Student Feedback on Bettering the KnowledgeLab

Student Feedback on Bettering the KnowledgeLab

The KnowledgeLab is preparing to purchase new materials for the space and has been gathering responses from students in regards to what changes they might like to see. Thank you to everyone who filled out our Google Form survey or responded to our questions on the whiteboards in the KnowledgeLab!

When asked if they would rather we purchase new furniture or new technology for the space, a small majority said furniture. Many students told us they liked our beanbag chairs and would love new ones!  Other ideas included more art supplies and puzzles for our prototyping cart. These purchases would definitely help the KnowledgeLab become more of a creative space where students come not just to study, but for study breaks or other extracurricular purposes, as well.

Several people liked the idea of the KnowledgeLab hosting more academic or special studies presentations. This would benefit both those looking for a more informal space to present their work and those open to hearing new ideas and talents being shared. More open houses and more org events were popular suggestions, as well. One student even suggested that it might be nice to have workshops for specific materials in the space to show students how they might use them in a collaborative setting. In general, a wider variety of events seem to be the best way to please everyone in terms of the fuctionality of the KnowledgeLab.

Our student feedback these past few weeks was hugely helpful – we’re so glad you care about the space enough to want more for it!

Talking Truth @ Smith: Finding your Voice Around Climate Change

Talking Truth @ Smith: Finding your Voice Around Climate Change

Underwater view of coral reef.
Coral reef, Jarvis Island. NOAA Photo by Bernardo Vargas-Ángel.

How can virtual and immersive experiences help us face the realities of climate change? The Knowledgelab and Smith College Libraries will explore this and other questions on Friday April 20, 2018 with our Talking Truth @ Smith  event, a series of workshops and reflective gaming and making activities from 10am – 4pm. The Talking Truth series began at UMass Amherst as an effort by librarians, students, activists, and others to engage communities in dialogue about the impact of our changing environment on our emotional and physical well-being.  

All events held in KnowledgeLab, Seelye B4.

Virtual Reality Experience
10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
Come to the KnowledgeLab to witness ocean acidification firsthand in a short virtual reality experience.

Finding Your Purpose
Noon – 1 p.m.
UMass Librarian Madeleine Charney will lead a discussion about using her career to build a more sustainable world. Lunch provided; vegan/gluten-free options served.

Identity & Place
1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
Hands on writing and discussion workshop about the significance of identity and place in a climate chang(ed) world, led by Outreach Librarian Jodi Shaw.

Neilson & Sustainability
2:15 p.m. – 3:15 p.m.
Discussion: How does the new Neilson library facilitate future conversations, making, and scholarship about Climate Change? Janet Spongberg, Josten Library Circulation Coordinator.

Zine Making Workshop
3:15 p.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Zine workshop: “An Open Letter to the Smithies of the Future.” Led by Amanda Ferrara, Archives Associate.

VR Across Campus

VR Across Campus

On Friday, March 30th, the KnowledgeLab hosted the first ever gaming event to take place at three locations across campus where students could compete against each other in virtual reality. Attendees played Rec Room, a multiplayer mini-game collection where each person played laser tag and disc golf in games against other real players in different Smith locations. We also played Star Trek: Bridge Crew, an action-adventure game that places you right into the Starfleet ship. Both games provided fully immersive atmospheres where the players could experience the world of the game from the perspectives of their avatars and could move around freely and explore the virtual space.

Those who joined us in the KnowledgeLab really enjoyed the experience and the spectators had just as much fun watching them play and interact with virtual opponents and teammates. GAP presented several discussion questions for the gamers to think about as they played.

The first question, “What were your preconceived ideas of VR before coming here today? How did your experience today change those?”, sparked a lot of conversation. Both players of Rec Room felt much more immersed in the virtual reality than they had expected to, even though the graphics were more cartoonish than realistic. One student wrote:

“During the disc golf game, I really felt immersed in the game. At one point, I was trying to throw the disc upwards to get it up a hill, and accidentally hit the ceiling with the remote in my hand. I wasn’t even aware of the space outside of me at this point, so much so that I was not aware of the limitations of the space (including the height of the ceiling) so I really found this experience to be something completely new and more immersive and interactive then I thought possible.”

It typically took the players a moment to adjust to both the virtual avatars and those physically in the space with them communicating with them simultaneously, but they quickly caught on to balancing both. The players even high fived their virtual teammates and became competitive with their opponents. In response to Question 2, “What was your experience with regard to communication, collaboration, and cooperation while playing this game? How did VR enhance this?”, one student remarked:

“With ambient noise, it was a little difficult to pick out voices [of the other players in the game], but once you connected voices with faces, communicating came very easily. The people felt very real and I felt a real sense of collaboration and conversation, even when competing.”

We didn’t have very much time to play Star Trek: Bridge Crew at our event, but a student did get to briefly sit inside the ship and work the controls. The player’s avatar is seated in this game and we found that it was disorienting for the player if they were not seated in real life as well.

After gameplay, a few students stuck around to discuss educational applications of VR, or Question 4, “How do you think you could use this for a class project? How can multiplayer factor into VR’s use in the classroom?” One student brainstormed a variety of ways it could be beneficial in an academic setting:

“It can be used to talk with people around the world, which would be useful for languages, and you can explore and interact with different places. You could use it to teach basic skills or explore relevant places from around the world. You can also use it for classroom bonding, to make people more comfortable at the beginning of the semester.”

The KnowledgeLab Vive is open for student use during Joce Kofke’s hours – Tuesday/Thursday 12-2pm and Friday 1-3pm – or by appointment by emailing

Gaming Archives Project

Gaming Archives Project

gaming archives project logo
Hey, wasn’t this WIG?


Yes, this group was previously known as Women in Gaming. However, it came to our attention this was not inclusive to the entirety of the Smith community, and did not represent our goal to create a space for all marginalized groups to explore gaming, not just women. After bouncing around a few ideas (we were almost EGG!) we ended up going for the Gaming Archives Project, or GAP. We aim to create a platform for those typically without a voice to write about their experiences with video games, and to bridge the gap in the gaming industry and culture. The goal and heart of this group hasn’t changed, just the name.

This group is for anyone with an interest in a range of possibilities in the world of gaming, from researching certain topics within games, such as the typical portrayal of women, to more about women in the gaming industry.
Join us in the KnowledgeLab every other Friday for playthrough events, and during Joce’s gaming hours on Tuesday/Thursday 12-2 and Friday 1-3 to check out our collection of games.
Games we have purchased for the Knowledge Lab include:

We would love to hear more suggestions or ideas about what this group could entail. If at all interested, please join us at our next meeting or contact Tammy Lockett with questions at For more information, visit our website at

Prototyping Cart!

Prototyping Cart!

Thanks to Alex Widstrand ’17, a senior Engineering major and Design Thinking Initiative student, there is now a brand new prototyping cart for students to use in the KnowledgeLab. This cart has an assorted supply of useful and creative items, from colored pencils, glue sticks, and scissors to balloons, yarn, and Legos.


Alex worked with the KnowledgeLab staff to order the materials and assemble the cart. “As a student worker for the Design Thinking Initiative, one of the main projects I’m working on is enabling students across campus to have access to prototyping materials,” says Alex. She clarifies that absolutely everyone can use the materials in the cart.

Alex says that “one of the biggest parts of the design thinking approach to problem-solving is prototyping, in order to test how a user interacts with your design. We want everyone to have access to the materials and tools they need to build and test their ideas.”

Another interesting aspect about the cart is that it will most likely be constantly changing. Some standard materials will probably remain in supply, but “other things change due to popularity, availability, or even what other people contribute to the cart,” says Alex. “That’s part of what makes prototyping interesting – there is always something new and inspiring to work with.”


Alex encourages students to suggest materials they might want to see in the prototyping cart, though it will ultimately depend on what is affordable. She also pointed out that if students are looking for more advanced technologies to use, “our laser cutter, 3D printer, vinyl cutter, and 3D-printing pens can be found in Capen Annex.”

The honor system is in place here as the materials are left out in the KnowledgeLab, so we hope that students will return reusable items, especially glue guns, Legos, scissors, etc. “Since we don’t yet have a system in place for checking things out, we hope students are considerate of others; however, it would be possible in the future to move toward a system for checking items in and out for use elsewhere, similar to the Center for Media and Production.”

I for one am super excited to test out all the new materials now available. If you ever need a new space for drawing, knitting, crafting, or any other creative outlet you can think of, the KnowledgeLab is now the perfect place to do it. Alex recommends that other students suggest their ideas for the space through the KnowledgeLab mini-grants program. “All in all, I think it was a fairly straightforward process; I would definitely encourage other students to submit ideas or suggestions for ways to improve the space even further. It never hurts to ask!”


About the Author:

Tori Clayton is a Junior at Smith College who is majoring in both English and Music. She is a Libraries Project Assistant in Neilson Library.

MOVE! Move your body, move your mind.

MOVE! Move your body, move your mind.

On Thursday, December 1st, the KnowledgeLab hosted its first student mini-grant project: MOVE! Move your body, move your mind, by Emily Jackson ’18. Thanks to Emily’s idea, the KnowledgeLab purchased a FitDesk stationary bike, elliptical trainer, and several portable pedaler exercise machines for students to use in the library when they study.

Photo: Tori Clayton
Photo: Shishi Shomloo

Everyone that came to the event enjoyed trying out all of the different equipment. The elliptical pedaler was a big hit, though the FitDesk, shown below, was said to be the easiest to use while studying or writing on a laptop. Students were also pretty excited about the pedaler machines shown above. It was fun to witness them pedaling while they chatted or read.

Photo: Shishi Shomloo

These exercise machines are free for all students to use, and have already been utilized in the past few weeks. A huge thank you goes out to Emily, whose creative idea and determination to make it a reality made it all possible. If you have an idea for the KnowledgeLab space and need funding, it’s super easy to apply for a KnowledgeLab grant! It only takes 5 minutes to Propose a Project – grants of up to $500 are available to students, faculty, classes, and student orgs for projects on the themes of knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, and the future of libraries and campus learning spaces, including pop-up installations, events, and more.

About the Author:

Tori Clayton is a Junior at Smith College who is majoring in both English and Music. She is a Libraries Project Assistant in Neilson Library.