When school began in September, one of the first things that became clear is that our facility, while ideal for small group work, could barely hold all of us in any single room. Thirty was really the maximum if we wanted to be able to look at and talk to each other. After doing a series of hands-on projects that involved making and building things (like a solar USB charger for wireless phones), we also thought it would be nice to have, well, an actual workshop. Together, we started sketching out what we would want in a workshop space. We concluded that it needed to be large enough to accommodate all of us, it needed to allow for a variety of design and building related activities, and it needed to be 100% self-sufficient from an energy perspective.
For this project, students broke into teams to conduct preliminary research into different aspects of the planning and design process. The teams focused on six areas: materials, technology, finance, permits/policy, design, and creating a documentary about the process. At the conclusion of the project, each team presented to the community, focusing on what they had learned and what they would recommend as next steps should we move forward. Additionally, each student prepared a written research brief summarizing findings from their individual efforts. This project concluded in December, 2011.