Digital Fabrication Tools for Teachers and Students

One of the goals of fab labs is to provide opportunities for rural communities to design and create the tools they want or need to solve local problems. Activities might range from technological empowerment and peer-to-peer project-based technical training to small-scale business incubation and grass-roots research. And because all fab labs share core capabilities so that people and projects can be shared across them, collaboration among users is an essential aspect of the overall program. Once people are trained, they can begin training others.

Gaining knowledge of fab lab equipment requires extensive training. In 2012 Haystack began an initiative to create a local peer-to-peer network within the community, for expanded training and use of the Haystack fab lab year-round. From May-October equipment is housed in the fab lab studio on Haystack’s campus for use by workshop participants and Haystack staff. When the campus is closed from November-April, digital fabrication equipment and tools are moved to the school’s Center for Community Programs in Deer Isle village.

For the past five years Haystack has offered digital fabrication training to area students and educators using different models of instruction and programming. In 2016, we expanded staffing and equipment for our winter fab lab and have been working in the local schools on integrated learning projects. By bringing specific fab lab equipment into the schools we are able to provide programming where schools need it the most and the format can attract more participation by students—having the resources available in their daily environment allows us to share and demonstrate what the digital fabrication equipment is and how it can be applied to the work they are doing in their classes.

Through Haystack’s fab lab training and programs with local students and educators we introduce craft and technology to a larger community. It emphasizes the importance of arts in education and as a profession, and demonstrates possibilities for practical applications and integration into the school curriculum.


Winter 2018

Between January and March 2018, 7th and 8th grade students at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School participated in a pilot program of the Make to Learn Invention Kit, an initiative of the University of Virginia’s (UVA) Curry School of Education. As part of the program, students worked with visiting artist, James Rutter, a graduate research assistant from UVA, science teacher Mickie Flores, and Haystack staff, to build and construct an historic electric motor as a way in which to learn about the underlying scientific concepts. Additionally, students learned about engineering design and digital fabrication to develop their own electromechanical device that was powered by their motors. These devices take the form of an articulated figures that are inspired by the student’s own imagination. An example of this is shown in the photo below. Students used professional engineering software (CAD) to design and fabricate their creations using a laser cutter at Haystack’s fab lab. James was on site three times throughout the winter as an artist-in-residence for this program.

Haystack’s fab lab programs with area students and educators are being supported over the next three years (2018-2019-2020) by the Windgate Charitable Foundation. This multi-year funding will allow Haystack to expand upon the school’s current fab lab programming for Deer Isle-Stonington and on the Blue Hill Peninsula, and to establish a sustainable and long-term vision for this community based program.

Pilot funding from the SURDNA Foundation helped Haystack launch it’s local, community-based fab lab programming, and Haystack’s fab lab initiatives with area students and teachers have also been supported by the Davis Family Foundation, Island Education Foundation of the Maine Community Foundation, the Hancock County Fund of the Maine Community Foundation, Maine Arts Commission, Morton-Kelly Charitable Trust, Stephen & Tabitha King Foundation, an anonymous foundation, and Haystack’s Program Endowment Fund.

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