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So much more than a science lab: How Huntingtower’s STEM pod spurs innovation

In 2019, Huntingtower School invested in a Harwyn pod for their very own science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) lab.

Today, the lab is an inspiring student space for generating new ideas – owing in no small part to the unique design of the space itself.

We caught up with the school’s Head of STEM, Greg Hellard, to talk about how the pod resonates with the aims of this future-focused teaching approach.

Why a dedicated STEM space?

In Huntingtower’s STEM lab, Greg teaches everything from system engineering to space science – and delivers all levels of primary school STEM support.

As Greg explains, a dedicated space for these activities is vital – for students and staff.

“To have a space to do STEM-type things is crucial,” he says. “You can put things like 3D printers, laser cutters and robotics somewhere that doesn’t get disturbed.”

“A STEM lab shouldn’t be confused with a science lab,” Greg continues. “In Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics you rotate between those domains, so you need a dynamic space.

“And a science lab isn’t conducive to mechanical practices. It’s got sinks and high desks, and you just don’t need that type of gear. You need a dedicated, inspirational, engaging environment.”

An incubator for innovation

STEM isn’t only about teaching the theory of the domains it covers. It’s also about encouraging students to play, experiment and explore their own ideas.

As Greg explains, the unique nature of the Harwyn design helps create an exciting atmosphere for students: bolstering the creative mindset he strives to instil.

“I’m pushing my students to innovate, to be different, to think outside the box. And I need the right environment and atmosphere to inspire that type of thinking.

“I’ve worked in engineering for a long time,” he goes on. “And when I go into a sharp-looking, modern building, it changes my perspective.

“If you’re trying to create a brand-new product or solution, sitting in a dark, dull room won’t be very engaging. You want a bright, inviting space where you’ll be happy spending that time.”

For Greg, Huntingtower’s pod ticks those boxes.

“The Harwyn pod makes a real statement,” he says. “It’s orthogonal, it’s cubed, it has a sexy metal finish. Underpinned by those qualities, we’ve turned it into an engaging space that’s not just a classroom, but a conversation starter.”

Sustainability and STEM

Huntingtower’s pod is an example of innovative thinking. And it’s also an example of sustainability and energy efficiency.

“The pod’s very well insulated, so it holds heat well. From a sustainability point of view, that’s really important,” Greg explains.

And Huntingtower has only built on that, turning the lab into an ecological paragon.

“We have a self-sufficient garden and a chicken coop at the back – and the pod is powered by renewable energy,” Greg says proudly.

Huntingtower has had solar panels on the pod’s roof since day one. This has lowered the school’s carbon footprint and energy bill – so it’s decided to install even more.

“That decision comes out of having that confidence in the solar panels,” says Greg. “Again, the space is setting an example. It inspires that sort of real-world thinking.

“It reminds me of that quote from Field of Dreams: ‘If you build it, they will come.’”

Equipping students for a changing future

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) says that STEM skills will be essential in the workforce of the future.

Yet it also stresses that Australia’s students are ill-equipped with them.

“The gap between the knowledge generated in the education system and the skills demanded by employers and individuals is widening,” the DESE reports.

“Overcoming these limitations requires a priority focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, including the development of workplace skills in STEM.”

Now that Australian education ministers have created the National STEM School Education strategy 2016–2026, STEM is becoming a key talking point.

So how can schools help their students get the most out of their STEM learning? As Huntingtower knows well, a purpose-built STEM lab is a smart place to start.

See more photos of this project HERE.

Considering a dedicated STEM space for your school? A Harwyn pod can inspire innovation – and make a striking statement.

To learn more, call 1300 Harwyn or enquire now.