When the Steelcase Pyramid Campus
research facility reopens in the fall, it will be a different kind of learning arena.
Though the architectural pyramid-shaped landmark was operated by Steelcase researchers from 1989 to 2009, the state-of-the-art model shop and testing labs will be made available to schools and businesses located at The Pyramid as well current members, thanks to the innovative GR Makers, which plans to occupy the space by fall.
“We’ve long said there are three pillars to GR Makers - entrepreneurship, creative expression and, of course, education, and those are the core of what we’re about,” says GR Makers Vice President Samuel Bowles. “Education is something we’re very committed to and when we saw an opportunity to extend our reach and help more people, we thought that was an interesting opportunity, especially being so close to these kids.”
Currently, GR Makers operates an 8,500-square-foot open community lab space at 401 Hall Street in downtown Grand Rapids where they allow members access to a full prototyping studio, complete with tools like 3D printers, laser cutters, a CNC mill and other woodworking and power tools.
Bowles says learning through the physical act of building is an element of innovation often lost in our current public education system.
“One of the things we’re seeing in most schools is that shop classes disappeared, so kids aren’t afforded the opportunity to learn with their hands in the same way other generations have been able to,” Bowles says.
The move to The Pyramid Campus is consistent with some of GR Makers other programming, like the summer camp for neighborhood school children that teaches them the chemistry of cooking, tie-dye science and the Grand Rapids Public Museum-hosted GR Maker Fair, which Bowles says was one of the public museum’s most attended events of last year.
Bowles says with the new Pyramid Campus location, GR Makers expects to make over $1,000,000 worth of tools available to up to 6,000 additional students and members. He says his team there is currently meeting with area educators to learn how to better tune new programming and curriculum to the needs of the students.
“We’re already beginning the process of defining what some of that looks like, but we’re also very much looking to connect with many of the local educational institutions to shape that,” Bowles says. “We’ve started and we want their input to make sure that what we’re moving forward with will be the best fit.”
More than anything else, GR Makers facilities strive to bring back the notion that sometimes failure is the best option, because it gives both our students and ourselves a reason to think differently the second (or third) time around.
“I think that our educational system has moved more and more toward teaching kids facts and teaching kids theory and not getting them in contact with real materials and real problems that allow them to experience some of the real challenges they’re going to face once they leave school; because we’ve done that we’re depriving them of really important lessons, lessons on how to fail,” says Bowles.
“Failure in school is a really, really bad thing, it’s something that comes back on a test and if you don’t succeed and if you don’t do it right, you can’t move on,” he says. “But in the real world, failure is something that helps you move on and we know if we can get kids in contact with real material to try something, fail, learn from it, and try again, we’re giving them lessons that just aren’t taught in classrooms.”
For more information, visit www.grmakers.com
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of Samuel Bowles/GR Makers