Nestled on top of South Mountain, a ridge thick with hardwood trees that runs next to southeastern Pennsylvania's Bethlehem valley, sit two huge buildings that used to pump out much of the country's post-war steel. For the past 19 years, the 120,000-square-foot space lay dormant, but this past summer, crews of Lehigh University students set up shop inside, working among flying robots, dress models, whiteboards, and the peeling paint.
The Mountaintop program came about as the result of a $20 million seed gift from Urban Outfitters co-founder (and Lehigh alum) Scott Belair, who declared he wanted those buildings to serve as a campus free of lectures and filled with limitless opportunities for invention. In April 2013, the Lehigh administration started soliciting ideas for the upcoming program from faculty and students, but then the school decided that it would simply let the students' curiosity shape the learning. No classes. No homework. No tests.