Pfaff students receive Fab Lab experience

The Fab Lab is designed to bring advanced fabrication and computer science learning to young students with several pieces of hi-tech equipment.
Posted on 10/26/2022
Pfaff second graders watch the laser engraver work. By Gary Weckselblatt

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s Fab Lab, which 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, is at Pfaff Elementary School this week.

Second-graders, the priority grade level this session, engaged in a digital fabrication project, sketching a healthy community. Students traced their sketches with a Sharpie marker before Dr. Lindsey Sides, the IU’s Supervisor of STEAM Education, imported them into Corel Draw and prepared them to be engraved and cut on the laser machine. They also learned how to code a robot. Students in grades one, three, and four were also exposed to the Fab Lab this week.

“The key is just getting them excited,” Dr. Sides said. “The challenge is continuing that and giving them enough experiences to keep them engaged in STEM and computer science. My goal is that when they get to middle school and to high school and they have the option to choose STEM or not to choose STEM, they’ll choose STEM. It translates into more job-ready kids. There are so many STEM jobs, good STEM jobs, out there, it’s amazing.”

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.

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

“It’s nice to expose the kids to STEM opportunities,” she said. “Their excitement is contagious. They see some of these things, maybe for the first time, and they want to get them as a gift to use in their house. It’s like a Please Touch Museum. 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.”

Earlier this month the Fab Lab visited Neidig Elementary School and fourth graders worked with a 3D modeling program to build their landforms and were introduced to equipment that teaches them to become a fabricator.

Dr. Sides explained that Pfaff’s second graders were too young for digital design but their end product was still fabrication. “The process changes for the younger students so they can be successful,” she said.

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].
Website by SchoolMessenger Presence. © 2023 SchoolMessenger Corporation. All rights reserved.