New and fun ways to teach STEM concepts are popping up all over the United States. At Reynoldsburg High School’s eSTEM Academy, students imaginations can now come to life.
They have built a lot of amazing things: A computer desk out of plywood, a small-scale model of an elementary-school library and signs for the school.
Two students created a “flipped” chair that can rock or remain stationary and doesn’t require screws, nails or glue.
When you have 3-D printers, laser cutting machines and tabletop milling equipment at your disposal, the options are limitless, students say.
“I was in awe,” said senior Sebastian Brosious, who was among the first students invited to test the lab’s equipment in the summer. “I was like a kid on Christmas. I just wanted to play with it immediately.”
Last week, he and another student used the machinery to build a trebuchet — a medieval catapult.
“I was excited that we could have something like this at our school,” Brosious said.
“Fab labs,” short for fabrication laboratories, started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1990s as a way to make manufacturing equipment available for fledgling inventors. But more schools and colleges worldwide are using fab labs as platforms for project based learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs.
Reynoldsburg’s school-based fab lab is among the few in the region. Linden-McKinley STEM High School opened one last year.
Experts say most schools don’t have the space or financial resources to support a fab lab. That’s why more schools are partnering with others to share equipment for their projects, said Aimee Kennedy, vice president of education and STEM for Battelle. “Those schools have a really strong awareness to share work and be a service to schools around them.”
For example, MC2 STEM High School in Cleveland, which has three fab labs, worked with Reynoldsburg students last year. Reynoldsburg students were designing a container that would remain cold without power to help transport malaria vaccine around Africa. They designed the container on a computer, and students in Cleveland constructed a prototype in their lab.
Battelle purchased most of the computers and machinery — worth about $70,000 — for Reynoldsburg’s fab lab. In exchange, the school agreed to serve as a demonstration site and create lessons from the lab and share them with other STEM schools. The school also plans to open the lab to the public by 2015.
Reynoldsburg educators said the lab helps students apply the lessons they learn in the classroom at a deeper level.