Leigh Northrup

Harbison Lecturer Dives into the Maker Movement

This year’s Harbison Lecturer* was Mr. Leigh Northrup, Dean of Innovation and Technology at Cannon School located in North Carolina. For the last 17 years, Leigh has been teaching and leading the maker movement. He has acted as a catalyst for inventors and designers around the country, presenting at numerous local and national conferences about incorporating Makerspaces into education, including our own Summit for Transformative Learning conference.

In his talk, Mr. Northrup spoke about what to make of the Maker Movement. At the start of his presentation, he asked, “Who is a maker?” With only a few hands in the air, he proceeded to give insight on that very question. It turns out that there are lots of different ways to be a maker. You could be a chef, you could sew, you could be a musician; it’s all about creativity and applying the knowledge and skills into a creative way.

Leigh also gave some valuable advice. He talked about making mistakes saying, “We learn so much, not from the end result, but from the journey along the way.” He talked about developing skills to make oneself marketable for future careers. He talked about making a difference. Whether you’re using technology to help an ALS-stricken artist still be able to paint or  3D-printing a blind woman’s ultrasound of her baby so she could “see” her growing baby, there are limitless possibilities when you are a maker.

At the conclusion of his talk, Mr. Northrup shared, “You are all makers.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Northrup spent time talking to our Middle Schoolers. He also shared his experience with our STEM faculty and helped us launch a new underwater robotics program here at MICDS. Together, they created underwater robots through SeaPerch, an innovative robotics program, and tested them out in our William R. Orthwein Sr. Pool. Soon, 11th and 12th grade students will be creating underwater robots along with obstacles to practice their own maker skills while learning about buoyancy and teamwork. Furthermore, we’ll be doing this project as part of the Eliot Summer Academy with Middle Schoolers.

Travis Menghini, Upper School Math, Science, Art Instructor and Head Robotics Coach, shared, “We’re excited to take part and learn something new as we’re constantly trying to find new ways to make the curriculum more engaging as well as fun for the students.”

Thank you for making such an impact, Mr. Northrup!

*The Harbison Lecture is named on behalf of Mr. Earle H. and Mrs. Suzanne Siegel Harbison. Mrs. Harbison graduated from Mary Institute in 1945, beginning a long lineage of Harbisons to attend the School. For as long as the Harbisons have been members of the School community, they have made MICDS a philanthropic priority—remaining deeply committed to ensuring our students have access to outstanding faculty, great learning spaces and excellent programming that supplements the classroom experience.

Mr. and Mrs. Harbison established the Harbison Lecture Fund in 1994 to commemorate Mrs. Harbison’s 50th Class Reunion. Its purpose is “to fund an annual lecture for students at MICDS featuring a prominent local, regional or national figure whose topic will support the mission and educational goals of the School.” Because the Harbison family strongly values the sciences, the School has historically chosen a leading figure in the sciences to speak to Upper School students.