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!