When we moved into our new location earlier this year, we immediately noticed a few things.

1. We feel all grown-up and love our bright, new space.

2. We have an amazing disco bathroom!

3. We have a sound problem.

Having the open area is wonderful. We get to see everyone. It feels spacious, it feels open.

Yet, without anything within the open space to absorb sound, our discussions, conversations, conference calls bounce off our walls and back into the space. This creates a lot of noise and distraction for everyone.

We tried a couple solutions of our own:

  • Added sound-absorbing boards to our walls. These are comprised of canvas cloths attached to a wood frame and then attached to our walls. While this helps a little, our open space is still too large for these sound boards to handle.
  • We hung thick, textured fabric from the ceiling. Thick fabric is supposed to absorb some of the sound and texture should help disperse the sound into different directions. While this adds more vibrant color to our office, again, our space is still too large for the thick fabrics to absorb our sound.

What to do? STEM to the rescue!

We have partnered with the STEM School of Chattanooga! This amazing program is a high school co-located at Chattanooga State Community College. Phase 1 is designed for 9th and 10th grade students to attend STEM classes from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm, learning how to present to each other and work in teams. During Phase 2, students in 11th and 12th grade participate in Chattanooga State classes supplemented with their STEM classes. By the end of the program, “all STEM III PBL teams will be able to manage time effectively and use prototyping to develop desirable products for our sponsors.” (- Ken Kranz)

Last week, we welcomed the STEM students visit our office. It began with a tour of the space and then a kickoff meeting to meet each other and talk about our pains. Here are the two teams:

Team Shelton

  • Student 1:  Already built a sound room in his own room!  He’s got the experience under his belt!
  • Student 2:  Interested in Earth Sciences, and has a newfound love for Anthropology after spending a month immersed in International Studies, including Arabic.  Look out Indiana Jones!
  • Student 3:  Unable to attend the kickoff.

Team Andromeda

  • Student 1:  Wants to be a software developer!  At the kickoff, he had his laptop open and ready to go! (I see a CodeScience internship in his future.)
  • Student 2:  Planning to study Aerospace Engineering, with a possible stop at CodeScience along the way!
  • Student 3:  Planning to study biology and take over the world with his cyborgs. (I’m kidding.. sort of?)

Our issues

  • Flat walls do not redirect the sound in any way.
  • Glass walls do not dampen sound at all.

Our requirements

  • We want to be cost-efficient with our solution.
  • We want to maintain the “cool” look and feel of our space.

3, 2, 1 – Go!

The STEM students are welcome and encouraged to prototype and test in our office, and we already have students coming back this week. Final presentations are scheduled for December.

Stay tuned for our final results…We can’t wait!