The FabLab Classroom: Preparing Students for the Next Industrial Revolution
One hundred and sixty students in grades 4 and 5 and 8 elementary teachers will employ manufacturing design processes and digital fabrication to create physical models, learning underlying mathematical concepts in meaningful contexts.
This project introduces 4th and 5th grade students and teachers to engineering design and associated mathematics by developing and implementing a new, scalable, personal fabrication laboratory, the Classroom FabLab, and supporting curriculum. The University of Virginia and the University of North Texas are providing preparation in personal fabrication to pre-service teachers in their methods courses. The pre-service teachers are doing their student teaching under master teachers trained by the project in ten classrooms in Virginia and five in Texas. Participants include several hundred pre-service teachers and 15 in-service teachers and their students. Cornell University is developing the FabLab by modifying an existing, more expensive and complex system. FableVision is developing the software in cooperation with Peggy Healy Stearns. Curriculum is being developed by the University of Virginia and Hofstra University. The Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (SITE) is creating an online Digital Fabrication Library to house the curriculum, activities, and digital designs. The evaluation is a quasi-experimental design for 15 experimental classrooms and 15 comparison classrooms in matched schools. Evaluated groups are the pre-service teachers, the in-service teachers, and the elementary school students. There are pre-post tests in math and engineering design concepts, STEM dispositions, career interests, and teaching efficacy. Data is being analyzed with Hierarchical Linear Modeling and General Linear Modeling. The products include the Classroom FabLab, a computer-controlled manufacturing unit appropriate for use in elementary schools that allows students to design 3-dimensional objects on a computer and have them built by the FabLab using simple materials. Curriculum activities are being created, piloted, and housed in a free access Digital Fabrication Library. The software for the FabLab is being created by the commercial partners to be marketed at reasonable cost. In addition, the project contributes knowledge to the fields of mathematics and engineering education by evaluating a model that integrates them through the FabLab, curriculum, and professional development.