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The Glass Lab started in 1986, at least the Glass Lab
as we know it today.
That's when I started at MIT, a professor in the Material
Science Department approached me and said,
I have a lab in building 4, would you like it?
And, not knowing what was in it, I just said yes.
And thinking that I was going to turn it into a research lab.
But before I had a chance to even visit the lab,
I was approached by two students and a glass artist
from outside of MIT to use the glass furnace
in the lab that had been there.
It hadn't been used in many years,
but they wanted to turn it on, and I
didn't know what glassblowing was,
so I learned with great difficulty how to blow glass.
And, at the same time, I approached the School
of Engineering for funding to do the renovation
in the laboratory to turn it into a hot shop
That was at a time when MIT was particularly
concerned about innovation and teaching innovation
across the campus.
And the pitch became, this is a way
that students can learn to improvise together.
It's one of the few craft arts that you
have to work in a team.
And one thing led to another.
We began teaching first an IAP course, and then seminars.
And soon it became the most oversubscribed class at MIT.
Yeah, so I heard about it at the beginning of freshman year,
and I entered in the lottery over IAP,
which is during January, and I didn't get in.
But I really wanted to take this class.
So I signed up for the lottery again in the spring,
and I guess I was one of the lucky few that got it.
This is such an amazing opportunity.
I've been really interested in glassblowing.
I knew that coming here would be something
that I would want to do.
I definitely want to take more classes in the future.
I want to take a couple of more beginner classes,
and then maybe move on to the intermediate level.
The Glass Lab is a place at MIT where people can come and use
their hands to do things.
And it's one of the few places where
you can go and build things and learn about things that
are part of the curriculum in some way, but learn about it
the way your hand and body picks it up,
instead of strictly intellectually.
We encourage a lot cross-disciplinary play
in the lab.
That's the thing that-- where the biggest amount of juice
comes out, in my experience, when students make connections
between using the material and things that they're
learning in other situations.
The Glass Lab draws people from all over the Institute.
In fact, it's designed that way.
It's a non-credit activity.
We've always believed-- if we offer credit,
then only certain majors will be able to take
advantage of that facility.
So we kept credit out of the picture,
primarily because it's so important for students at MIT
to meet people from other places at the Institute.
And not only meet them, but work with them.
An example of something unique that's
come out of the Glass Lab is the glass band
that's come out this past year.
As a beginner in the glass blowing program,
I think I was really excited to get more involved.
And music was something that was very important to me
at the time.
I'd been playing flute for 10 years at that point.
So I thought it'd be really exciting to delve
into this project with them.
At the same time, though, being MIT,
I felt like we could push it toward something
a little bit more exciting.
So you can order a glass flute online.
So I thought it would be much more interesting if we'd
take advantage of the creative environment
and start working with more experimental designs, both kind
of experimenting with the mechanics and the material
interaction with the voice of the instruments.
It festered, or I should say incubated
for a couple of years, and then approaching and supporting
the musical partner about the idea of,
what if we had this cross-disciplinary class, where
we get people from music department,
we get somebody who's interested in composing or helping us put
sounds together so that we could perform?
Let's find out what kinds of sounds glass
makes, and make something happen with that.
So that's how this got started.
But this was a student inspired course,
if you really think about it.
It wasn't a faculty member driving us.
It was a student driving us.
And that's the kind of thing that
can happen in a facility like the Glass Lab.
That's the reason why we have these things at MIT.
Now over 25 years of doing it, we've seen just the impact
that that's had on graduates.
They look back on the Glass Lab experience at MIT
as some of the most important activities
that they've done, primarily because of who they met
and who they've worked with.
Most do not become glass artists when they take this course.
But they have an experience trying
to improvise with people of all different types of backgrounds
and capabilities.
And that's good because everybody's learning
as we do these courses.