What if students could modify rocket fins for their physics project or utilize a laser cutter to aid in their in-depth independent study on microfluids or create a feature for their newest sculpture project using CAD? They can ... in ESD's Fab Lab. Our newly enclosed space supports coursework from all disciplines from the fine arts to physics, provides tools and resources that allow our burgeoning robotics and engineering program to continue to grow, and allows smaller groups of students to enter competitive design contests.
A fab lab (fabrication laboratory) is a type of makerspace or small workshop that supports personal digital fabrication through two main manufacturing processes supported by computer-aided design (CAD). Although ESD has had equipment like 3D printers for nearly a decade, we have not had a dedicated space on the Merrell Road Campus for digital fabrication until now. Instead, the equipment was scattered around campus and difficult to access.
Students are excited to have a Fab Lab on campus and have formed a club to utilize the new creative space. "One of our first things is we're going to build an augmented reality sandbox, where it projects a topographical map onto sand and you can mess with it," Will Minnis '19 said. "We're going to try at the end of this semester or at least next semester to do national design challenges, where they send the parameters, we build it, and we either document it or send it in to them to be judged."
ESD's new space features an ideation and design area where students can work together to brainstorm to solve a problem, scan objects into the computer, and use CAD software to design and modify their concept. Just past the 3D printing station and the laser cutter, students can make use of an elevated work table and lighting to assembly their designs. The ESD Lower School also created an ideation lab and makerspace last year called the What If Lab and continues to integrate design thinking into the curriculum, using 3D printing, desktop laser cutters, and robotics.
As we continue to set up the area for safety and ease of use, teachers and students are being trained and informed on incredible learning and teaching possibilities of the space.