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CLeaR Fellows 2020 – Assoc Prof Deb Polson

Studio Activity Kits (StacKs): Empowering students to develop and apply methodologies and prototypes in both studio and theory-based courses

Associate Professor Deb PolsonCo-Design Learning StacKs to Accelerate Studio Participation: We propose to make available anytime, anywhere new Studio Activity Kits (StacKs) developed by and for the Design Programme and its conjoint students and in consultation with leading Industry practitioners. These StacKs empowered students with skills and confidence in the use of tools, technologies and materials necessary to apply, experiment and develop ideas, methodologies and prototypes in both studio and theory-based courses.

In 2020 we delivered a brand-new Design Programme at CAI with 11 conjoints in a studio environment with exclusive access to specialised Digital Studios (tablets, sensors, VR, AR, gaming, etc) and Fabrication Labs (3D printing, drills, laser cutters, etc) for idea generation, experimentation and prototyping. Ideally, Studio Learning is designed for face-to-face sessions of several hour blocks allowing for intensive, sequential and progressive collaboration. However, with 11 conjoints it was unlikely that we would meet all of the studio learning requirements (technical, theoretical, methodological and practical) due to timetabling complexities. Adding to the complexity is that the graduate destinations for such a diverse cohort would be varied as would the expectations for experience with various tools, technologies and methods.

We proposed to develop a series of practical learning kits (StacKs) for first year students to access anytime and complete in studio and labs with the support of technical staff. There were 3 levels of Introduction StacKs (material), Intermediate StacKs (virtual) and Advanced StacKs (hybrid). These StacKs provided instructions, files and samples for each of the critical skills acquisition and tool orientation activities. All students were required to complete at least 2 StacKs from each level in semesters 1 and 2 before attempting studio and capstone projects in semesters 4, 5 and 6. There were gamified elements to create motivation, reward advancement and community interaction.

The StacKs were supported by technical staff that are available in both the Digital Studios and Fabrication Labs. The StacKs were short, intensive learning experiences that grow exponentially in complexity to insure and maximise the level of skill acquisition for every student who selects StacK options according to their own development interests and intended graduate destinations. Each student contributed to the design of StacKs: firstly by offering their prototypes as ‘samples’ for each of the PacKs and secondly by editing the instructions and resources of PacKs to insure the integrity and ongoing relevance of the activities and resources. This also prepares students for the joys and responsibilities of Open Source communities.