Skidmore’s IdeaLab has grown out of an expansive vision for collaborative, cross-disciplinary learning. It has its origins in the planning for Skidmore’s Center for Integrated Sciences (CIS), which will bring all of our science departments and programs together with flexible, state-of-the art teaching and research laboratories to create a hub for innovation. With the support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Skidmore faculty envisioned IdeaLab as a space within CIS that would combine the philosophies of more traditional innovation centers with digital fabrication and the essence of maker spaces, taking full advantage of the co-location of all of our science programming while also ensuring that CIS will be a teaching and learning center for all students. The goal was to create a physical place where teams of students, faculty members, staff, and community members can gather, in the context of a course or a co-curricular activity, to program, prototype, model, and even market their ideas.
During the construction of CIS, the IdeaLab Steering Committee and makerspace manager Darren Prodger have embraced the spirit of iterative creation by prototyping the IdeaLab space itself. Since 2016, this temporary makerspace (the “Hub”) has embodied the resourcefulness and exploratory design that IdeaLab aims to cultivate on Skidmore’s campus. From the development and refinement of the Hub has emerged the design for the IdeaLab’s permanent home in CIS, which will open in Fall 2022.
From its inception, however, Skidmore’s IdeaLab has been more than a physical space for making and collaboration; it is also a broad initiative to foster innovative teaching. This less tangible component of IdeaLab promotes a spirit of pedagogical exploration that disrupts the traditional paradigms in which learning takes place on a college campus. IdeaLab has supported a range of experiments that challenge the structure of the 15-week semester and reimagine the relationship between faculty and students, and since Spring 2020 has made a metaphorical space for innovative teaching in Skidmore’s curriculum by offering designated IdeaLab (IL) courses.