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Spaces for Innovation: 12 Suggestions

Google “space for innovation” and several hundred results will show up. The difference between this piece and others is that I compiled it on my flight back to Milwaukee and after visiting some of the most inspiring innovation spaces in Silicon Valley. Without further ado, I would like to present to you, 12 architectural suggestions to make a space for innovation:

  1. Increase Density, Involve Catalysts

Increasing density while involving a catalyst brings about more successful collisions. In Chemical Kinetics, this is known as the Collision Theory. In the physical space, magnets (physical or programmatic features that attract people to a place, e.g. food) and anchors (physical or programmatic features that keep people in a place, e.g. comfy chairs) can increase density while triangulators (physical or programmatic features that prompt people to talk to each other, e.g. art) can act as catalysts.

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  1. Allow Controlled Environmental Improvisation

People need to be able to adjust the environment to control the functional, visual, and auditory properties of space. Yet, flexible spaces seem to be most productive when coupled with subtle instructions inspired by best practices. Such spaces allow people to create different configurations within an effective framework. The best practices framework can be conveyed through the weight of the furniture, degree of transparency in dividers and partitions, ceiling height, shape of the room, the mood of the space, resources provided in space, the direction of rails/racks for moveable whiteboards/partitions, the direction of spatial expansions and contractions, etc.

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  1. Sync the Space with the Medium

The terms ‘lean back’ and ‘lean forward’ are referred to two styles of engagement with the media. Lean back engagement is mostly associated with ‘high absorption’ and happens when we are watching TV, reading a book, using tablets, flipping through a magazine, etc. Lean forward engagement is mostly associated with ‘high activity’ and happens when we are using the web, writing on white boards, working with a desktop, etc. It is important to sync the space with the media that encourage lean back, lean forward, or the fusion between the two (double/triple viewing).

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  1. Use the Space to Syncopate a Rhythm for the Community

Good space design corresponds to the choreography of complementary community events such as: whole community gatherings and small-group breakout sessions, exposure to a wide range of ideas and focus on specific problems, idea-sharing forums and tool-building projects, conceptual theorizing and hands-on prototyping, etc.

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  1. Strategic Juxtaposition

It is always important to provide a wide range of spatial and experiential opportunities corresponding to different states of innovative process: prototyping, reflecting, brainstorming, iteration, ideation, etc. Yet, what is even more important is the tapestry of these spatial and experiential opportunities. Strategic juxtaposition refers to creating an effective tapestry: programmatically neutral space adjacent to heavily programmed space, experientially restorative nook located in high intensity work area, alternative areas of light and dark to increase emphasis on certain locations, etc.

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  1. Create a Collective Understanding of the Aesthetics of the Work

Most art and design schools tend to publicly display models, drawings, projects, and other artifacts that are produced in the community.  Doing so, members of the community participate in creating a collective understanding of their culture by reproducing the clues that they receive from their surroundings on a daily basis: subtle details that make a great painting, a language to talk about surreal movies, graphic techniques to make political posters, etc. A good space is expressive of the community’s culture and a living gallery of its practices.

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  1. Provide Opportunities to Break Away from the Collective Understanding Explained in No. 6

In response to Google’s query about best environments for innovation, the Co-founder of Terraform One Mitchell Joachim writes: “Design is seeing new qualities in everyday objects. We surround ourselves with these seemingly random items to be inspired just so. Our working studio is similar to the toymaker’s shop in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner – a physical narrative of possibilities ready to be animated.”

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  1. Provide Jottable Surfaces that Move

People never know when and where ideas might strike. Some ideas are volatile and need to be rendered in diagrams or transcribed before they are forgotten. This requires for jottable surfaces to be everywhere. Moreover, making these surfaces as mobile as possible facilitates the cross-pollination of ideas, sharing, and brainstorming.

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  1. Desk +

Desks and tables should be thought of resourceful objects that actively contribute to the ecology of innovation. Whiteboards, storage spaces, power and cable outlets, lighting, wheels, etc. are features that can be incorporated to desks and tables with different types and sizes in order for them to become smarter objects.

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  1. Adjust the Mood of the Space

To be innovative, people should be encouraged to dream big, don’t hold back ideas, tinker and play, test their ideas, and don’t fear the failure. Accordingly, the mood of the space should be playful, leveler, rustic, casual, experimental, and show bias towards action.

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  1. Create Peripheral Conditions

Most communities are consisted of both core and peripheral members. Peripheral members maintain a connection but are not as engaged and committed as core members. They are valuable potential core members who have a unique and useful insight about the community. Yet, space is often designed to address the needs and behaviors of core members. Peripheral participation requires a degree of permeability in space to provide legitimate access to resources, low-intensity engagement, or even non-participant observation of the work process.

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  1. Use Data-driven Evaluation Strategies to Inform the Use of Space

That!

-Amin Mojtahedi, University Innovation Fellow ’15

Amin Mojtahedi, of Univeristy of Wisconsin Milwaukee

Amin Mojtahedi, of Univeristy of Wisconsin Milwaukee

 

This article was written by Amin Mojtahedi, a University Innovation Fellow at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. Amin is a Ph.D. candidate in the School of Architecture and a Researcher-Designer at Workshop Architects. See his full bio here.

Fellows Speak at White House

On September 24, 2014, two University Innovation Fellows went to the White House to address 60 leaders from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) who attended a half-day Maker Workshop. Two Fellows, Jaime Aribas Starkey-El of Morgan State and Ulysses Knight of Virginia State. Jaime spoke on a panel (see video) about his efforts to bring a maker space to Morgan. He also happens to be on the team of Fellows driving the Student IP Rights project (independent of Epicenter, Stanford or VentureWell) and was able to garner support and visibility for their efforts.

This is one in a series of followup events the White House is holding to leverage its first ever Maker Faire held this past summer. As part of that event, Tim McNulty, Vice President of Government Relations at Carnegie Mellon, gathered 150 signatures from University Presidents to commit to the development of Maker Spaces. HBCUs were largely absent from that list. That’s not OK. It is imperative that HBCUs are at the forefront helping lead the movement that has the potential to democratizing innovation, entrepreneurship and opportunity. The workshop was designed to make that case and introduce resources in support of the effort.

 

IMG_3029The day was designed to shed light on the power of the Maker Movement to educate. The Founder of Make Magazine and the increasingly popular events called ‘Maker Faire’, was an inspiring keynote speaker following Tom Khalil’s opening remarks. Our colleagues from the United College Negro Fund and the American Public Land-grant Universities discussed their efforts to expand Innovation & Entrepreneurship offerings at HBCUs. All three referred to their partnership with Epicenter, through the Fellows program. Tim McNulty expressed an interest in developing a community amongst the 150 signatories, much in the way Fellows have used community to acheive its change strategies on campus. Our colleague Craig Forest of Georgia Tech highlighted the success of the Invention Studio, an entirely free student-run maker space available to all majors for class projects or pet projects. Students have access to an array of equipment and also teach one another classes to acquire new skills.

 

University Innovation Fellows was up at bat again in the last half, with yours truly speaking on the a panel alongside TechShop, Maker Faire/Make Magazine and NSF’s HBCU-UP Program, as resources to help HBCUs get started. The audience was very receptive to the our message of using students to get traction on space and, more importantly, what goes on in the space. Design thinking workshops, lean startup events, challenges and other learning opportunities are the kinds of things that make the difference between a cool room and a vibrant student community. This strategy, along with the students completing the landscape canvas and networking campus stakeholder efforts together, has aided the university administration’s efforts to expand I&E on campus. Fellows created 22 innovation spaces last year alone, three that attracted additional funded by the institution in the millions of dollars as they demonstrated strong student engagement. A number of school committed to bringing on the University Innovation Fellows program that day. There were many highlights to the day, but my personal favorite was meeting Megan Smith, former executive with GoogleX and new Chief Technology Officer of the United States of America (pictured below). With her at the helm as CTO, we may just see some amazing ‘moonshot’ approaches to embedding the maker movement into all schools throughout the U.S.

~Humera Fasihuddin, University Innovation Fellows

 

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Berkeley Students Help Land $20MM From Jacobs Foundation for Design Institute

Jared Karp and Adam Eastman describe the sequence of events over one academic year which helped catalyze a student-led movement in the innovation culture on campus. New! Timeline for sequence of events posted below.

We got word of the $20 million gift on Monday afternoon and 78 hours later, we were able to extract Jared and Adam from their highspeed pace of change-making for a half-hour conversation. It felt like a clandestine secret agent meeting at the ungodly hour of 10:30pm EDT, but that’s what they were able to fit into their crazy schedule of summer internships, design teams, SPARK trucks (a traveling Maker truck sponsored by Motorola) and more.

Their efforts this past year drew hundreds of students from across disciplines to form design teams focused on creating solutions to industry-identified problems. The design community that took over as a result ultimately provided the momentum faculty and administration needed to land substantial investment from the Jacobs Foundation. Paul Jacobs, the CEO & Chairman of Qualcomm, serves on the Advisory Board of the Engineering School at Berkeley. This 30-minute video is a must watch if you want your campus to have more entrepreneurship and innovation activity, and for students to adopt a more entrepreneurial mindset.

Watch the video and post comments below for Jared and Adam’s direct feedback. Oh, and check back soon… we’re working on creating a timeline that helps document the key milestones their team undertook that brings us to present day in just under a year. If you would like to seed student change agents on your campus, consider enrolling a Student Ambassador for our Fall training. Epicenter is also introducing a Faculty Pathways program that works with teams of faculty and administration on a campus to acheive similar outcomes. For more information, visit us this week in Booth #417 at the American Society of Engineering Education, or email us today.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Timeline: 2012 – 2013 Sequence of Events Leading to Design Institute at UC Berkeley

  • September 2012: Jared and Adam attend event and tour at IDEO
  • September 2012: Interdisciplinary group of seven students come together, read The Art of Design brief created by Adam, inspired by vision & recruited as core team. Design Engineering Collaborative (DEC) is born.
  • October 2012: DEC Team attend Design Thinking workshop at Stanford’s D.Lab
  • October 2012: Jared participates in Student Ambassadors Program training
  • October 2012: Student Leaders approve DEC request to take over unused storage room in Engineering Building
  • November 2012: DEC’s first Design Challenge: Transform room into innovation space with budget of $600. Named Student Hub of Engineering Design (SHED)
  • November 2012: SHED open for use by all student organizations on campus, all scheduling managed by Adam
  • December 2012: DEC hosts Dennis Boyle, Founder of IDEO, to lead ~100 students through workshop that catalyzes engineering design teams working on real projects
  • January 2013: Adam invited to be only student representative on faculty team called PROTO committee (quoted charter from department chair is shown below)
  • March 2013: Adam works closely with Department Chair Professor David Dornfeld to establish main points to discuss about design innovation in department meeting ; Adam creates PowerPoint that overviews what DEC has done & what needs to be taken into account when creating more active learning classrooms
  • March 2013: Student Ambassadors Program invites Jared to speak at Smithsonian in Washington D.C. at the OPEN Conference, video and blog post creates more buzz on campus
  • April 2013: DEC organizational leadership forms enabling Jared and Adam to focus on attracting funding and industry engagement
  • April 2013: NCIIA invites Jared to participate at EPA People, Planet, Prosperity Symposium on Washington Mall
  • May 2013: Project teams present to Engineering Advisory Board, team of prominent alumni, including Qualcomm board chair and CEO Paul Jacobs
  • June 2013: Jacobs Foundation Awards $20 Million to UC Berkeley for Design Innovation Institute
Jared Karp

Jared Karp

Adam Eastman

Adam Eastman

Four Student Ambassadors Launch Innovation Space Venture, BetaVersity

Congratulations to Student Ambassadors Sean Maroni (NCSU), Lucas Arzola (UC Davis), Blake Marggraff (Washington University St. Louis), and Jared Karp (UC Berkeley) who launched BetaVersity this past April. BetaVersity designs and installs prototyping labs and ‘design kitchens’ for students to not only cook up new ideas, but also to make them a reality.
betaversity

For a fee, campuses can be up and running with a space and brand that draws students from all disciplines to design and bring their idea to life. For their investment, campuses receive training and support for student leaders and campus officials who are increasingly recognizing the importance of supporting a ‘maker culture’ to support the anticipated demand in manufacturing jobs (summarized well in this Forbes piece: The End of Chinese Manufacturing and Rebirth of U.S. Industry).

Within a month, the team landed their first customer UC Davis and now lists UC Berkeley and North Carolina State University as BetaVersity sites. These happen to represent three of the four locations where the founders go to school, so my guess is that Washington University at St. Louis will take advantage of their ‘in’ before BetaVersity has a backlog.

Tim Huntley’s piece BetaVersity – Taking Innovation to School, in An Entrepreneurial Life, credits the team’s visit to Stanford E-Week. There, the founding team met for the first time learning about the value of innovation spaces like Stanford’s D.Lab or ‘The Garage’ on Google’s campus. Imagine the power of connected innovation spaces on each of the nation’s 350 undergraduate engineering schools. Now THAT would make for an economically competitive future. To learn more, visit their website at www.betaversity.com.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

Makers Earning $45K After High School, Our Future Innovators

Today show segment showcases exciting new program that’s ‘making makers’ within high school.

High School Makers in MA Earning Big Bucks in Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing

High School Makers in MA Earning Big Bucks in Robotics & Advanced Manufacturing

According to the segment, The unemployment rate for people under the age of 25 is 16.2%, double the national average. A new program in Massachusetts is designed to train students in advanced manufacturing, robotics and precision machining to satisfy the predicted 100,000 jobs that will be available in medical devices, biotechnology and other technology sectors. The program trains students in advanced techniques at vocational school, and students graduate with their high school diploma with 100% chance of getting a job in their field at rates at a starting salary of $45,000. As someone who believes in the value of a college education for the experience of broadening one’s viewpoint, adopting solid STEM expertise, dabbling in the humanities and more … the phenomenon does give me pause. Still, one can’t argue with the defying of unemployment odds. If they felt they needed it, $45K allows students to self-fund evening and weekend courses to earn the notch on their resume that contributes to upward mobility. Heck, they could potentially take Stanford and MIT Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for free and amass a powerhouse of knowledge, allowing them to lead the U.S. rebirth of technology-driven manufacturing debt-free and on their terms.

If you’re a college track student, though, you can still gain these practical skills. We see a growing trend in Colleges and Universities offering Design Kitchens and Innovation Spaces complete with CNC machines, 3-D Printers and other prototyping, invention and innovation tools. NCIIA has funded a number of of these with its Course and Program Grants in which faculty get $50,000 to support University/College build-out of such programs, five page proposal deadline due next Friday, May 10th). We highlighted six such spaces at the Smithsonian during our OPEN 2013 national conference last month in Washington D.C.. If you’re a faculty member or student thinking about ‘setting up shop’ at a place the University community can openly access maker tools, check out the YouTube video below. You’ll hear six 3-minute talks faculty from U-Michigan, Georgia Tech, Rice, Stanford, Berkeley and the K-12 environment. Imagine a space, central on campus and accessible to students regardless of major or year. Imagine a space that allowed students to create Valentine’s Day presents and other personal items in order to encourage a culture of making, inventing and innovating. Imagine a space staffed entirely by students, developing strong student expertise and incorporating strict codes of safety. Now, imagine a nation of makers and entrepreneurial-minded young people, socially aware and passionate about tackling the world’s most pressing problems. College students don’t want to find themselves at a disadvantage to those who gained practical skills through vocational training. They’re dissatisfied with the pace of change within academia (Making, Entrepreneurship and Innovation seen as one in the same practical tool set College Students want) and many are leading the charge within their own institutions, like Jared Karp our Student Ambassador from Berkeley and one of the six speakers in the following video. While academia may be slow to change, students have more of a sense of urgency (with graduation comes repayment made impossible without a job). What’s more, they’re the customer! And that gives them a certain clout and ability to avoid institutional politics. Click and get ready to be inspired:

To inquire about bringing a Design Kitchen or Maker Space to you your campus, contact me at humera at nciia dot org.

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera

UC Berkeley Ambassador Speaks at Smithsonian, Washington D.C.

Jared Karp, Student Ambassador from University of California Berkeley, spoke at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in an event entitled, “Spaces of Invention.”

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The six-speaker event, held as part of the NCIIA Open Conference in Collaboration with Epicenter and was delivered Pecha Kucha-style (also known in some circles as an Ignite talk). In 15 slides that auto-advanced every 15 seconds, Jared Karp, a 3rd year Mechanical Engineering major at Berkeley, captivated the audience with his team’s quest to bring a Stanford d.School and IDEO-esque design space to the Engineering School at UC Berkeley. The result of their work, the Design Engineering Collaborative is a space now claimed by the Engineering Department as their own and is used by student clubs and faculty alike. Less lecturing and more hands-on making will create more inventive and innovative engineers, is the premise under which Jared Karp, Adam Eastman and other core team members are operating. NCIIA has seen many faculty espousing this belief in its 17 year history, but it’s the first time we’ve seen a student-led effort to make it so. Student Ambassadors joining the program will learn catalytic strategies like these to institutionalize a maker culture within their STEM Colleges and Universities. To see Jared’s 3.5 minute talk, advance to 32:40 of the following YouTube video of all six talks.

The five other speakers include faculty who describe their Design Kitchens and maker spaces from the collegiate through K-12 arenas. They include:

~ Humera Fasihuddin, Manager of Student Programming, T: @ihumera