Fab Lab brings cutting-edge technology to QE

Students had the opportunity to work with equipment that allows them “to be creative and challenge themselves,” said the program’s coordinator.
Posted on 02/15/2023
Two QE students enjoy working on their Fab Lab project.By Gary Weckselblatt

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s Fab Lab has been educating Quakertown Elementary School students this week on the process of digital fabrication. 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.

There’s great demand for the unit, and its annual one-week residencies at schools
fill up in approximately 36 hours once posted. The equipment gives students an opportunity to learn from cutting-edge technology designed to inspire and encourage them to pursue careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) fields.

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.

“It’s a really good opportunity for the students to see the equipment in action,” said Megan Boletta, the Fab Lab Program Coordinator who spent the week at QE. “It’s really accessible to all age levels and ability levels, and allows students to be creative and challenge themselves.”

Fourth-graders were the priority classes this week while other grades from one to five received exposure to the technology. Fourth-grade students learned about 2D and 3D design and how the technology may be applied to different careers. They were asked to design a symbol of kindness or something to do with the moon landing, which they are currently studying. Their work was printed on a silhouette portrait fabricator, which they then colored with markers.

Fifth-graders created character bracelets and other grades personalized something that was made on the laser engraver.

“They don’t often have these opportunities so this experience opens them up to more ideas,” said Christa Held, a fourth-grade teacher at QE. “They’ll see how many types of jobs there are out there using these types of tools. It brings them new, neat experiences.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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