Welcome to Nolat Labs, Visitor.  Please take a look around, read through the introduction here in the reception lobby.

Take the time to carefully read through these slides.  Think about what you read.  You have an unusual opportunity here.

We’re not the same

This course is not like other Middle School courses.  You will find many unusual concepts of learning designed into Nolat Labs.  Everything we do here is based on research about how people learn well. 

It will likely look, and feel, unusual and perhaps uncomfortable at first.  Even for you veterans.

We are the same

Visitor, you should know before you go any further that we are the same as your other classes, too.  There will be classwork, projects,  a few quizzes, and grades.

Some things are beyond our control to change.  Learn to leverage the ones that are in order to improve the ones that aren’t. 

A journey begins

One reason things here look different is that far too many students feel the sentiment expressed in the graffiti.  Sometimes because it’s too difficult.  Sometimes because it’s too easy.  Sometimes because it’s too irrelevant.

Spoiler: complaining about something isn’t enough. 

Take a step

My friend Mike Skocko took that picture of the graffiti.  Then he used Photoshop to create this version. This lead me to the current version of this course and Nolat Labs; my work on one of the major problems I see in the world today.

Systems with really big problems must be addressed by re-designing them.


You’ve probably noticed that our little planet isn’t in terribly good shape.  Those of us who came before you will be leaving you some seriously big problems.  

Think about which major problem(s) you want to help solve, Visitor.  

Our tri-force

The basic law at the Labs is our Honor Code: responsibility, perseverence, integrity.

Implementing the Honor Code in your life may be the most important thing you do in school.

Force one: Responsibility

Responsibility can be easy to ignore, Visitor.  

The rewards when you stick with it can be subtle, but are always immense.

Fragile and incredibly powerful at the same time. Like us.

Force two: Perseverence

President Calvin Coolidge said this best:

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence….The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.

This is what separates amazing from almost-good-enough.

Force three: Integrity

You have creative integrity, personal integrity, professional integrity…hold yours as one of the most valuable assets you have.

Very simple word.  Very complex concept.  

AMP: Autonomy

The power to choose your own path, and pace, is yours to earn, Visitor.  

Uphold the Honor Code.
Work hard.  Earn power.

AMP: Mastery

In the Labs, partially finished and good enough…aren’t.  Work until you have it mastered, whether it’s a project, a quiz, a concept, etc.


The last 10% often takes 90% of the effort
and makes nearly 100% of the difference.

AMP: Purpose

Remember the shape of our planet?  Our ultimate purpose in NolatLabs is to design solutions to the big problems we face together today.  Nothing less than saving humankind.  

Which piece of this problem is interesting to you, Visitor?

Fight PMA

AMP structures our Labs to fight procrastination, mediocrity and apathy.  This deadly trio have killed more youth greatness than any other force in history. 

Greatness is our goal.
AMP is our path.
The Honor Code is the force that propels us there.


The ZIM (Zone of Intrinsic Motivation) is our destination.  Study this diagram, learn how to use the three tools (the verbs) and you’ll unlock amazing greatness. (click for a bigger version)

Meet me in the ZIM and you’ll earn your autonomy.  We’ll talk much more about ZIM and how to expand it later.

Give it your all

Every year some students choose to find the ZIM, earn autonomy and achieve greatness.  Others choose almost-good-enough.  The difference is like jumping into the water vs. dipping toes.  One is committed.  One is giving their all.

Commit to giving the Labs your all and you’ll be in the first group.

Have fun

Work hard, Visitor; give it your all.  But have fun, too.  Hard fun.  You know tic-tac-toe?  Why do people stop playing it?  Because once you know it, it’s not hard any more.  Hard is fun.

“Fun” doesn’t have to be an antonym for “school.”  Let’s make it part of school.

We all win

In the Labs, be compassionate, be respectful, and contribute.  Think about yourself as part of our community.  Work hard and have fun together.

We all win.

Practice failing

“Mistakes are a map.  Failure is a flashlight.  Use both to find and forge your path.”  –Rob Schwartz

Iterate: do something…reflect…then do it again, better.  Build an upwards spiral of mistakes and failure leading you toward your goals.  The more you fail, reflect, and try again, the faster you’ll learn.

Spoiler: this doesn’t just apply to Design Technology! Practice failing. A lot. Learn to use mistakes and failures as guides.

Check the site

When you arrive at the classroom, check the board.  Then check our google Classroom.  Every class.  If you miss a class, check our Google Classroom for what you need to know and do.  There is always more to learn, more projects to complete, more experimentation that can be started.  We’re never done, here in the Labs. 

“I didn’t know” is not an excuse.

Also unacceptable are: “I’m done;” “I did everything you asked;” and “I don’t know what (else) to do.”  


Like the school, this site is iterating.  Constantly under construction for improvement.  Keep your eyes open; you never know where you might find interesting tidbits.  Those who pay attention are rewarded.  Contribute your ideas to make this better.

Hint: this applies to our school, our city, and our world as much as to our website.

Hang on a minute

You may be starting to feel overwhelmed with all this.  Hang in there, you’re almost through.  There is a lot packed into the lobby.  Don’t worry if you want to come back through to absorb it all.

Feel free to review the lobby any time.  It’s always here.

Honor code benefits

Choose the Honor Code and there are rewards.  Get your “Early bird” bonus, or your “Bell to bell” bonus.  Beware fraudulent claims!  There are also “Early bird bogus” and “Bell to bell bogus” items.  Keep your eyes and ears peeled for other goodies.

Be honest. Claim your loot. Level up.

Your goals

So, Visitor, that’s what we do and how we do it here in the Labs.  Remember, our ultimate goals are a) improving the way we learn and b) saving humanity.  It’s big stuff, so we take it one step at a time.

What is your goal for this course?  What should your first step be?


It happens every year.  Some students choose to become heroes.  They follow the Honor Code, give it their all, and create work of greatness that ends up in the hall of fame.

Will this be your choice, Visitor?


It happens every year.  Some students choose to become flatliners.  They settle for almost-good-enough, give no second effort, distrust their creativity, can’t risk failure, don’t take a chance.  Are you kidding me?!

Will this be your choice, Visitor?


Our school, our class, and our website are always iterating.  Always changing and building toward something more.  Like you.  Who is building youVisitor?  Are you part of the team building you…or just watching?

Who will you be?

If you didn’t take the time to really consider and answer the questions posed in this lobby, here is your chance to revisit them.

Moving on


Visitor, before you go, you should meet the cast and crew, below.

Find out more about the folks behind Nolat Labs

The cast and crew who'll be helping you this year
Meet the team
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