Inspired by a parent’s desire to provide a place at Perkins where students can have the kinds of natural social interactions that help youngsters become young adults, the Grousbeck Center for Students & Technology contains space for making music, learning about new technology, practicing vocational skills and simply hanging out.
The Student Center has flexible space for playing high-tech games and student performances, plus an internet radio station and a fully-equipped music studio. Students can try out the newest adaptive technology in The Tech Center, and enjoy each others’ company while practicing food service skills in the Café.
Perkins parents Wyc and Corinne Grousbeck led the movement to create a space where present and future Perkins students can expand their experience, just as children and teens do in any community. Corinne Grousbeck, chair of the Perkins Trust Board, says, “Having a space of their own empowers students to expand their world concept and to find unique ways to become productive and independent. That’s what all parents want for their children.”
The Grousbeck Center was made possible by a lead gift of $10 million from the Grousbeck Family Foundation with additional private donations funding programs and equipment. Built by Shawmut Design and Construction from architectural plans created by the Gund Partnership, each aspect of the 17,000 sq. ft. Grousbeck Center is designed to enable innovation, interaction, and independence.
The Grousbeck Center is a truly unique facility because it is not only a Student Center, but also a world-class teacher training facility. Controlled by iPads, which are readily accessible to people with visual impairments, meeting and training rooms at the Grousbeck Center are wired for international access to connect educators in all corners of the globe through video conferencing.
“The technology built into the Grousbeck Center was only imagined a few decades ago,” says Perkins President Steven Rothstein. “We’ve gone from chalkboards to SMART Boards and from talking books on tape to iPad audio readers in one fantastic leap. Here is a place where our students prepare for their future, whether enhancing their grasp of technology, creating their own music, socializing independently, or practicing job skills.”
For students and teachers at Perkins the future has arrived.
The Talking Campus Model was designed by Steve Landau of Touch Graphics. It really is the next generation in tactile mapping. Special paint interacts with the electronic pulse of the user’s finger. When touched, a landmark such as the Howe Building tower, for example, lights up, a voice announces "Howe Building" and the bell-tower chimes sound. A refreshable braille display conveys this same information for those who prefer to read braille.
The Tactile World Map that hangs just outside the Student Center was constructed by Radlab Inc.'s robotic arm, which read topographical information from a computer, as it cut through panels of birch wood. It's meant to be explored by touch. Though a visually beautiful piece of art, it comes alive under the fingers.
The Internet radio station will not only give students the opportunity to sharpen their disc jockey chops, it will offer vocational experience for all of the behind-the-scenes work in production. Students will be able to delve into the details of creating Internet radio programming. Such skills have real-world relevance as more and more entertainment is created for online access.
Wow, did Starbucks get a facelift? No, that's the Cafe in the main gathering area of the Grousbeck Center. Here students will acquire social skills by fraternizing in a setting that promotes spur-of-the-moment interaction. Students will also run the morning coffee shop, learning the vocations necessary for managing money, paperwork, customer service, etc.
This is an aerial shot of the main lobby in the Grousbeck Center. Notice, off to the right, a slideable glass wall, which separates the lobby from the multi-purpose room. The wall opens up to allow for flow of large functions or shuts for private training sessions and smaller events.
Two students using the Grousbeck Center for one of its best functions: hanging out.