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iZone: A New Place for Collaboration, Problem Solving, Studying, and More

(Courtesy of J. Adam Fenster)

Last January, the area formerly known as ITS was closed for construction. This made many students unhappy because they relied on that space for studying and meeting for group projects, among other things. There were also many concerns about how the space was going to be changed, which designers and developers took into account. Luckily, the result of that closure and expressed worries seem to have more than paid off. Sophomore Dax Emerson enjoys going there “because it’s more than just a study space. I know that if I have an idea or entrepreneurial approach I’d like to explore, I can start there!” Zacqueline Baldwin describes it as “a nicer Gleason in most ways.”

Design Thinking 101: Sustainable Rochester (Courtesy of the Barbara J. Burger iZone)

Located below Gleason Library, the Barbara J. Burger iZone offers a variety of accessible spaces for students to use, including open study and group project areas, project rooms, a computer lab, consultation rooms, and a reservable studio. Take a tour of iZone. According to one of the founders, Julia Maddox, in the Campus Times, iZone is “a hub and community for students who want to make an impact on the world through problem-solving, team-building, solutioning, and conceptual thinking.”

Two of the things iZone offers are workshops and panels to help students develop ideas and learn from others. These events aim to educate, inspire, and assist students in entrepreneurial activities and social engagement. Sophomore Emma Mantel attended the workshop about design thinking in relation to sustainability recently. Here are her comments on it:

“Essentially, participants learned how to find a problem, brainstorm solutions, design, and prototype a product while immediately applying these techniques to a sustainability-related problem we had identified in the first step. We worked in groups and ultimately came up with a conveyor belt system that would sort the trash for us, relieving students from the tedious task of sorting their trash which was rendered even more challenging by recent policy changes. We even constructed a prototype out of LEGO, ice cream sticks, and Velcro tape, things that one wouldn’t find in an average college library. This workshop ultimately taught me to see campus problems as challenges to improve, not as an inconvenience I have to endure.”

Besides design thinking workshops, another common event at iZone are “Screw Up Nights” where students and staff share how they have messed up and overcome the results. These events occur periodically throughout the year, so you have plenty of opportunities to attend one. I got early notification of a special program iZone is going to put on this year: “Campus Changemaker Challenge: Sustainable Rochester.” My contact wouldn’t give any more details, but said to follow iZone on Facebook for updates.

One thing that sets iZone apart from other places on campus is that it is both a program and a physical space. Design Thinking Fellow Mike Arinarkin says, “My favorite part of the iZone space is the studio. I see it as the brainstorming center located right in the center of campus. Students now also have an option to book it for their clubs or classes if those fit certain criteria. My favorite part of the iZone program is its dynamic nature of change.”

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