Y-Lab

The 21st century presents a challenge that no generation of students has ever faced before: With the accumulated factual knowledge of humanity available through your smartphone, what is the best use of your time and energy as a student?

At Moses Brown, we believe that the answer lies in Expert Thinking.  Expert Thinking is asking insightful questions, quickly assembling relevant information, and working creatively to design, test, and evaluate solutions.  It’s knowing when to hunker down on your own and when to be a team player.  It’s being able to improvise with what you know, and having the confidence to ask, “What if we tried another way?”

In a global survey of 1,500 CEO’s, 60% said that creative problem-solving was the most essential skill for success in the 21st century.  In other words, Expert Thinking.

With leading-edge technology like 3D printers, laser routers, and digital prototyping software–and low-tech modeling materials like sticky notes, cardboard, and glue guns–the 5,000-square-foot Y-Lab is Moses Brown’s home base for Expert Thinking.  It’s a place where inventors, tinkerers, and creators of all ages can work independently and interdependently to discover solutions to the questions we have yet to ask.

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Thomas Young

A hub to spark creativity and hone new skills, the DNA of the Y-Lab is centered on asking, ‘why?’  But the ‘Y’ in Y-Lab means so much more.  The anonymous lead donor who supported this facility had an inspired idea: What if the Y-Lab came with a historic role model, a personal example of what can happen when knowledge, passion, and imagination collide?

Quaker Thomas Young (1773-1829) was a brilliant polymath whose research and discoveries continue to influence us today.

Young knew 11 languages (Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Chaldean, Syriac, Persian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Arabic), and in addition to scholarly achievement in science, mathematics, and literature, began formal training in medicine at age 18.

He was the first to finish a complete translation of the Rosetta Stone, developed actuarial tables, pioneered children’s medicine, and was the first to define the term energy in the field of physics.

In addition to authoring over 60 articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica, Young derived a mathematical constant for describing the elasticity of physical materials.  This constant, called Young’s Modulus, is still used by modern engineers.

Young diagnosed the true cause of astigmatism, and was the first to identify that nerve endings in the retina respond to three primary colors.  Using the now-famous double slit experiment–in which light refracting through two parallel slits casts a wave pattern on a screen–he showed that light behaves like a wave and a particle.

Young was deeply committed to the values of Quakerism.  He espoused truth and lived a life of uprightness and conviction, protesting the slave trade by refusing to eat sugar.  He had a passion for music and dance, and for what today we call hands-on learning–  bookbinding, riding horses, and fabricating optical instruments.

In dedicating this innovation hub to Dr. Young, Moses Brown School hopes to inspire young scholars to study widely and deeply, to apply their knowledge to real-world problems, and to work joyfully with their head, hands, and heart.

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