CA Labs Science Center / CA Labs in Action: Connecting Disciplines, Students, and the Wider World

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From science labs to tinkering spaces and new favorite spots to work and chat with friends, CA Labs has brought much light and many opportunities for collaboration to campus.

Once referred to as the new “science wing,” CA Labs has, in its first year, become a place that connects students and disciplines to each other and connects CA to the wider world. As students move from class to class through the wide hallways, many stop at the huge whiteboards on the walls to draw pictures and write notes of support. (On a recent afternoon, hand-drawn hearts covered one end of the board; stick figures made by a faculty member’s young child decorated the other.) A cozy nook with tall windows overlooking the Quad has become a popular gathering place, particularly for members of the sophomore class. “It’s such a nice, sunny spot,” says Syd Culbert ’19 as she relaxes with friends after lunch. Elliot White ’19 agrees. “During exams, we were all over the floor here,” she says with a laugh.

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In addition to providing new hangout spots for students, the building has also created connections among the academic disciplines and the faculty. One classroom is home to English, trigonometry, Latin, and advanced physics. English teacher Nick Hiebert, who taught the elective Thoreau and Kindreds in the Labs last fall, remembers the day his students overheard a conversation about uncertainty in a physics class next door. “This led us into a cool discussion about where questions of uncertainty arise in Thoreau’s writing, and how physicists and writers might be interested in similar questions in their approaches to understanding the world,” says Hiebert.

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The building’s design, with its flexible classroom spaces, fosters that sort of creative thinking on campus and forges connections with the wider world. In December, the Labs’ rooftop weather station began transmitting data to the online forecasting hub Weather Underground, so day students can now check campus weather on their phones before they head to the train. Although New England weather is famously unpredictable, the forecast for CA Labs so far holds steady: creative and lively, with a chance of inspirational.