SMARTdesks' Customized Collaboration Tables Makes Chatham Middle School's STEM Innovation Lab Perfect for Robotics, Coding and Computer Aided Drawing & Design (CADD)

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School District of the Chathams, New Jersey, chooses SMARTdesks' collaboration tables customized for robust CPUs, collaborative work space, and easy access to power and data connections to support robotics, coding and CAD design STEM courses. Chatham Middle School's Innovation Lab sets the new standard in robotics classroom design.

Paying attention to the little details was really important to us.

Described as "Amazing" and "Nothing else like it in the District," by District of the Chathams administrators, students are reaching new levels of success in their STEM studies of robotics, coding, and Computer Aided Drawing & Design (CADD). Project leader Danielle Romaro Dagounis, in her role as the Supervisor of Instructional Design Technology, turned an old-school computer lab into a multi-purpose Innovation Lab. The robotics collaboration space drove the need for specialized collaboration furniture to integrate robust computers, robot assembly work space, an ideal shape for collaboration, and a floor plan that permitted twenty-four students to have floor space to test their robots.

In an interview, Danielle Dagounis says that the process of developing the STEM micro campus within Chatham Middle School's facilities started over five years ago. The STEM curriculum had been started using the existing classrooms out of necessity. What is now the Innovation Lab was once the computer lab, which was only used for teachers to come and visit their classes. Classes for the computer lab were not formally scheduled. The computer lab was chosen for robotics, coding and CADD because robust software was required. Chromebooks and laptops were not not up to the task.

The drawbacks to the original classrooms:

  • Three STEM teachers used two classrooms, which presented a logistics nightmare
  • Robotics classes couldn't leave their work set up to be resumed later
  • No room for students to collaborate in the traditional computer lab setup
  • No floor space to test the robots.

Searching for collaboration furniture for the Innovation Lab, Dagounis couldn't easily find a shrink-wrapped solution. Initially, the desks were too big or too small, and they didn't have the ability to keep the CPU and keyboards under the desktop to allow for robots to be constructed. She recalled seeing some the SMARTdesks products being exhibited at the New Jersey School Board Convention when she was presenting for her District some years ago. She went online and connected the dots. Together with the SMARTdesks design team and the architects working for the District, an ideal design was identified for the project—the SMARTdesks Collab® Table—and routine customizations were made to make the furniture meet all requirements.

The footprint of the SMARTdesks Collab® Table met the criteria for being a collaborative furniture design, perfect for the space and floor plan to let students build and test robots. The large central wire management base houses a centrally located power data pop-up to charge and download data to the robots from CPUs suspended below the table top. The bases are located over power connections core drilled into the floor. Retractable keyboard/mouse platforms allowed full access work surfaces for building robots. The gently curved corners of the triangle-shaped top formed the perfect team collaboration work space. Displays on the work surface are easily moved for viewing multiple screens by a team. The surface colors were selected to coordinate with interior design choices for the space. Dagounis selected a maple-looking top to go with the butcher block used in the adjoining prototype lab where the 3D printers, laser engravers and vinyl cutters are used.
The ribbon-cutting for the reveal prompted phenomenal feedback by all, including the kids, the parents, and the school principal, who said it was, "Amazing." Dagounis adds, "It was important to be able to realize everything in the vision. We wanted the kids to be excited about the new innovative space where they would do new, innovative things. Paying attention to the little details was really important to us."

SMARTdesks designs and manufactures innovative, custom computer conference tables and computer classroom furniture. Each product is made to order, nuanced for the technology, purpose and interior design choices for the space. SMARTdesks is the patent holder for flipIT® products and is the sole source for flipIT and factory integrated flipIT furniture products. Serving universities, corporations, government and military clients world-wide, SMARTdesks furniture is made in the USA using Certified GREEN manufacturing methods. For more information, contact smartdesks through the web site—

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