Lots of ways to create!

The Fab Lab at Somerville High School, or FabVille, hosted an Open Shop for middle graders at the end of June. FabVille is one of a growing number of FabLabs, or Fabrication Laboratories, that have become part of a global network of design labs used to promote innovation and invention among the public.

This year’s Open Shop acted as both a short summer program and a professional development workshop. On the first day, Somerville teachers, educators and high school students were taught how to use the Fab Lab’s equipment. The hands-on learning that the Fab Lab fosters was crucial in allowing these volunteers to quickly understand what the middle grade students were going to need help with. When the kids arrived the next day, they had a room full of knowledgeable and excited teachers ready to give them individual attention and support.

The students were taught how to operate and utilize various computer programs, and how to use vinyl cutters, laser engravers, and 3D printers. One of their first projects was making stickers. They chose pictures online that pertained to their own interests and personalities, formatted them digitally, and then uploaded them to the vinyl cutting machine. Many students loved being able to design something personal and then immediately create a finished product that they could take home. They were also able to apply what they had been taught in the classroom in a different setting, using problem-solving skills and combining knowledge from various subjects in order to reach a desired result.

The creativity continued when the students moved on to the laser engraver, making objects such as key chains, name plates, and even their own functional fidget spinners! The main creation of the week was a lamp made out of wood and acrylic with custom designs engraved into the sides. Some chose visuals for their lamps, such as a Broadway-themed one with the playbill covers of the child’s favorite musicals, while others chose messages like “Happy Birthday Mom!” and “Believe.” The final product was something personal that the student could enjoy and keep as a reminder of the skills they learned while at the Fab Lab.

At the end of the week, many expressed excitement about the prospect of returning to the Fab Lab in the fall to continue their creative and innovative learning. The Open Shop gave these middle graders a preview into life at the high school and what they might like to focus on studying. These students now have hands-on experience with new and relevant technology and a taste for design and invention.

While a unique element of Somerville High School’s Center for Career and Technical Education (CTE) academic program, FabVille is open after school to the public, welcoming anyone of any skillset to come build, experiment, invent, create, and innovate! Visit www.fabville.net to learn more or sign up for a class.

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