The Berkeley Carroll Beta Lab is our new 2000 square foot, two-level STEAM lab, providing the space, equipment and expertise for Middle and Upper School teachers and students to meaningfully explore the connections between science, technology, engineering, art and math through complex labs and student-directed projects. The innovative space deepens and amplifies the school’s interdisciplinary program, and enhances the teaching of 21st century skills like critical thinking, independence, communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving.
Unveiled in September 2017, the Beta Lab is managed by our Engineer-in-Residence, Ryan Byrne, who joined the faculty after working as an engineer at SpaceX and in medical device manufacturing. He oversees the lab’s day-to-day operations, and works with teachers to help them develop and implement activities for their classes. Mr. Byrne also works directly with students, assisting Upper School students with their independent Science Research & Design projects, teaching Middle School robotics, and serving as faculty advisor to Beta Gamma Robotica, the Upper School robotics team that competes in the annual First Robotics competition.
The lab currently offers:
- 3 MakerBot 3D printers
- Epilog Fusion M2 32” x 20” 40-Watt Laser Engraver
- Drill press, band and chop saws
- MIG/TIG welding equipment
- Full range of hand tools
Within weeks of opening the lab, faculty were using the space to enhance their teaching, by scaling up favorite lessons and reimagining project-based approaches to others. Physics teachers switched from a demonstration to having students measure force and momentum using a ball and the lab’s generous 65-foot length. Middle School math teachers gave algebra a real-world application by having students calculate the trajectory of paper airplanes propelled from a custom-built launcher. Students also took initiative: sculpture students began to use new tools to manipulate wood and metal, and one senior proposed and co-taught a Spring Intensive on bicycle building that was only possible with the tools and space provided by the Beta Lab.
As with the concept of “Beta testing,” Berkeley Carroll opened the lab with thoughtfully developed ideas about how the space could be used, but with the expectation that users -- students and teachers -- would reveal how the lab can grow and improve. The Beta Lab provides the space to accommodate equipment and materials for which we haven’t yet planned, and we are excited to see the creative and critical projects our students and faculty dream up in the months and years to come.