Several Fayette County students are in Washington D.C. this week to showcase projects they have been working on in their school’s “Fab Lab.”
Fab Labs are workshops and makerspaces where students participate in hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering and math.
The hands-on activities involve laser cutters, a heat press and 3-D printers. The six middle- and high school-aged students from Intermediate Unit 1's Colonial Campus in Coal Center, Pa. are demonstrating them at the USA Science & Engineering Festival. Among the activities, they're showing how to use the tools to construct a wooden cube made out of puzzle-like pieces and adorn small towels with vinyl stickers. One student crafted a plastic iPhone case using the 3-D printer.
Assistant executive director Don Martin said the heat press is a highlight. The students are teaching people who stop at their station how to use it to transfer hand-crafted stickers onto a small towel.
“We put those on the towel and then we bring the heat press down so then that vinyl then gets transferred after it melts,” Martin said. “It goes on the towel and then, after a cooling period, it stays there.”
The group in D.C. are all visiting for the first time, and will tour the nation's capital while they're in town. He said the school serves a variety of students -- from those who benefit from an alternative school environment to special education services -- and called the lab a game changer.
“Students who come to us have pretty much proven to their home districts that they can’t conform or they’re not conforming to traditional education,” he said. “Now we’re getting students away from desks, away from books, away from those things, and they’re working on projects.”
The program started three years ago with a small group of students, and it’s since expanded, as it’s been successful helping address behavioral issues and teaching students collaboration and leadership skills, Martin said. Students say it’s fun, and they enjoy teaching younger peers how to use the various pieces of equipment.
School staff are working to expand the program to make it a part of every subject the students study.