This week’s featured question was asked of MAPS Superintendent Dr. John Sample.
The question reads: “What exactly is a FAB lab? I’ve been hearing and seeing a lot of talk about this but have no idea what it’s all about. What is it used for and how will it help our kids? I know it applies to tech ed, but how? Are there other additions or changes planned for tech ed? Thank you Dr. Sample!”
Answer as given by Dr. Sample:
“As I am out in the community, my conversations with others often leads to the question, ‘What exactly is a fab lab?’ The term fab lab is an abbreviation for fabrication lab. It is defined as a small-scale workshop offering (personal) digital fabrication. A fab lab is generally equipped with an array of flexible computer-controlled tools that cover several different length scales and various materials, with the aim to make ‘almost anything.’
“Many of us have experienced ‘shop classes’ when we were in high school. Shop classes incorporated hands on experiences in the areas of automotive, woods, building, metals and even upholstery. The fab lab, or production lab, is basically the same as the shop class we remember but incorporates the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics (also known as STEAM). Students must use critical thinking skills in order to solve a problem or manufacture a product.
“Creativity, critical thinking skills, producing/reading blue prints, automation and the use of technology are just a few areas evident in the business and manufacturing industries today. MAPS administration has had the opportunity to meet with several area businesses and understand the skills and mindset our students must have in order to be successful in these industries. We will continue to partner with area businesses as it is our responsibility to prepare all students for the career they choose.
“Why the emphasis on manufacturing and production? We see this as an area of need for our students and a void in our current educational model. One doesn’t need to look far to realize the importance of manufacturing, production and farming/agriculture in our area. These industries provide a well-balanced economy for our area. However, like most businesses, the ‘baby boomers’ are nearing retirement age. They need young people to fill this void in order to remain solvent. While we continue to prepare those students planning to obtain their college degrees at the university or college of their choice, we need to provide the same preparation for those students choosing to enter the competitive field of production. As consumers, we can all be thankful for the production industry.
“We have allocated additional funding, based on the successful referendum, to technology education in the elementary buildings, middle school and high school. We will recommend a plan to the Board to upgrade our elementary school programs, computer software programs, equipment, physical space and increase staff at the high school. In addition to seeking grant funding, we will establish and maintain strong partnerships within our community.
“Thank you for your question! We are excited for our students to engage in this hands-on setting!”
Have a question or concern you would like to address? Simply send your question or concern to firstname.lastname@example.org along with an indication of which entity your question or concern pertains to. Current participants are the Merrill Police Department, Merrill Fire Department, Tomahawk Police Department, Merrill City Administrator Dave Johnson, Merrill Area Housing Authority Director Paul Russell, Lincoln County Clerk Chris Marlowe, Merrill Area Public Schools (MAPS) Superintendent Dr. John Sample and DNR Conservation Warden Curt Butler. Please note: Those who submit to the ‘Ask an Official’ feature remain anonymous.