Marlon Family IDEAS Center

Re-think. Re-design. Re-make.

Gould Academy’s new Marlon Family IDEAS Center – which stands for Innovation, Design Thinking, Entrepreneurship, Arts and Science – boasts an entire floor of dedicated maker and design thinking space that supports innovation and collaboration through building creative confidence. Applying design thinking to this creative space is based on years of practice at the Institute of Design at Stanford.

Within the IDEAS Center is the Design Thinking Studio, which acts as the hub of the design thinking wheel and provides ample, flexible space to collaborate thanks to large, moveable whiteboards and furniture, not to mention space to create with enough room for a textile center as well.

Three fabrication studios support the Design Thinking Studio, including a Digital Studio with 3D printers, a laser cutter, large format printer, and vinyl cutter; a Physical Fabrication Studio with CNC routers, a band saw, table saw, drill press, and hand tools; and a Media Room complete with instruments, microphones, and recording software.

Our students are in the driver’s seat with the guidance of our Maker-in-Residence. Together they use interactive design to build prototypes, re-imagine them and then repeat. The result is a student who identifies problems and creates solutions.

That’s innovation.

Take a tour of the IDEAS Center with Director Sara Shifrin

IDEAS Center Course Classes Include:

Design Thinking and Introduction to Fabrication

Design and Introduction to Fabrication empowers students by developing the mindset of a designer and the skill of a fabricator. Students receive entry level training in the physical and digital studios and basic electronics. Projects allow for tool certification with hand and power tools; experience with design construction for laser fabrication; practice with fasteners and fastening techniques for assembling 3D objects from 2D parts; and incorporating soldering techniques and basic arduino programming into woodcraft projects.

Design Thinking and Entrepreneurship

How do I know? Why do I know? What does it matter? What can I do with it? In this class students will come to understand what matters to them and learn a process that enables doing. Students will learn about the idea of design thinking and entrepreneurship and of the innovators and visionaries who are creating new strategies, systems and products. The coursework challenges students to think about the issues about which they care about the most, to devise goals to address those issues, and to think outside of the box to create.

Electronics and Design

This class introduces students to AC and DC theory, provides hands on labs to support class discussion, and offers opportunities to design and build projects. Students learn about individual components of electronics like capacitors, resistors, inductors, transistors, diodes, LEDs, and transformers and demonstrate their knowledge of circuits through real world testing lab by assembling and testing projects. This course utilizes the convenience of the all-in-one, 500 project lab technology. Students will also learn to use test equipment like the oscilloscope, digital multimeters, logic probe and signal injectors. Students will also learn how to solder and make their own projects using the 3D printer and the Epilog laser, blending their electronic skills and maker ability to make amazing one of a kind projects. (Cross-listed with Computer Science Department. Earns Computer Science Credit.)

Advanced Robotics

Aspiring engineers will get experience building and testing design along with project planning and management. We will use software such as Autodesk Inventor Pro to create digital models and simulate robot designs where engineering, robotic control, and programing all come together. This class is for students who are looking for that next step in robotics. (Cross-listed with Computer Science Department. Earns Computer Science credit. Prerequisite: Robotics, Robotics and Programming, or departmental approval based on prior experience.)

Robotics and Programming

This class will cover robotic design, programing, and designing and prototyping a mini-robot. Students will learn how to program in Scratch and progress quickly to programming the Lego EV3 for creative problem solving. Robotic design will extend to Arduino platforms and teach how to read sensors, control motors and lights, and write code to interact with the world. Skills learned include 3D printing and the use of laser cutter. (Cross-listed with Computer Science Department. Earns Computer Science credit.)

Introduction to Design Thinking

The goal of this class is to introduce students to the design thinking process. Throughout students partner with members of the faculty and staff to redesign particular aspects of school, such as spaces or processes. Students practice skills of research, data analysis, writing, presentation, and critical thinking to deliver the final product. Students also observe and interview the users in order to develop empathy for the target audience.

Digital Fabrication: 3D Design and Modeling

3D design and modeling allows engineers and artists alike to quickly create complex models that can be turned into physical models or used as digital assets. This class teaches the fundamental skills to work in a 3D environment and create models. Students learn about the core concepts of both solid and polygon modeling and how they differ. There are opportunities to hold physical creations as students learn the process of preparing designs for digital fabrication and deploying the jobs. This is the perfect class for anyone looking to make their first steps as a 3D artist, engineer, architect, designer, and innovator.

Advanced Fabrication

Students learn the basics of power tools and shop safety while creating items such as custom end grain cutting boards, picture frames, canvas stretchers, and furniture such as nightstands and coffee tables. Each student will have the opportunity to be certified in the Physical Lab across multiple levels. We’ll go over basic joinery that will take projects to the next level, covering pocket screws, doweling, mortise and tenon, box joints, and dovetails. This class is perfect for students looking for a practical understanding of woodworking, design, and construction. (Prerequisite: Design Thinking and Intro to Fabrication or Departmental Approval based on prior experience.)


This computer-assisted course is a practical application of applied principles of science. Using physics, math and science, the course will offer experiments in science and well as an ongoing study of the elements around us like meteorology and weather observation–giving each student an important demonstration of the practical applications of science. (Cross-listed with Science Department. Earns Science Credit.)

The Marlon Family IDEAS Center was made possible thanks to a generous gift from the Tony and Renee Marlon Charitable Foundation.

Grow Maine ShowClick here to hear IDEAS Center Director Sara Shifrin talk design thinking on Marty Grohman’s ’85 podcast, “The Grow Maine Show.”

IDEAS Center Faculty

Sara Shifrin ’88

Director of the Marlon Family IDEAS Center
B.A. St. Michael’s College
M.A. Breadloaf School of English, Middlebury College
Apple Distinguished Educator
Maine State Librarian Hall of Excellence – STEAM Leader


Ms. Shifrin is an innovator and epitomizes what it means to be a lifelong learner. As a 1988 Gould graduate, she learned first-hand the benefits of living in a community that focuses on opportunity and growth. Early on in her career she led the English Studies Program and then developed a passion for teaching English. In her tenure as department chair, she opened the first high school Writing Center in the state of Maine. Her dedication to cultivating student curiosity has led her to two new positions at Gould: managing the newly renovated library and directing the IDEAS Center. Although her focus has shifted away from the English classroom, she continues to teach students a process of mindfulness, and fosters their creativity in the IDEAS Center and while researching in the library. Ms. Shifrin lives on campus with her husband, Mr. Brett Shifrin, math teacher, coach, and director of the Ninth Grade Program, their daughter, Mia ’19, who has a passion for the rights of girls in the world, and son, Eli, who has a flock of hens and encourages the family to learn Swahili.

William Ayotte

A.S. Central Maine Community College
Boys’ Junior Varsity Soccer Head Coach


Mr. Ayotte is Gould’s Maker-in-Residence –– a project manager whose goal is to help students bring their prototypes to reality in the Marlon Family IDEAS Center. With his A.S. in Computer Technology, not to mention a breadth of experience which he used to pursue a career in systems administration and integration, Mr. Ayotte has designed and built a number of CNC robots ranging from 3D printers to CNC Mills. What began as a hobby has now blossomed into a career in which he loves to share his skills and expertise with like-minded students and faculty. Prior to Gould, Mr. Ayotte worked at Seeds of Peace with international campers. His passion for technology and working with kids is only rivaled by his love of the outdoors and adventures in the Maine woods.