How many people are in the lab, and what is the mix of backgrounds and roles? I suppose we have taken
quite an unconventional approach to lab access and lab use. As opposed to considering the lab an exclusive
space for a particular group or task, we have chosen a more inclusive, shared approach, leveraging the lab to
foster an integrated view of research and exploration from the undergraduate level on up.
One of the first goals for building this lab was to bootstrap the skill and knowledge base of the industrial
design students in the combined areas of sensors, electronics, and programming to enable them to effectively
collaborate with computing and engineering students. A second goal was to attract faculty from other units
across campus to begin using our lab to teach their classes, with the proviso that they would admit our students into their classes. This strategy has paid off. We will have at least three external initiatives led by faculty from other units leveraging our lab and involving our students—one, led by Ali Mazalek from the Graphics
Visualization Lab, focuses on the relationship between cognition and physical interaction; a second, led by
Jon Sanford, the director of CATEA, focuses on universal accessibility for voting machines; and a third, led by
Thad Starner from the School of Interactive Computing and Clint Zeagler from Industrial Design, focuses on
the Wearable Swatchbook project.
March + April 2012
How would you briefly describe a day in the life of your lab? The lab can be a busy place…
Mornings are prime time for dedicated research initiatives. The lab has sufficient space to support several
research teams working in parallel—and it seems our students typically aren’t too active in the mornings—so
this tends to be the quietest time in the lab for focused investigation. Mornings are also dedicated to mainte-
nance, software updates, and installation, plus any special preparations for classes that might happen to be in
session. The lab is equipped with six rolling toolboxes (one per workstation) that can be equipped with parts
kits for special assignments.
The scenario changes drastically once we get past the noon hour. Afternoons are typically reserved for
classes and studio support. Student lab assistants monitor the lab in the off-class afternoon hours to ensure
access during the day. The evenings, on into the wee hours of the morning, are the prime working times for
the students. We are building a team of student volunteers who are knowledgeable in electronics and who
have supervisory authority to staff the lab in the off-hours to assist their colleagues, in exchange for near-unlimited access to the facilities. So far, that approach is working well.