Delran High School planning for digital fabrication laboratory
|By Lisa Ryan lryannews Posted Oct 2, 2018 at 5:00 AM|
This time next year, Delran High School will celebrate the soft opening of their digital fabrication laboratory, or Fab Lab. Construction is set to begin in December on the space, which would use digital and design-focused technology to further learning opportunities.
DELRAN — District science, technology, engineering and math co-coordinators Erica DeMichele and Mary Jo Hutchinson have big plans for next year.
That’s when storage space and outdated rooms will be replaced with a digital fabrication laboratory at Delran High School Bellmawr.
Through the Fab Lab program, the school’s former automotive shop will be transformed into an open-concept creative space featuring higher ceilings and natural light with a connection to the wood shop next door. The refurbished rooms will be home to laser cutters, 3-D printers, woodworking equipment and other tools for hands-on learning that models in-class concepts and teaches students important technological skills.
“A Fab Lab can take the kind of stuff we already offer and take it to another level,” Hutchinson said, referring to current courses in agriculture, the school’s robotics team, and more.
The district is part of the Delran STEM Ecosystem Alliance, which works to expose students to STEM skills and careers.
After those in the workforce beginning retiring, millennials and generation Z, those born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, will need to fill employment gaps in STEM careers.
With this need and the rapid advancement of technology, the updated STEM curriculum will prepare students for the careers of the future, Hutchinson and DeMichele said.
The Fab Lab will give teachers and students a space to build instructive models such as a 3-D-printed solar system to visualize the distance between planets or create 3-D topographic maps of the New Jersey coastline to explore storm damage without having to leave the classroom.
Other features would include graphic design, electronics and computer-aided design projects. Energy-efficient operations and easily-moveable furniture for collaboration are other modern elements that will be included. The project is estimated to cost about $1.5 million with the district covering renovations and donations funding lab equipment.
The district will go out for construction bids next month, to plans by Garrison Architects of Bellmawr, and anticipates breaking ground in December in the old automotive shop, which is currently used to store maintenance equipment.
“It’s really allowing us to reclaim an instructional space back for instruction,” Hutchinson said.
Delran High plans to partner with Rowan College at Burlington County so some students in Fab Lab can attain dual credit at the high school and college.
Now in its second year, the Fab Lab would be open to all district classes for field-trip style enrichment for elementary and middle schoolers. Hutchinson and DeMichele are taking teachers’ input to ensure the lab meets their needs. The lab will offer “enhanced opportunities for the kids to really make the learning come alive,” Hutchinson said.
Educators like Delran Middle school eighth grade science teacher Katie Conroy are looking forward to the new tools so students will become eager to experiment and learn when they are at home. “I think that it’ll be a good way to take that learning outside the classroom,” she said.
For eighth grade science teacher Jon Skvir, the possibility of stretching his own imagination is motivation enough. “I’m looking forward to going there to learn and play on my own, and to hopefully bring those experiences to my classroom,” he said.