Digital Fabrication 4 All: Creating a Mobile FabLab for K8 PBL Implementation

Location: Room 217D

Listen and learn

[Listen and learn : Panel]

Wednesday, June 28, 1:30–2:30 pm
Location: Room 217D

Dr. Megan Cicconi   Catherine Collett   Lilly Hadley   Justin Papariello  
With a staggering rise in STEM occupations, four school districts (poverty rates range 22%-100%) identified a need to infuse advanced digital manufacturing through project based learning in elementary classrooms. Join us to learn how collaboration equipped us to create a mobile fab lab that serves elementary schools within four districts.

Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices useful
Attendee device specification: Laptop: PC, Chromebook, Mac
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Participant accounts, software and other materials: If accepted we will create a nearpod or webpage with back channel to more effectively field questions and facilitate the session.
Focus: Digital age teaching & learning
Topic: Innovative learning environments
Grade level: PK-12
Subject area: STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: Administrators : Visionary leadership
Students : Innovative designer
Administrators : Excellence in professional practice
Additional detail: Student presentation, Session will be simulcast live

Digital tote resources

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Attendees will be provided full access to elementary PBLs created by the consortia for use in conjunction with the Mobile Fab Lab.
Attendees will understand the process of empowering high school students to design and build a Fab Lab.
Attendees will understand the process of empowering high school students to design and build a MOBILE Fab Lab.
Attendees will have access to plans, outcome measures, and STEM Interest survey results.
Educational or infrastructure challenge/situation: The presentation specifically addresses a visionary solution to an infrastructure and budget problem. None of the four school districts could afford to create, build, and utilize a Mobile Fab Lab for their elementary schools. However through strategic collaboration we were able to bring high level, advanced digital fabrication to all four districts.

Technology intervention. Include specific names/titles and descriptions if tools are not widely known and available: the presentation will highlight through brief videos, images, and discussion children’s use of laser engravers, CNC machines, 3d printers, and traditional tools.

Models employed and Lesson Plans
Teachers from all participating districts received professional development in the areas of project based learning, design thinking, maker pedagogy, and STEAM. The teachers then joined together to develop project based learning (PBL) experiences using Buck Institute templates. These PBLs were be tethered to Pennsylvania standards, Next Generation Standards, and Common Core State Standards. They provided a varying degree of student and voice and choice as appropriate. Sample PBL Lesson Plans will be available for attendees

Evidence of success
Final results of a STEM interest survey will be shared with attendees. Currently we only have anecdotal data. However, all second grade students in participating schools completed the STEM Interest Survey at the onset of the project and will complete it again this spring. The survey was created by University of Pittsburgh’s LRDC. It is a psychometrically sound survey, having been piloted and used in school systems. The authors have graciously offered the survey free of charge.


Introduction of Districts, Roles, Impetus for Project (10 Minutes)
What is a Fab Lab? (5 minutes)
Video Highlighting Fab Con and Mobile Fab Lab (5 minutes)
Overview of Mobile Fab Lab Program: Creation (5 minutes), Implementation (10 minutes), Elementary PBLs (10 minutes)
Q & A (10 minutes)

Supporting research

The immense need for this project is threefold addressing exposure to technology education, experience with design thinking, and application of highly technical and contemporary skills. The first, exposure to technology education resides at the heart of a regional and national concern. Researchers and educators often refer to a ‘Career over College’ Stigma or the societal thrust to enroll in college rather than consider a high paying, career in the field of technology education . This phenomenon has been discussed for nearly a decade, yet advanced manufacturing and audio visual occupations remain vacant. Consider the startling statistic provided by US Department of Labor, Office of Foreign Labor Certification: where 59% of H1B “skilled worker” visas granted in 2014 were for computer science and STEM occupations. High school technology education departments in many school districts are rapidly shrinking, due to both budgetary issues and enrollment, and mandatory middle school tech ed programs in the region are a rarity. It is common practice for school districts to implement new initiatives and programs at the high school level and slowly infuse them into middle, intermediate, and finally the elementary grades. We have learned through regional exemplars, like South Fayette’s computational thinking curricula and Fox Chapel’s computer science program, that creating opportunities for young learners to engage with high level technology and deep thinking practices builds foundations that propel students further into exploration of exposed content area, increases self-identity in the associated field, and at least anecdotally increases interest, engagement, and perceived growth. Thoughtful, curricular and standards aligned creation of project based learning opportunities that utilize advanced technology, like that found in Fab Labs, for elementary students provides the missing foundation to address the technology education gap. A Georgetown University Center for Education and the Workforce Report on STEM (October 2011) by Anthony Carnevale, Nicole Smith, and Michelle Melton reports 67% of STEM and computing jobs are outside the tech sector. Fox Chapel is well suited to lead this charge, as one of a few districts that boasts growing numbers in our high school technology education classes, district dedication to the department demonstrated by adding faculty in tech ed, and requiring all middle school students to take technology education in a purely project based learning setting.
The second demand for the Fox Fab Lab resides in the high degree of learning that emanates when utilizing design thinking principles in the classroom. While the terms ‘human centered design’ and ‘design thinking’ are prolific in certain circles, most students, especially elementary students, do not engage in the practice. Empathy and iteration are primary components of design thinking. Stanford University’s d school, IDEO’s school retool, and Luma Institute’s Fundamentals workshops all identify empathy and iteration as core components of successful design. Facilitating student engagement with iterative processes that focus on human need rather than abstract problems is a positive step toward infusing awareness and practice of the habits of mind and design thinking into students’ daily practice. Currently none of the four collaborating districts infuse design thinking within the elementary curriculum in any official capacity.
Nearly two decades into the 21st Century, educators are still advocating for the incorporation of 21st Century skills into curricula. While progress takes time, within 16 years one would expect to have advanced from the advocacy stage to full implementation. Application of highly technical skills and contemporary, or 21st Century, skills is a non-negotiable component of our educational system. As such the use of computers, soldering irons, circuitry, lasers, cutters, code, and stereolithography should be meaningfully infused into curricula accessible for all youth. While some students utilize highly technical equipment and code to create in middle and high schools, that number is astonishingly low in elementary schools. Furthermore, student autonomy in the identification and selection of equipment to use for projects is almost non-existent. Rather than require students to create similar projects and produce teacher driven products using highly technical equipment like CNC machines and laser engravers, students will drive production types. This requires teachers to foster problem solving and critical thinking capacities, design project based learning opportunities that require empathy and collaboration, and teach safety and mechanical aspects of equipment. This complicated, yet intricately comprehensive Fox Fab Lab will provide the structure, support, and space for such learning to manifest.
 The need elucidated in the above text, is not unique to the region, this collaborative project stands to act as a model across the country while being highly impactful locally. One that demonstrates the power of foundation support of highly collaborative cross-district and cross-county projects that impact student learning, engagement, and interest trajectory.



Dr. Megan Cicconi, Fox Chapel Area School District

Catherine Collett, Mary Queen of Apostles School

Lilly Hadley

Justin Papariello, Fox Chapel Area School District

learning starts here

San Antonio

June 25-28, 2017

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