Hand Fabrication Lab
Opening this year, the new Fabrication (Fab) Lab is a space for all students to explore new horizons, develop practical skills, and take their academic projects to the next level.
The Fab Lab at Hand is the only certified lab in the state at the school level. While Fabrication Labs can be found in larger community spaces, like MakeHaven in New Haven, DHHS boasts the first certified lab in the state at the secondary school level and students love it! The room is stocked with creative and manufacturing equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, a CNC machine, sound mixing equipment, film equipment, sewing machines, and a host of digital design software.
High School science teacher, Corey Rice and Library Media specialist Dawn Fiorelli, teamed together to propose the creation of a lab in Daniel Hand High School. The Board of Education enthusiastically supported the launch. Rice came to CT with a wealth of knowledge and experience: he has worked in a range of Fab Labs and Makerspaces, across the country and internationally. He has experience teaching these spaces, running conferences about them, and presenting about their intersection with education at all levels.
Here is how it works: any student is welcome to use the lab but priority is given to students currently taking the Independent Project course. In this first trimester students have been working on a range of diverse projects from designing a reclaimed clothing fashion line to laser designing QR dog tags to building a RC car through the use of 3D designs, 3D prints, electronics and coding.
Rice said students in the lab are learning how to use machinery that can become a whole career. For example, a student who learns to become a CNC machinist can earn a six-figure salary for that skill alone without necessarily needing a college degree, he said. The skills students develop in this lab will prepare students to succeed in future coursework and emerging industries down the road.
“The Fab Lab represents the 4th industrial revolution – a world where digital designs can be exchanged and then things are made locally with computer enabled manufacturing processes,” he said. “Our lab prepares students for these projects and opportunities in their future. I’ve had students from my last lab go on to college, then report back that as a freshman they had Fab skill commensurate with college seniors. More and more science and engineering programs are covering and including some amount of digital fabrication in their coursework, so we are preparing students directly for that.”
Even if students don’t intend to pursue some of these skills after graduation, Rice said the lab offers students a place to be creative and to grow as learners.
“The hands-on nature of the learning is capable of connecting with some students who may want a different experience than traditional coursework allows” he said. “Students in the Fab Lab learn self-direction to deepen their skills with these design and manufacturing tools and then take those skills in whatever direction they are interested… [and it] teaches the skills of perseverance and grit along the way.”
Madison Public Schools has long valued developing skills in each graduate to think critically and creatively, communicate and collaborate, develop self-direction and global thinking. The Fab Lab enables students to grow and achieve in all of these areas. In addition to District funds, Corey Rice received a $10,000 grant from the Infosys Foundation to help purchase equipment and supplies for the lab.