The Bucks County Intermediate Unit (Bucks IU) has officially launched their Mobile Fab Lab (Fabrication Laboratory) – one of only 50 in the entire United States. Funded by a PAsmart Advancing Grant, this program provides “STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) Education on the Go” by providing digital fabrication and computer science learning experiences directly to the students and youth of Bucks County. There were over 300,000 STEM/STEAM-related jobs in Pennsylvania in 2018, and nearly 17,000 of those jobs went unfilled.
This Mobile Fab Lab will help introduce students to careers they can consider that match not only the workforce demands of today, but the expanded needs projected for these areas in the future.
The official Fab Lab unveiling was held on Monday, September 23rd, at Seylar Elementary School in Perkasie, where it is having its inaugural residency.
The Mobile Fab Lab, a large transit van, will travel to schools for one-week residencies throughout the school year with a focus on students in grades 1-8.
The van will transport the following digital fabrication and computer science equipment, as well as the related consumables, to be used with specially designed, age-appropriate curricula: Laser Cutter, ShopBot Desktop (CNC), 3-D Printers, Vinyl Cutter, Electronics, Silhouette Fabricators, Laptops, Printer, and Robotics Equipment (e.g. Cubelets, Lego Robotics, and Ozobots).
The Bucks IU’s Fab Lab Coordinator will lead, with the assistance and participation of the classroom educators, curricula that draws on the four P’s of creative learning: projects, peers, passion, and play.
This interactive, innovative program will get students thinking, creating, discussing, and sharing in ways that educationally interacts with this equipment – most of which is outside the scope of what they may normally have an opportunity to ever utilize.
The students will be challenged with projects that stimulate and encourage learning about digital fabrication and computer science through exploration and experience.
“The mobile Fab Lab will support innovative teaching and learning in schools throughout all of Bucks County! Having a van that can move between schools allows the districts to bring cutting-edge, modern equipment directly to the students and their teachers. This helps to ensure that Bucks County schools are preparing young people today for the jobs they’ll hold tomorrow,” stated Dr. Mark Hoffman, Executive Director of the Bucks IU.
The Fab Lab will also visit homeless shelters throughout the region on weekends and during the summer.
By providing programs on-site at homeless shelters, the barriers that children and youth who experience homelessness frequently encounter regarding access to enriched STEAM experiences, will be removed.
For this population, access to the Mobile Fab Lab has the potential to change their lives.
The Fab Lab will also be available to support educational summer camp programs throughout the county.
Dr. Lindsey Sides, Bucks IU Supervisor of STEAM Education said, “It has been a very quick turn-around from the time we received our PAsmart grant back in the spring to this unveiling, and we can’t wait to see this program igniting creativity and driving interest in digital fabrication and computer science.”
Excitement for this new educational opportunity has been high, even before its launch, with the Fab Lab already contracted for all but four weeks of this current academic school year.
The unveiling event was attended by Mr. Judd Pittman, Special Consultant to the Secretary of Education on STEM for the Pennsylvania Department of Education and Bucks County Commissioner Robert Loughery. Representatives from the offices of Senator Santasiero, Representative Todd Polinchock, and Representative Meghan Schroeder were also in attendance.
The event was also supported by Bucks County School District Superintendents, Bucks IU Board of School Directors and personnel, and various county educators and administrators.
PHOTO CAP: The official ribbon cutting for the new Bucks County Mobile Fab Lab was done by, from left, Dr. Mark Hoffman (Bucks IU Executive Director), Dr. Mile Roe (Principal Seylar Elementary School), Megan Boletta (FAB LAB Program Coordinator), Judd Pittman (Special Consultant to the Secretary of Education on STEM for PDE), Dr. Lindsey Sides (Bucks IU Supervisor of STEAM Education), Dr. Rachel Holler (Bucks IU Director of Programs and Services), Ted Dorand (PECO External Affairs Manager), and Dr. David Bolton (Superintendent of Pennridge School District).