Academy Learning Commons: Technology Driven

Upon its projected completion, the Academy Learning Commons (ALC) will provide a hub for students to deepen their understanding of the most powerful emerging technologies of our time – a place for them to reach for a bright future in collaboration with world-renowned experts.

Artificial intelligence, robotics, 3D printing, virtual and augmented reality are some of the cutting-edge technologies that will be at their fingertips.

“Technology is driving exponential change,” says Mark Loughridge, director of Case Accelerator for Student Entrepreneurship (CASE). “We want our students to be comfortable with these tools so that they can innovate and think as sharp-eyed, yet caring entrepreneurs, who can create extraordinary value and new opportunities for all of us.”

There has never been a more exciting time for outsized entrepreneurship, he explains. Loughridge sat with the Punahou Bulletin to explain the role that the ALC will play in helping students harness the potential of these technologies.

Can you explain what emerging technology means?

When we say “emerging technologies” we mean the rapid innovations occurring in artificial intelligence, robotics, bioengineering, 3D printing, virtual reality and similar fields. These technologies are developing exponentially and hold the potential to drastically change how we live, work and play.

Why is emerging technology a priority to incorporate at Punahou?

Punahou has a long tradition of graduating world-changing leaders and innovators. Today, we live in an era of accelerating change driven by these emerging technologies. Our future leaders need opportunities to explore these technologies, understand them and start imagining and prototyping new uses and possibilities. We want them to feel comfortable and empowered to help guide us all towards a better future with these new tools.

How will the new Design Lab in the ALC support education in this arena?

The new Design Lab will serve as a hub that welcomes all students and faculty to explore and experiment with these cutting-edge technologies. They will be able to casually sample the latest technologies, or dive deep with workshops and courses. They will be able to immerse themselves in new experiences with virtual reality, apply artificial intelligence in new ways, build innovative prototypes, and meet with experts from research and industry. 

In the past we have hosted top talent from Google, M.I.T., Harvard’s Computer Science department and Pixar. In order to continue to welcome and grow these relationships we are planning a “Visiting Visionary” program where top talent can reside in our community for one or two weeks at a stretch to work on their creative projects, share what they do, and offer support on the challenges that students and the wider community tackle.

How does this kind of “futuristic” learning mesh with other elements of a Punahou education?

These new technologies offer tremendous possibilities as well as challenges. We need to understand the technologies, understand the risks, and craft wise approaches that are equitable, inclusive, and strengthen our natural and cultural heritages. Those goals align closely with Punahou’s mission and values; namely, to honor our many communities, affirm the worth and dignity of everyone, inspire a love for learning, innovation, and exploration, and inspire the next generation to help create a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world.

Learn more about the Academy Learning Commons project at

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