In the Project Lab, a room located in the back of the library, students work on projects and relax during Flex Time. It provides free, unlimited access to a wide array of machines and tools to channel their creativity, from a 3D printer and Cricut machine to pens, crayons, and legos. But if what you’re looking for isn’t in that list, don’t worry: librarian Catherine Burton-Tillson said, “I’m always open to suggestions too, if students are like, ‘Oh, I wish we had…’ Creating things is really our goal in this space.”
When I visited the Project Lab, students were absorbed in a variety of creative endeavors. Freshman Paige McGaraghan explained, “I wanted to print something I made over break. I’m making an earpiece that you could swap out for the earpiece that’s already in the glasses and that could fit a hearing aid in there. It’s really annoying: you have the glasses’ end and then you have the hearing aid sitting on top, and then especially with a mask they pop out and it pushes your ear.”
Meanwhile, junior Axel Avalos made stickers with a friend while sophomores Celia Christine Rodriguez and Nightingale Fakavama drew together.
Who is the Project Lab tailored to? Burton-Tillson explained, “The Project Lab kind of addresses that time in your day where you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve been doing schoolwork all day. I just want to have some quiet space to do something that’s not necessarily academic.’”
Avalos said, “Often, if I don’t have any homework or anything left to work on, I just come here, relax, and make stickers with my friends. This is a pretty good place to chill.”
“I come here to relax and be my creative self without going to any art class,” Fakavama said. “It’s usually really quiet here, just kind of in the zone.”
Some of the students, like McGaraghan, were newcomers, while others, including Avalos and Fakavama, were Project Lab veterans.
Fakavama often comes to the Project Lab, even saying, “I actually cannot keep count [of the number of times I’ve come to the project lab]. Honestly maybe around 20 times.” And Fakavama has put that time to good use. Fakavama said, “Last year, they had a wood printing thing where you would draw what you want to cut out and it’ll cut it out for you, and I did a few tribal designs. And then if I’m not doing that, I’m usually just making buttons because they’re cute.”
Avalos has sampled many of the Project Lab’s machines. “When [my friends and I] first heard about the project lab we did 3D printing, and then we moved on to making buttons, and then they recently added this [sticker-making machine] so we’re just learning how to use it,” Avalos said. “So right now, we’re working with Ms. B-T and trying to make a sticker, like a Sprite sticker. And we usually be doing stickers for brands like Supreme, Gucci, and stuff.”
The inspiration for the Project Lab arrived a little before COVID-19. Burton-Tillson said, “The Project Lab used to be a lab with rows of desk computers, and we had these three freshman boys who would just roll around on the chairs and not do any work during Flex Time. I was like, ‘Well, I’m gonna go look up their grades and find out where they should be working on getting a better grade’—and they all had straight A’s. So I was like, ‘We don’t really offer a thing for students who either just need a break or they’ve done all their work.’ So that’s where the idea came from.”
Whether you already have a project in mind and just need the tools to make it a reality or it’s your first time using a Cricut machine, the Project Lab is the place for you. If you don’t know how to use one of the machines, you need only look at the instruction posters on the wall and videos on the library’s website. If you still have questions, one of the aides will be happy to help you.
Avalos said, “If you don’t have any work, just come over here and you could do anything you want.”