- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

ASHLAND, Mass. (AP) - Seeking to foster creativity and self-learning in students, a group of teachers is making a push to rehab an old engineering room and computer lab in the high school into a sleek new maker space.

The space, called the Ashland Innovation Center, is designed to accommodate work with electronics, robotics, programming, woodworking, digital fabrication and textiles. Really, it’s designed to accommodate what the students need it to, whether it be to make art, a game, a tool, a robot.

The important thing is it gets kids making stuff, said Chad McGowan, a computer science teacher and member of the seven-educator team trying to make the innovation center happen.

“The idea is to create something where our students can be innovative without limitation,” he said.

In the engineering lab, McGowan laid out the committee’s vision: open-bin storage containers full of raw material, a woodworking station, roving work tables easily reconfigured for different projects, a 3-D printing station and a station for soldering circuitry.

But, as of yet, the group lacks funding to realize the vision. They’re working with the Ashland Education Foundation to secure outside grants.

Once the goal is realized, the educators hope the space will be used for classes, for students of their own volition, and by the community at large.

They believe the space, by itself and what it offers, fosters creativity. The standard public school curriculum does not always encourage people to be their most creative, said McGowan, but making things almost always does.

“It’s important to have people realize that making is learning,” he said.

The Innovation Center is currently in a pilot stage funded by a Boston Athletic Association grant from the Board of Selectmen. Educators take a cart full of building materials to classrooms in the high school and middle school.

The concept is catching on, McGowan said, especially with young women- a group that, historically, has participated in fewer technology classes than their male counterparts.

“The maker space program has been very heavily female, and that’s an access point we so dearly need,” said McGowan, adding that the program’s budding popularity could help foster interest in technology in general.

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Information from: MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.), https://www.metrowestdailynews.com

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