Students learn about the technology behind 3-D printers on Monday, September 18, 2017 in Wilbir Powerhouse. This workshop, titled Hot Plastics, Cool Prototypes, is part of the LearnX Series hosted by Moutaintop.

Lehigh’s LEARNX series encourages creativity, learning

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While plenty of technological tools are at the disposal of Lehigh students, these resources often go untouched by students who are unaware of their existence or how to take advantage of them.

The Mountaintop Initiative’s new workshop series, LearnX, is looking to change this.

The workshops, which began Wednesday, are being offered in an effort to bring students and faculty together and give them the tools needed to use Lehigh’s resources to their maximum potential.

About 35 workshops are scheduled throughout the semester.

In order to create a hands-on environment, most of the workshops allow for about eight to 12 students. They are open to any student, staff or faculty member, no matter their skill set prior to the course.

Brian Slocum, the managing director of the design labs at Wilber Powerhouse, said he is excited about the opportunity for this close engagement with the students.

Slocum, who is responsible for managing resources such as the 3-D printing lab and making those resources available on campus, is leading the technical LearnX workshops.

“My purpose is to engage the students to take advantage of the resources,” Slocum said. “Things like the 3-D printers are for the campus community at large. They don’t belong to a specific department.”

Slocum brainstormed ways to create a pathway for students to understand what resources Lehigh has to offer and how to get them to actually use the resources to make something. He wants students to come to the workshops and apply what they learned after.

“My idea is if you know we have (resources like 3-D printers) but don’t know how to get started, come to this and in two hours, you will be able to go through the process,” Slocum said. “It’s combining informational stuff with hands-on (training) for easily accessible pieces of equipment.”

The LearnX events are a part of a bigger series LearnX-MakeX-SprintX. It is the vision of Khanjan Mehta, the vice provost of creative inquiry, to have students go through each step of this series.

The MakeX workshops are for students to create.

“It is a way for the entire community to share what they are really good at and meet other kids who share their interest in that topic,” Mehta said. “We want to get students to create all kinds of stuff that has impact.”

SprintX workshops are longer and more in-depth than the LearnX and MakeX workshops. These will be closer to a half day of learning, but will still be hands-on. Mehta wants to be sure that Learnx, MakeX and SprintX are not lecture-style and hold everyone’s interest throughout the workshop.

“SprintX is just a way to take what they’ve learned to another level,” Mehta said. “It’s almost like the leader is a facilitator of information, or lead adventurer, rather than a teacher.”

The LearnX workshops range from learning how to weld to learning how to be happy and are a trial-and-error effort.

Slocum said they plan on taking advice on what workshops they could add or take away, as well as feedback to repeat successful ones.

“I just want students to learn stuff,” Mehta said. “I want them to connect academic life and curricular life. They should know that a lot of learning happens outside the classroom, and these workshops will help them build skills and find soul mates to take new intellectual and creative pathways with.”

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