Photo by Reece M. Krantz ’16 — The Information Commons is a hub for studying and research on campus. This summer, it will transform into the Innovation Commons.
By Gabe Morrison ’17
This summer crews will remodel the Information Commons, converting it into the “Innovation Commons,” a more technology-oriented space intended to encourage student creativity.
The Innovation Commons will open at the start of the 2015-2016 school year, and it, like the current Information Commons, will be accessible to all students.
Mr. Noah Lewkowitz ’98 said the hope is that the Innovation Commons will become a space where students can learn together.
“The hope is that it becomes a new hub on campus where students can collaborate on not just projects but learning together through the use of art and technology.”
Brophy is creating new classes specifically oriented around the Innovation Commons.
“World history is being eliminated as a requirement for freshman… and in place of that, we are creating a class called Introduction to Innovative Technologies,” said Assistant Principal for Technology Mr. Jim Bopp.
Mr. Lewkowitz said this new class would have an instructor acting as a guide for student learning.
“It will be geared toward encouraging students to problem-solve and learn these new sorts of technologies and machines on their own, with the instructor not sitting in front teaching them constantly but acting as a guide to facilitate their own curiosity,” Mr. Lewkowitz said.
“I think the strength of the new class is this idea to get students to be curious about the world,” Mr. Lewkowitz added.
Mr. Bopp also described the class as having the feel of a project-oriented, student-driven, lecture-lacking art class where students would be doing a wide range of things at the same time.
The plan is for the Innovation Commons to have three separate working areas.
The first section, closest to the entrance, will be an “open and collaborative space where students can come meet together (and) talk,” Mr. Bopp said.
Mr. Bopp said that books commonly checked out by students or that teachers want students to have access to will likely be put in this front third of the space while the others would be donated.
In the second section, Mr. Bopp said there will be 20 to 30 high tech computers “capable of doing some really advanced graphic media, really advanced programming, a lot of different types of analysis, and they are going to be better than anything we’ve ever had on campus before.”
Mr. Bopp said virtual reality, projects and experiments, and augmented reality are three capabilities that the new computers will have.
Coding club president Hector Parra ’17 said he was really excited for the new computers because it would enable his club to have more meetings and to program more.
The back third of the space, the fabrication workshop, will have a wall separating it from the front two-thirds, and, according to Mr. Bopp, it will be a place for students to build things.
“We’re going to have a wide variety of different types of tools and equipment back there for students to make things,” Mr. Bopp said.
Mr. Bopp said the fabrication workshop will be equipped with high tech 3D printing, laser cutters, CNC Routers, mills and basic workshop equipment.
“There’s going to be a real focus on electronics as well, so there will be lots of soldering stations, circuitry, microprocessors,” he said.
“It’s going to be a space where guys can think of something they want to build and at least prototype it there,” Mr. Bopp said.
The larger quiet room will also be renovated into an audio-visual studio space.
“There will be a green screen there and a computer with really nice processing,” Mr. Bopp said.
Mr. Bopp said that these plans are all tentative, as they were in the early planning stages and still could be changed.
“This all really tentative. We have just started the first phases of our discussion,” Mr. Bopp said.
In addition to Introduction to Innovative Technologies, an honors elective class and a capstone project for those who cannot fit it in their schedule will be offered to upperclassmen.
Mr. Bopp said these classes would be optimal for students who are interested in the Innovation Commons, and they would involve students suggesting an idea to and partnering with a teacher, researching and creating their envisioned idea with the materials provided in the Innovation Commons, and then presenting the finished product.
“I could see myself taking that senior year,” Parra said of the elective.
Principal Mr. Bob Ryan said transition plans are still in the works.
“As we plan for the transition of the Information Commons into the Innovation Commons, we are also planning for the impact this will have on students who currently rely on the Information Commons as a workspace before/after school and during sutdy hall periods. While the specifics have yet to be finalized, we are committed to maximizing students’ ability to access this space for productive uses,” he said.
Mr. Bopp said the Innovation Commons will have similar hours as the current Information Commons.
“The facilities will be open during lunch and after school to any Brophy student,” Mr. Bopp said, though he made it clear that students would be required to pass a test to use the expensive and potentially dangerous equipment.
Mr. Bopp said he thought the Innovation Commons was going to include many elements of a Jesuit education.
“Jesuits have a tradition of staying at the cutting edge of technology and also finding ways to make sure that technologies are being used to help other people.And so in that sense I think that the idea of using technology for the common good is a very Jesuit thing,” Mr. Bopp said.
Mr. Bopp said that the space would have the potential to integrate new technologies as they become more prominent.
“The whole space is going to be set up so that we can bring in new technologies as they become more and more prominent,” Mr. Bopp said
School administrators have not yet announced plans for where substitute classes currently located in the Information Commons will meet next year.
Mr. Bopp also said that the ban on food would likely be lifted in the Innovation Commons.