Each and every division of the school leaves their mark in the Make Innovate Learn Lab (MILL). The idea of a MILL had been discussed for over 10 years, but last year this idea became a reality. “The school’s New Frontiers campaign and the change in how science was being taught with an emphasis on engineering allowed for the space to happen,” MILL Co-Teacher Colin McCarty said.
The MILL has a wealth of equipment including nine 3-D printers, a large format printer, a large format laser cutter, a lathe, a sanding disk, a band saw, and many hand tools that can be used on a wide array of personal and school-related projects, making it a place for creative work. “This is a space to pursue passions, to pursue interests, and to pursue solving problems,” McCarty said.
Utilized by classes across all grade levels, the MILL allows for an alternative style of learning, focused on hands-on building and problem-solving. “The MILL is an open, large and multifaceted place that allows students to explore different ways of thinking, different ways of making and different ways of interacting and collaborating with each other,” Visual Arts Teacher Erik Niemi said.
Middle School Electives Teacher and High School Robotics Mentor Muktar Ali believes that the MILL has had a substantial impact on those who use it. “[Using the MILL] really inspires [students] to design, create and do things for themselves,” Ali said.
Like Ali, McCarty observes the work being done in the MILL on a regular basis due to his position within the school. “I can point to instances every day where students are being curious, being problem solvers, being responsible, and acting with integrity,” McCarty said.
Many students, like Eddie Gualandri (’20), have used the MILL to work on independent projects. Gualandri utilized the space to build a 3-D model in an effort to help him in designing his own shoes. “I have always been really passionate about shoes, which is the project that I’m working on now,” he said. “Without having the MILL, I don’t think I ever would have been as far as having a 3-D printed prototype.”
Several other students and have also taken to the MILL to work on their personal projects. Zoé Rose (‘18) is continuing to work on a project that she started last semester in the Design and Engineering class. “[In the class] our group built a chair, and this semester I am elaborating on that design and trying to make something more permanent. I want to make it for the Lower School kids so that they could each have their own customized seat and storage area,” she said.
Like Rose, Tomas Belinky (‘20) frequently uses the MILL to work on both school and personal projects and feels it is a place to express himself. He often makes things such as key hooks for his house while also working on school-related activities like robotics. Additionally, he takes on certain projects with teachers. “Recently, I helped out [Science Department Head Andrew] Ringham with some of the marker holders in the Learning Commons,” he said. “I am soon going to start a project with [Computer Science Teacher Livia] Santos to mount some cameras around the Learning Commons for her VR [virtual reality] project.”
Not only students but also teachers use the MILL to work on both school and personal projects. Santos is among those teachers who use the MILL for their own personal and school-related projects, “I have used the MILL for my own projects. I wanted to build a whiteboard wall, so I used the MILL to paint the whiteboards and I was able to cut it all together. I made my own whiteboard in the MILL.”
Many students and teachers including Gualandri enjoy all the time that they spend in the MILL. “I think [the MILL] something quite magical and quite unique to ASL,” Gualandri said. “Overall it’s just an amazing space and an amazing place to be. I think that it’s something quite magical to be able to come to school where someone usually thinks of school as having boring classrooms, but being able to walk into school and walk into such a room that you wouldn’t really expect.” “Whenever I tell my class that we’re going to the MILL, they get really excited about it,” Santos said.
The MILL has also had a particularly significant effect on the direction of the High School robotics program, providing a new space for the team to collaborate and work. “Since we’ve had the MILL I feel we’ve been very successful. Last year was the first year that we had the MILL, and both teams did very very well. One team won and one team got to the semi-finals,” Ali said. “It’s nice where you can have 60 people collaborate all at one time. [The MILL] just helps the entire program and makes it stronger overall. I have definitely seen improvements from the team since we’ve had the MILL.”
The MILL is not only producing objects or ideas but people who will leave ASL and go out into the world to make a difference. “The goal of the MILL is to give students the skills to go out and tackle those problems and make the world a better place, and also to get [students] to think like engineers, scientist, designers, and problems solvers that ask themselves, ‘how do I tackle the big problems in the world? How can I make design solutions to those problems?’,” McCarty said. “To think like a problem solver is what we really want the space to generate.”
Written by Staff Writer Eli Nilson