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Keith  Konyk
Todd Keruskin

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Moving from 100 birdhouses that look exactly the same, to students designing and digitally fabricating anything they want!

Elizabeth Forward High School FABLab

Elizabeth Township, United States
In 2014, Elizabeth Forward High School transformed a traditional wood shop with band saws, lathes, table saws and sanders into a digital fabrication playground. In the Industrial Age, students went into a wood shop to create birdhouses and clocks that looked exactly the same. In this new MIT-approved FABLab, students are designing and digitally fabricating anything they want!

Why Do We Need to Develop Makers for Tomorrow?

Dr. Todd E. Keruskin, Superintendent of Schools
“The Elizabeth Forward High School's FABLab allows students to develop an idea to make something and then turn it into a reality. Whether it's an e-textile stuffed animal using a micro-controller connected to a bluetooth device or a solar panel for their lunch box, students are moving toward the Conceptual Age with their learning. ”

Dr. Todd E. Keruskin, Superintendent of Schools

Are you trying to bring creativity, collaboration, innovation and problem solving skills to your school?  Do you want kids to utilize technology beyond playing games?  Are you trying to get more girls involved in STEM? Are you trying to teach students how to become an entrepreneur? 

In 2014, Elizabeth Forward High School transformed an Industrial Age wood shop into a Conceptual Age digital fabrication playground.  While the new MIT-approved FABLab has traditional wood shop tools and CNC routers in the dirty lab, a new clean lab has laser cutters, vinyl cutters, 3D printers, an electronics station and collaborative spaces for students.

Elizabeth Forward FABLab teachers started to get trained on all the new equipment by local businesses, including sign companies and nearby fabrication companies. Initially, it was very difficult to find the right professional development for our teachers.  In 2015, a group of local maker educators decided to create the Pittsburgh FAB Network.  This network was designed to gather local maker educators together several times a year to share project ideas and best practices.  It was so successful, the group decided to create the summer Pittsburgh FAB Institute. In it's fifth year, this 4-day training is designed to support elementary and secondary maker educators from beginners to experts.

Elizabeth Forward High School FABLab teachers started to move away from the Industrial Age wood shop projects like bird houses and clocks, and the instructors started to teach design thinking, prototyping and how to use the new digital fabrication software and hardware tools. Students started the design process, using their creativity and collaborating on project ideas.  Students started to digitally fabricate! One student built a canoe with the help of a MIT professor and EF's FABLab teacher and tested it in the school pool. Other projects included furniture, digital wall displays, an electric powered car, parabolic lanterns, escape rooms, 3D-printed chocolate bars designed from  scanned objects to digitally fabricated art. Check out Adam Savage's tour of Elizabeth Forward High School's FABLab!

Elizabeth Forward High School FABLab teachers realized there was a need to get more females into the FABLab and to increase overall accessibility to the FABLab. Therefore, the teachers removed the prerequisites for the maker class so ALL high school students could have the opportunity to enroll in the maker class. Elizabeth Forward High School administrators created an all girls maker class and after two years, there are now 50 girls taking advantage of this opportunity! 

Elizabeth Forward High School FABLab teachers partnered with the Real World Scholars from San Diego, California to bring entrepreneurship into the FABLab. The EdCorps platform offered a new way to bring entrepreneurialism into the FABLab. For the first time ever,  Elizabeth Forward Students built a real student-run business to learn FABLab content, develop the entrepreneurial mindset, and build the skills they need to make their communities a better place.  Elizabeth Forward High School now has a student-run business called the iSH Co. (which stands for "In Student Hands") and works with the school district, parents, booster programs and community businesses. The iSH Co. specializes in the customization of various products including: phone grips, magnets, banners, lanyards, and any type of sticker you can think of. All these items can be personalized by the students within the company!

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Innovation Overview
11 - 18
Age Group
Focus areas
Tips for implementation
Laser Cutter, CNC Router, Vinyl Cutter, Sublimation Printer, 3D Printer, Electronic Tools, Collaboration Stations.
Contact information
Keith  Konyk
Todd Keruskin

See this innovation in action

Building a Canoe?
FABLab helping an Elementary Garden!
Earbud Product Design Challenge
Chocolate Dad?
School Board Member Participating in a FABLab Class!
Elizabeth Forward Elementary FABLabs
Guitar created on a CNC Router


Achievements & Awards


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Visit Other FABLabs!
Visit other FABLabs in person or virtually.
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Creating New Space!
Paint the walls! Add flexible furniture to help with student collaboration!
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Project-Based Learning
What type of projects do you want to make in your new FABLab?
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Software and Hardware Decisions
As you to build your FABLab, what software and hardware is appropriate for your age level?
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Professional Development for FABLab Teachers
Moving from away from the traditional wood shops and students using table saws, ban saws and sanders to digital fabrication tools can be difficult. Your new FABLab teachers will need intense professional development on these new tools.
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What kind of materials will we need?
Depending your project ideas, your FABLab will need to determine the materials needed for the different projects.
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