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Spelman Innovation Lab

 

Vision

The Spelman Innovation Lab envisions a world where Black women are ethical, broad-thinking, technology-empowered global leaders driving change in the world.  

 

The Spelman Liberal Arts education has a long history of being a leader in producing morally-conscience Black women who are life-learners and who go on to reshape society.  To maintain this position of leadership into the future, the Innovation Lab aims to equip every student with the capacity and habit of adopting and leveraging emerging technologies as a multiplier for effecting change.

 

 

Mission

The mission of the Innovation Lab is to bring and keep Spelman in a leadership position of adopting and integrating new technologies that enhance the art, humanities, social and natural science programs of the College.  The Lab is an interdisciplinary invent-design-build-play-experiment and entrepreneurship laboratory.  The Lab is deliberate in inviting, challenging and empowering students, faculty and staff to materialize, explore and develop creative works, new designs, new concepts and new products and to export these beyond the workbench when appropriate.  To that end, the lab operates in three overlapping spaces: The Makerspace and Digital Fabrication Lab, The Entrepreneurship Hub and the Technology Exploration and Integration Programs.

Lab Spaces

The three spaces of the Innovation Lab are supported by academic curricula, research programs, workshops, student clubs, faculty grants, fellowships, scholarships and other Innovation Lab initiatives that, collectively, form the core programs of the Lab.

 

Makerspace and Digital Fab Lab

The Makerspace and Digital Fab Lab is a campus-wide resource for interdisciplinary ideation, design and prototyping.  Equipped with a mix of conventional and numeric control tools of fabrication, the Lab encourages students to experiment, play, try, fail, re-try and succeed in a non-judging space that is supportive of all ideas.  Student learning in the space is achieved through workshops, peer-to-peer mentoring, online resources, formal courses and guest speakers.  Major workspaces within the Fab Lab include a fabrics area, a 3D fabrication section, a digital cutting section, a microelectronics section, an arts and crafts area, a wet space, an assembly area, a carpentry shop and a central space for ideation and design.

 

The Entrepreneurship Hub

The Innovation Lab is the natural home for co-curricular entrepreneurship programs on campus.  Its signature program, Spelpreneur, offers a formal introduction to entrepreneurship through a year-long, three-part program that “Educates, Inspires and Empowers” future black women entrepreneurs.

  • EDUCATE - The Fundamental Series is a semester-long bi-weekly sequence of workshops where students learn about the entrepreneurial mindset as well as key concepts of starting, running, and growing a business.

  • INSPIRE - The Entrepreneur Chats, is a semester-long bi-weekly speaker series where students engage with successful entrepreneurs who openly share their entrepreneurial journey.  Students may also take advantage of the Speed Mentoring program which offers 1-on-1 meetings with practicing entrepreneurs.

  • EMPOWER - Held in the spring each year, the 10-Day Start-up Competition provides students the opportunity to put into practice what they learn from the Educate and Inspire sessions.  The “Shark Tank” style pitch competition challenges students to validate a business proposition that solves a problem of their choosing.

 

The Entrepreneurship Hub is also home to the Blackstone LaunchPad, which executes a fellowship program as a next-step to the Spelpreneur program.  It also hosts the Entrepreneurship student club and collaborates with external organizations to support students with more developed business ideas.

 

Technology Exploration and Integration Programs

The Innovation Lab is continuously looking for ways to incorporate technology elements into the liberal arts education of Spelman students.  In part, this involves continuously experimenting with new and emerging technologies and looking for ways to make those technologies accessible to students, faculty and staff.  Currently, the Lab is at different stages of exploring a number of technologies, including generative AI, quantum computing, NFT/Blockchain, App Development, Game Design and Development and Interactive Media technologies.  Our technology adoption and integration process roughly moves through the following stages:

Exploration--> Co-Curricular Programming--> Academic Course(s)--> Academic/Research Program

 

Exploration - In the exploration stage, the IL Team experiments, discusses and evaluates the potential utility and potential for adoption of a given technology by members of the STEM and non-STEM faculty and student body.  Technologies in this stage include quantum computing and NFT/Blockchain technology.

Co-Curricular Programming - As a next step beyond exploration, the Lab develops co-curricular programming in the form of workshops and/or student clubs around the technology.  Technologies in this stage include Add Development and Virtual Reality and Generative AI

Academic Course(s) - When the utility and student demand for the technology becomes clear, we partner with faculty members from a range of disciplines to develop courses to formalize the educational elements of the technology.  Technologies in this stage include digital fabrication and physical computing.

Academic/Research Program - When multiple courses are in place to support a particular technology,  a minor area of study is formed.  Technologies at this stage include technologies associated with interactive media and technologies associated with game design and development.

 

Academic Programs

The Innovation Lab is home to two academic minor programs: the Interactive Media Minor and the Game Design and Development Minor.

Interactive Media Minor

The interactive media minor fosters creative practice / research and multidisciplinary experimentation with emerging media technologies.  Students in the minor are exposed to a maker-centric education focused on their development as socially engaged, creative individuals fluent in the use and development of cutting-edge media and technology.  The minor curriculum combines project-based learning with the study of historical, cultural, and social aspects of media and technology. The program emphasizes the development of skills applicable to a broad spectrum of media and technology through individual and collaborative work. Guest lectures from industry professionals supplement the curriculum and place students in direct contact with leaders in various sectors of the field: business, entertainment, art, design, and creative technology.

 

Game Design and Development Minor

Gaming is a STEAM discipline that brings together art, storytelling and technology in equal measure.  The Game Design and  Development Minor is a program of study that exposes students to these three elements of effective game creation.  The minor consists of five courses: three foundational courses (art, narrative development and game programming) and two electives that allow for a deeper exploration into one of the foundational areas. The minor is largely project-based and encourages students to think about games as a cultural instrument for immersive storytelling as well as a platform for social engagement.  Learning outcomes for the minor include mastery of core ideas of gaming narrative, understanding social aspects of gaming, understanding gaming mechanics, programming and finally being able to conceptualize and  prototype a complete game.

 

 

Research Programs

The Innovation Lab is currently home to two funded research programs.  The Lab also currently funds three active research projects in the Biology, Physics and Chemistry departments.


 

Impact and Reach

The Innovation Lab is student-focused, but serves the entire Spelman community: students, faculty and staff.  Fall 2023 faculty and staff engagement includes research and academic programs headed by members of the departments of Art (6), Physics (1), Biology (3), Chemistry (1) and the Title IX Office (1).  Student engagement for the last 10 weeks of the fall 2023 semester included 861 visits by 323 unique students from 24 majors, representing service to approximately 14% of the entire student body.  These figures exclude classroom attendance, Spelpreneur activity and any engagements outside of the physical Lab.  The figures also exclude visitors who neglect to voluntarily sign-in when they enter the Lab.  The five most active majors in the space for the Fall of 2023 (not in order) are Art, Biology, Computer Science, Economics and Health Sciences.  The Lab hosts approximately eight courses each year and executes or participates in a number of student engagements including the HBCU Game Jam, the BE SMART Hackathon, The Black Ambition challenge, the Spelpreneur 10-Day Startup Competition, the OceanX Young Explorers Program, and several others.

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