The U of A recently held a student space design competition to best support the student experience in the new University Commons building. The winners were selected by key leaders from various areas of the institution, and in this three part series, I (Jeremy) sat down with each winner to learn more about their winning design and why they participated.
The first installment is with Kelly Shin, who submitted the winning design for the quiet study room.
Can you tell me a bit about your background?
My name is Kelly Shin, and I’m a fourth-year civil engineering student planning to pursue a career in structural engineering. I feel passionate about promoting STEM education to children. I’m an active volunteer in science competitions that provide fun opportunities for children to learn concepts in sciences and engineering.
What inspired you to participate in the competition?
I am studying civil engineering at the University of Alberta. When I found out about this design competition in the Undergraduate Students’ Digest, I felt like this was a perfect opportunity to demonstrate my creativity and technical skills. There were several layers of complexity to this competition, and the design problems seemed difficult to solve, but I was up for a challenge. Although tackling this challenge was not easy, every step of the way was a rewarding and fun experience.
Kelly’s winning design. Submissions will influence the final design of the space but may not be identical to what was submitted
Why did you choose to design a quiet study room?
I feel like there are many ‘regular’ study spaces but not enough ‘quiet’ study spaces on campus. Many students, including myself, prefer to study in a quiet space because they can concentrate better and, as a result, study more efficiently. I want to share with the world everything I envisioned in a quiet study room with my design. I hope to see many of these quiet study rooms throughout the campus in the future.
Can you describe some of the key features of your winning design and how they support the purpose of the space?
The room can comfortably occupy up to 88 students since space optimization was a priority when I was designing the room. There are several different types of space-efficient desks and tables to accommodate both individuals and groups with various studying styles. The glass cubicles are a unique feature in the room, allowing interactive online learning. The wood slats on the curved ceiling enhance the aesthetics of the room. Additionally, two large exit doors on either side of the room and sufficient space between furnishings resulted in adequate circulation and flow. Overall, my design successfully supports the purpose of the space by optimizing the seating capacity, accommodating all types of users of various study styles, and providing a practical space for online learning.
What are some of the biggest challenges you faced during the design process, and how did you overcome them?
The biggest challenge that I faced during the design process was incorporating space for students taking online lectures in a quiet room. I wanted the students to be able to actively participate by asking questions or engaging in discussions during their online lectures. However, if they were talking, they would be disturbing the other students who were studying quietly. Thus, I came up with the idea of soundproof glass cubicles in the quiet study room. The students taking online lectures would be able to freely talk in these cubicles because the sound would not transmit outside the cubicle. Also, these cubicles would be made out of transparent glass, so students using them would not feel isolated from the rest of the room.
What impact do you think a space like this will have on students?
A space like this ‘Quiet Study Room’ will have a huge positive impact on students. Many students spend a significant amount of their time studying on campus. Therefore, they will appreciate having a quiet study room that can accommodate various studying styles and online learning. Students will have an easier time maintaining their school-life balance because a space like this will help them become more productive with their schoolwork. Ultimately, these students will become more prepared for their future careers.
What are your future aspirations, and how did this experience contribute to your goals?
I want to become a competent structural engineer in the future. I feel like there are a lot of overlapping elements between this competition and a structural engineering project. Both require in-depth research, planning, and designing. This experience has helped me get a better feel of what it would be like working in the engineering industry. Additionally, I significantly improved on my technical skills from using AutoCAD and Revit when I was working on this competition. This is useful because many structural engineering positions consider proficient knowledge in these software applications an asset.