakerLab,” said Keeley Boone ’27. “I wish we could go every day.”

Many of our teachers have taken the opportunity to tailor class lessons and projects to encompass the MakerLabs, including: Evan Benedict '04, upper school English teacher, whose class will create realistic rendering of an article symbol on the novel The Kite Runner; Jill Archer, middle school English teacher, whose class will create icons for a mythology project; Ashley James, lower school teacher, whose class plans to build dioramas of each region of Virginia using the 3-D printer; and Dave Fisher, upper school science teacher, whose class will build a working full-scale trebuchet.

“MakerLab 2 in the middle school hit the year running with MakerLab choice time, including Chinese 1 and the seventh-grade silk road project,” said Claire Fornsel, middle school science teacher.

“The MakerLab has a lot of materials that help us do the things we need to do,” said Drew Hess ’22. “The 3-D printers help us design and create things we normally cannot get from a hardware store.”

“MakerLab 2 opens lots of experiences for students; there are lots of tools and materials we can use for projects,” said Zac Fowler ’22.

“Just what I have always wanted because I like to create things,” said Maggie Campbell ’22. “I’ve spent hours at my grandmother’s house making things out of boxes.”

To learn more about our maker education programs, contact Brendan Hoyle at bhoyle@norfolkcollegiate.org.