My Perspective on the Collaboratory

Mackenzie Frackleton '18

From my perspective, Olin has two parts:

  1. The laboratory experience of getting to try new classes, hands-on learning, and literally creating  your own labs.
  2. The Collaboratory, an organization within Olin dedicated to co-designing educational experiences and furthering Olin's mission of transforming how we think about education, especially higher level engineering education. At the Collaboratory, we get a lot of visitors every year from other colleges and universities, international schools, education organizations  within and outside the country, members of industry, and pretty much anyone who's curious about Olin but isn't planning to apply for admission to the College.

I’m the Collaboratory’s current Student Coordinator, and have worked with the Collaboratory for almost two years now. As the coordinator, I take all the normal responsibilities of a student working with the Collaboratory  (the title here is Liaison) in addition to directing new Liaison training, recruiting new Liaisons, and reaching out to faculty and other students to make sure we’re doing everything to put Olin’s best foot forward.

The role of Liaison itself usually boils down to giving thorough tours and/or having lunch with visitors and facilitating conversations about Olin. It's a great chance to help teach others how we view education at Olin and (most importantly) what we've learned from bumps and failures in our 10+ years as an institution. Over the past two years, I’ve discovered that giving these tours and talks is a great way to think about the world outside the Olin Bubble.

Being a Liaison opened up so many opportunities I would have never found otherwise; I've met professors from Montreal who I later got to visit when traveling abroad and ex-Presidents of huge tech companies who helped me with the summer internship interview process. I've also practiced my foreign language skills with visitors from other countries and, in turn, learned about all the other institutions looking to reform education across the globe.

In fact, I just got back from the Schools of the Future Conference where I gave a 2.5 hour interactive workshop and talk with one of my professors and another Olin student about applying interdisciplinary and project-based learning at a K-12 level. I honestly never thought I’d go to engineering school to get so involved in pedagogy, but I’ve become much more appreciative of my education through it. I’ve also realized there are so many more future directions I could go after Olin now that I’ve made more connections in  industry, academia, and international development.

Our team from left to right: Professor Scott Hersey, Nick Francisci, and Mackenzie Frackleton (me!)

Our location for the conference.

The Collaboratory is a great piece of my college experience that I could only find at Olin, and I’m even more excited about my college than before because of it. The collaboratory is unique to Olin, and it makes the world so much bigger than just the small community of the Olin bubble.

Posted in: Class of 2018