Monthly highlight from School District 622 - January 2018

submitted photos • North and Tartan high schools utilize fabrication labs in classes that focus on science, technology, engineering and math. Many students choose to build 3-D printers as part of their fab lab experiences.

As District 622 prepares students for future careers, it is working to expand the science, technology, engineering and math programming, otherwise called STEM.

At North and Tartan high schools, students can learn through the fabrication lab or “fab lab” located at each site. Fab labs are designed to allow participants to explore their interests in a variety of fields including graphic design, art, business, computer-assisted design, physical and natural sciences, mathematics and engineering. 

Through a variety of courses, students can learn to use commercially available technologies such as milling machines, computer numerical control plasma cutters, 3-D printers, engraving/embossing machines and other rapid prototyping technologies to conceptualize, design and fabricate ideas. Digital fabrication classes are available to students in grades nine through 12.

In terms of curriculum, the fab lab applies STEM in its entirety. Students apply physical science concepts on several different levels, both mechanical and electrical. The instructors implement and teach the technology around how to operate all the machines that go into prototyping along with the engineering that goes with the designing and 3-D modeling of solutions to identified problems found by end users. 

Mathematical concepts within the CAD environment allow students to understand and apply basic geometric principles along with basic algebraic calibration methods for fine tuning machinery and troubleshooting problems within the rapid prototyping processes. 

Although there are various creative projects to choose from, many fab lab students have been opting to build their own 3-D printers. Through this project, students tackle mechanical, electrical and computer science challenges. 

Students have to reverse engineer many of the parts needed to build their 3-D printer and utilize a laser cutter and 3-D printer to make these parts. Students follow a design process and use this to find a solution to problems that they inevitably create themselves.  

“I look at our fab lab as an environment that is available for students to utilize and create possible product solutions,” said North High School teacher Dave Moran. “During that time they will also be taught engineering concepts and design methods/techniques as tools to implement their solutions.”

Internally, Moran and Tartan High School teacher Ken Balfanz collaborate on a bi-weekly basis to share ideas and strategies to best serve students, and in recent years, generous grants from 3M Company have allowed District 622 to grow its STEM program and purchase equipment for each fab lab. 

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