What’s the AIRLab?

The AIRLab (Aerial Innovation and Robotics Lab) is a planned maker- or hackerspace at Smith College where students, faculty, and staff of the Five Colleges can design, program, build, test, simulate, and ultimately fly civilian drones—and potentially other kinds of creative robotics. The AIRLab is in the planning stages over the summer of 2014, and will officially launch in the fall of this year.

There are two phases to this project: the first is a summer critical working group comprised of the AIRLab’s project leaders, invited faculty and staff, and interested students; and the second is the development of the AIRLab itself. Each phase will be documented on this website, which will also host archives, collections, and surveys related to the project.

The project is funded by Smith College and Five College Digital Humanities, a program funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to advance the digital humanities in the Pioneer Valley.

What’s the Working Group?

The AIRLab working group is comprised of members of the Five College community with critical, pedagogical, and research interests in drone technology. We are a diverse group of faculty, staff, and students with a variety of perspectives on drones in academia, geopolitics, the arts, and the world at large.

The key purpose of the working group is to demystify civilian drones for the Five Colleges, and to become an educational resource for educators and policymakers across the Pioneer Valley community. We feel that academia is an important third space, outside the twin drives of private business and government, to grapple with the aesthetic and critical affordances and limitations of civilian drone technology. The working group not only represents efforts towards understanding how drones can operate as tools for scholarly research, but also as an object of research itself.

The working group meets regularly throughout the summer to discuss and debate key questions surrounding civilian drone technologies. The working group will also organize a symposium in the beginning of the fall semester through which to share its findings, and will ultimately advise on the development of the AIRLab throughout the year.

Who’s in charge here?

You can learn more about the project leaders, Jon CarisJeffrey Moro, and Eric Poehler over at the People tab of this site. You’re welcome to direct questions, comments, and thoughts to jmoro [at] smith dot edu.

How can I learn more?

You can read more about our meetings under the Blog tab, learn more about what we’re reading and thinking about under the Corpus tab, and join us in conversation on Twitter at @air_lab.

We also invite you to take our survey so we can learn more from you!

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