Sunday, January 11, 2015

Tech on the Go!

Technology is all around and is moving at the speed of light.  It can get your head spinning with everything that is out there like 3D printer, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, GoGo Boards, Arduino just to name a few.  Many schools are moving in a direction that incorporates STEM into the classroom or have developed a STEM Lab, Innovation Lab or MakerSpace.  Are these technologies or equipment needed in these spaces?  I had the opportunity to visit the FabLab at

Stanford University where they are researching Multimodal Learning Analytics to find out if some of this equipment has an impact on student learning.  They also do outreach programs where students come to the lab to create all sort of things.  One of the widely used piece of equipment in the lab is the laser cutter.  Katie Farley, one of the STEM teachers at LASD, had the opportunity to use the laser cutter.  It was so fascinating to watch plywood being cut into a shape of a smilie face.  Brogan, the director of the lab told us that watching the machine cut the object was part of the learning process.  It is watching the precision of the cut that will allow a person to see if their design works with the material being used.  In some cases, if the design is cut too thin, the pieces will break off.  

As a public school system how can we keep up with it on a limited budget?  We just recently met with Raffie Colet, Senior General Manager with the TechShop.  The TechShop is a makers dream destination!  They have all the latest equipment from 3D printers, laser cutters to welding stations and even a textiles department.  
It is a huge facility where a member can make just about
anything.  It sounds fantastic, but how can this help schools get to equipment they need to create a maker space for students?  Yes, a field trip is possible, but not always cost effective or not easy logistically.  Now the TechShop can come to you!  They have just launched their innovation truck called “TechShop Inside” similar to Stanford’s Sparktruck.  It is a 24-foot trailer with a maker lab inside equipped with laser cutters and 3D printers.

LASD is looking forward to moving toward using this type of equipment in their STEM program, but not ready to make such purchases.  The TechShop Inside will give us the opportunity to explore if this type of equipment is impactful to learning and the ability to enhance the students’ experience with STEM/STEAM.  We hope to have the truck visit in the Spring with an Innovation class happening at one of the jr. highs when the students are in the prototyping stage of their project.  Other ideas will be to have the truck visit the elementary school STEM Labs.  More to come as we explore this new adventure.

Contributed by Karen Wilson, STEM Coach