Fab Lab week at Pfaff Elementary School

Students at Pfaff Elementary School have been ben­e­fit­ing this week from the cutting-edge tech­nol­o­gy of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s Fab Lab, designed to inspire and encour­age stu­dents to pur­sue careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) fields.

Pfaff’s Fab Lab work this week (Nov. 8–12), which includes stu­dents in grades 2 through 5,  is linked to its cur­ricu­lum, and helps pre­pare stu­dents for tomorrow’s work­force, which will require them to be skilled in com­put­er sci­ence and dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion. Students in fifth grade, for exam­ple, are each build­ing a home on the Moon that will include items need­ed to live in space. Once they sketch a design of their Moon habi­tat, they will design it in Tinkercad, a 3D print­er. Younger stu­dents have been study­ing oceans and are sketch­ing sym­bols that rep­re­sent the ocean to include on a book­mark they’ll cre­ate with a laser engraver.

The expo­sure to these tech­nolo­gies real­ly pre­pares them for how sig­nif­i­cant the dig­i­tal fab­ri­ca­tion labs are in our indus­tries and may be used in a future career,” said Adrienne Romano, coor­di­na­tor of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s Fab Lab pro­gram. “Understanding the equip­ment bet­ter is a def­i­nite plus. We need more stu­dents well-rounded in their knowl­edge of these technologies.”

The lab is a tran­sit van that trans­ports sev­er­al carts full of equip­ment such as 3D print­ers, a laser engraver, CNC router, vinyl cut­ter, and a vari­ety of robot­ics equip­ment. It also has lap­top com­put­ers with spe­cial­ized soft­ware pro­grams to con­trol and inter­act with the equipment.

The equip­ment is very expen­sive. Through PAsmart Grants, the BCIU received $150,000 for the Fab Lab, to expand teacher pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment, and expand the reach of the Fab Lab to coun­ty pub­lic libraries and school dis­tricts with the great­est pop­u­la­tions of home­less stu­dents and low-income families.

There’s great demand for the unit, and its annu­al one-week res­i­den­cies at schools fills up in approx­i­mate­ly 36 hours once it’s post­ed, Ms. Romano said. Fortunately for Pfaff, Peach Draper, the school’s Math and Science instruc­tion­al part­ner makes it a point to reg­u­lar­ly check for the posting.

The expe­ri­ence is unique for kids,” she said. “It brings togeth­er things we talk about that are tan­gi­ble and they can build and cre­ate right here in this room. It sparks an inter­est in job ideas and gets them thinking.”

QCSD Assistant Superintendent Dr. Lisa Hoffman was thank­ful to Mrs. Draper for “seek­ing this oppor­tu­ni­ty for our stu­dents. It’s new and excit­ing for them. It’s also coop­er­a­tive learn­ing as they col­lab­o­rate with oth­er stu­dents and teach­ers in the classroom.”

In 2019, before the pan­dem­ic, Mrs. Draper was able to get the Fab Lab out to Pfaff for the first time. Last month, the Fab Lab vis­it­ed Richland Elementary School.

This takes them to the next lev­el, which is phe­nom­e­nal,” Richland social stud­ies teacher Stephanie Traumuller said of the Fab Lab. “It’s fab­u­lous that the IU makes this avail­able. Kids love engag­ing with new tech­nol­o­gy. I’ll be doing some­thing and they’ll tell me, ‘No, it goes like this.’ They show me! They pick it up so fast. Without the IU we wouldn’t be able to do it.”