“1-Room Schoolhouse” In A Westport Driveway

It’s an incongruous sight: Sitting in the driveway of a wooden, wizened 1720s house is a multi-colored, futuristic-looking structure. A sign calls it “The Think 3-D Lab.”

Folks passing 178 Cross Highway, near the Fairfield line, have wondered what’s up. The answer is: something very, very cool.

The “lab” — actually a 100-square-foot, easily disassembled building — is the brainchild of Mark Yurkiw. It’s in front of the saltbox home (which still bears a musket ball hole in the front door, thanks to Redcoats who marauded past on their way to Danbury in 1777).

The

The “Think 3-D Lab” sits in front of Mark Yurkiw’s 1720s-era house. (Photo/copyright Amy Dolego/ Winton Studios)

Mark spent an intriguing career in New York. A physicist by training and artist by avocation, he’s designed magazine covers and TV commercials; worked on films and special effects, and created “storytelling sculptures” for Fortune 500 companies and non-profits. (His “Homeless Statue of Liberty” for New York Cares helped bring in a million used coats.)

Mark’s son met James Potter, an architecture student at Norwalk Community College. When James heard that Mark was working on a project for the Make-a-Wish Foundation, he said he wanted to be involved.

The project was for a 10-year-old boy in upstate Connecticut. He wanted a place to play Legos and Minecraft games.

Mark’s mission was to “meld the physical and digital worlds. I wanted to educate this boy about his future.”

So Mark, James and NCC engineering student Andrew Myers spent the past 2 months designing and building “the 1-room schoolhouse of the 21st century.”

James Potter and Mark Yurkiw inside the

James Potter and Mark Yurkiw inside the “1-room schoolhouse.”

That “1-room schoolhouse” includes LED lighting; a bed for “dreaming” about creativity; a solar-powered fan; a 3Doodler pen for writing in space; a wireless “Internet of Things” kit; magnetic walls; movable tables — and, of course, plenty of space to experiment with Legos. Most of the materials were donated.

What Mark calls “the world’s first off-the-grid 3-D printer” — it runs on solar panels — is being manufactured now. It will be installed soon, donated by Tiko 3D.

Mark’s idea, meanwhile, has morphed from educating one boy about his future, to inspiring an entire generation of children.

He hopes that community college students will build dozens — hundreds! — of these “3-D labs.” They can design their own, or buy them pre-built and set them up, in libraries, schools, pediatric hospitals and backyards.

The money the students earn can help fund their 4-year college degrees. At the same time, they’ll reach and teach even younger kids.

“I’m inspired by 20-year-olds who inspire 10-year-olds,” Mark says.

Another view of the interior. Check out all the Lego materials under the desk -- and the bunk bed for

Another view of the interior. Check out the Lego materials under the desk — and the bunk bed for “creative dreaming.” (Photo/copyright Amy Dolego Winton)

And that “3D Lab” sitting in his Cross Highway driveway? Mark says it will be disassembled next Thursday, then trucked upstate as a surprise gift for the 10-year-old Make-a-Wish boy.

“His jaw will drop,” Mark says.

Then he turns back to work. A creative tinkerer’s work is never done.

(Mark is looking for sponsors to get his idea — as part of a non-profit foundation — off the ground. To help — or for more information — email mark.think3D@gmail.com.)

10 responses to ““1-Room Schoolhouse” In A Westport Driveway

  1. This is a great project to make someone happy. And what a wonderful surprise it will be for the boy whose request is being fulfilled by the Make A Wish Foundation. I watched Mark take the Think 3-D Lab from an idea to his imagination to involving two young men, NCC college students, to design, and to 3 dimensions. This project is not just a lesson in creativity with purpose, but purpose with heart. It is not an effort to make a profit, but to enrich oneself and the community by making someone else happy. It just makes me feel good.

  2. Wendy Cusick

    I saw that liitle building the other day. I knew it was for Make a Wish because of the sign around it. Thanks for letting us know it”s for a 10 yr old ….Legos and Fun!

  3. This is just very cool.

  4. Mary-Beth Murray

    Just absolutely brilliant! Mark, James and Andrew hat’s off to you for your time and generosity for fulfilling a wish for a 10 year old boy. I am sure he will be delighted.

    We need more folks like you who can teach and inspire our students in Fairfield County.

    Would love it if the Westport Library had one of these. I know my 11 year old daughter loves the Maker Area!

    Keep making a difference in others lives, teaching and inspiring in all our childrens eye’s.

  5. Yes, this is really a remarkable project, in so many ways.

  6. Steve Axthelm

    I met Mark as our kids grew up together. He and I both worked in television and film. His model making and contributions in Special Effect are extraordinary. Mark is a genius and he should be courted to teach at Staples.

  7. Great job Mark. I still remember when you brought your friend Walter Wick, photographer/author to visit Greens Farms Elementary when your son Cooper was there. His “I Spy” books are still a hit with the kids. Not surprised to see you still doing generous things for kids! Love the house.

  8. Beautiful tradecraft, Mark – way to go.

  9. Sorry to hear it’s going to be moved.
    It gives me a smile every time I pass by.

  10. Mark always thinks outside the box and his creativity is remarkable. It’s only exceeded by his selfless thoughtfulness. Thank you, Mark, for letting me be a small part of this by creating images of this wonderful playhouse.