The Shop

A collaborative summer design/build experiment imagining and building the future
of fabrication at Olin. A partnership with students to design, prototype, and create environments,
artifacts, systems, processes, and experiences that support hands-on learning across the continuum for every student.

Thought into form

We are six engineering students, two faculty members, and two staff members who set out during the summer of 2017 to build the foundation for a strong and healthy creative culture in The Shop at Olin College. We sought to improve integration with the curriculum and to manifest the power of student collaboration in the design and creation of learning experiences and environments.

Shortly after Olin College was founded, the leadership and the faculty decided that in order to support a project-based mechanical engineering curriculum, the college would need a machine shop. We bought equipment. We hired staff. We created training protocols. In short, we created a very capable production machine shop. Work orders went in; parts came out.

As the curriculum and culture of Olin evolved from the early days, design began to play a larger and larger role in our learning experiences. Along with a focus on design came a bias toward action and the pervasive practice of iterative prototyping. We recognized the power of the dialog between making and thinking, synthesis and analysis. We saw value in creating learning experiences in which every student (not just the mechanical engineers) learns to design and build something.

We undertook this project to create a more expansive definition of making at Olin, one that welcomes and provides access points for all students. We sought to improve the community's experience of The Shop through user research, design, and prototyping. Our team of students, faculty, and staff collaborated to build the foundation for a healthy culture of student engagement, autonomy, ownership and stewardship. Going forward, sustained integration with Olin's curriculum will allow The Shop to serve as a creative platform for experimenting with ideas related to the role of making and fabrication in learning broadly.