The Nest Offers Research Grants for the 2019-2020 School Year

As part of the new Nest makerspace programming, research grants are being offered to support students interested in researching topics relevant to the future, such as climate change, artificial intelligence, and sports analytics. Students who apply and receive a grant will work with a faculty advisor to research and develop possible solutions to their issue throughout the 2019-2020 school year.

“Each fellowship, each project, is meant to be a solution-focused research project that is meant to last throughout one academic year. The solution can be a prototype version described in a paper, it could be something that’s actually designed and created in the makerspace as a physical object…we are extremely open and comprehensive in what could end up being a result. We do know that we want every student to share their results with the whole community, whether in the form of a presentation, or whatever, but it has to be something that the whole community benefits from,” said Malgorzata G. Stergios, Assistant Director of Institutional Research, one of the advisors who will be working with students next year.

Michael J. Barker, Director of Academy Research, Information, and Library Services, came up with the idea of Nest Labs after having advised students on over ten Independent Projects during his time at Andover.

“The idea is not really too new; we have supported student work in the makerspace like this in the past. This program just adds a bit of structure and focus to some of what was happening. [Claudia J. Wessner, Makerspace Coordinator/Lead Experience Designer], Ms. Stergios and I drafted a proposal. I brought the idea to both [Head of School John] Palfrey and [Clyfe Beckwith, Dean of Studies] and circulated it among a number of teaching faculty to get their help and support,” wrote Barker.

Along with Barker and Stergios, Wessner will also be helping students throughout the entire research and design process. Similar to an Independent Project, students will meet at least once per month with an advisor on the library team for feedback and to ensure progress on their projects.

“I don’t see myself or Mr. Barker or Ms. Wessner as supervisors, I want students to look at us as consultants that are available to them. I think I will be on task primarily for pushing them to do rigorous research about the project, and so will Mr. Barker. Ms. Wessner and any additional collaborators can introduce them to design thinking and help them with the design part. I envision this to be a weekly meeting, very informal, but I think it would be a very close collaboration, in a sense,” said Stergios.

Students interested in applying for the program had the opportunity to attend an informational session last Friday, April 12, along with submitting a written application, due by May 10. Stergios is excited for the Nest Labs program because it gives her a unique chance to work with students in a way that she was previously unable to do.

“I personally love it because I’ve done a lot of research in the past with the Headmaster’s Office and it was both related to a very broad set of ideas related to education, but also institutional research, which is somewhat removed from the actual students. Since I’m not actually a faculty member, I couldn’t teach them, I only co-advised independent projects over the past few years, so I’m psyched because I can do something with more that two students a year. I am also excited because… I can influence something that will bring a lot more joy to the students than a typical classroom setting,” said Stergios.

By the end of next year, Barker hopes to see the students in the program not only learn and become passionate about a certain subject, but also create something meaningful to share with the rest of the Andover community.

“Grant winners are expected to experiment and research, and report what they are learning through a series of channels. I suppose how we will help depends on the nature of the proposed work. It is likely each project will have it’s own trajectory. Each will be its own journey… The outcome I would be most happy with is that the chosen students use this as an opportunity to really focus on something in depth over a self placed, sustained period of time. That they use it a chance to learn about something they care deeply about,” wrote Barker.