Can you hear me now?

We’ve made some exciting new additions to the Hackery, our large co-working and event room at NSS. The additions are “functional art” (is that a real thing?).

The “functional” part is that we’ve added a dozen sound panels to the walls in the Hackery to help reduce the sound level in the room when we have an event or lots of students working together on projects. Those of you who have been here for a Demo Day will know the challenges that we’ve had with noise. Fortunately, the sound panels were deployed just in time for our most recent Demo Day.

Eric Denton, who graduated with Cohort 14 in November (pre-sound panels) can tell you all about the previous acoustic troubles from days of old.

It was like lunchtime in middle school cafeteria in there: so loud! ... After attending the recent Demo Day for Cohort 15 and Evening Cohort 3, I got a firsthand look and listen at the acoustic panels, and not only do they look great, but the roar of the crowd was more like a middle school library: much quieter!

Joe Shepherd, an NSS instructor (and cohort 2 graduate), had experience doing DIY acoustic panels for a home studio and suggested we use the same idea for the Hackery. We gratefully accepted Joe’s suggestion and his generous offer to volunteer to build the panels (it’s not clear Joe actually was volunteering but he’ll know better next time).

The “art” part is that one of our amazing graduates, Danielle Duer (cohort 13 grad), worked some of her creative mojo on a few of our very rough ideas for adding some color and decoration to the space. The Hackery is a great room but it has been a sea of semi-gloss white sandwiched between dark grey concrete floor and ceiling. We wanted to see if we could use the acoustic panels to not only manage sound but also to add some color, some life, and maybe even some inspiration to the space.

Danielle designed a series of graphic images integrating quotes that are relevant to the NSS mission, to learning/education, and to software engineering. The individual pieces in the series have their own unique designs but they all work well together in our space as well. Danielle’s background in fine art and design just happened to include printing images on fabric so we were able to wrap Joe’s sound panels in Danielle’s designs to give us a our “functional art”.


Here’s what Danielle had to say about the project:

Danielle Duer

This was a big step towards making NSS feel more like home in it's fantastic, new space. This was such a fun project to execute.

We decided to start with a collection of fabric panels for the Hackery, each panel wrapped around absorbent foam for reducing loud noise. Every single design had to be modern, inviting, inspiring, fun and meaningful which I believe is exactly how the overall NSS experience can be described. The collection as a whole serves to create a welcoming environment to people from all walks of life.

What’s best is the panels not only look great but they make a noticeable difference in the sound level in the Hackery. Our recent Demo Day (January 10) was the first real test of the acoustic value of the panels and they worked great. Here’s what Joe Shepherd had to say about the panels after hearing them in action at Demo Day:

John has an uncanny ability to remember all the weird and wonderful skills NSS students used in their professional lives before becoming developers. He tapped into my audio recording background as well as Danielle's awesome art and design chops to pull off this project, and I'm really happy with the results, visually and sonically.

In typical NSS fashion we finished the final assembly of the sound panels, which involved wrapping the fabric sheets around the panels which had been made a couple of weeks earlier, and the hanging of the panels on the walls in the Hackery, on the day before Demo Day. The images accompanying this post were all taken on Jan. 9th during the panel-hanging process.

Danielle came to check out the finished panels and to make sure we arranged them in a sensible order on the walls.

Joe and trusty side-kick Greg Korte (one of our teaching assistants but also invaluable get-stuff-done guy) did all the hanging of the panels. Joe and Greg worked hard to not fall off ladders while hanging the panels straight while various NSS managers pointed and watched.

Thanks to Danielle for her fantastic design work and to Joe for building the panels and directing the process of getting things assembled and hung. Now we just gotta get stuff on the walls in the break room and classrooms! To see more of Danielle’s magnificent design and development work, check out her portfolio.

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