DELAVAN — The drive to provide more outstanding opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) training for Delavan-Darien students has reached its next phase.
With support from various community partners, the district has announced a new “Comet Creations Fab Lab” will become a reality in the high school’s technical education department.
A Fab Lab is an area meant for learning and innovation where students, and eventually community members, could fabricate, experiment, create, mentor and invent. Using the latest high-tech equipment — including 3-dimensional printers, vinyl cutters, laser engravers and more — the Fab Lab will help prepare students for the technical workforce challenges of many of today’s manufacturers.
“Students get to experience learning and applying knowledge to real-life challenges,” said Cindy Yager, director of careers and occupations for DDHS. “Kids get excited about this kind of technology because the connection to the real world and life after graduation is huge.”
Over summer, a workspace in an existing DDHS computer lab will be retrofitted to house this new state-of-the art equipment. Technology teachers at DDHS will receive training and the equipment should be ready to use by the fall semester in such courses as Engineering Design and Development, Principles of Engineering, Auto CAD, Intro to Engineering Design and others.
“We’re not talking about far-out stuff here. We’re talking about reality,” DDHS Technology Teacher Mike Fellin said. “We are giving students the tools they need to be trained to do many jobs after they graduate high school or from a technical college. And students in some of these classes — which are through the Project Lead The Way curriculum — can receive college credits here at DDHS.
“The jobs are out there and we want to help provide skilled, job-ready adults to keep our community, state and country strong. The Fab Lab will really be a benefit to many students. We’re excited to see the interest level in technical education courses growing here at DDHS. ”
Once the Fab Lab is set up, students will begin making their own projects, as well as help other entrepreneurs from the community get theirs off the ground.
“In our first year, we’re mainly going to have it open to students and eventually introduce it to the community for their use through the students and their instructors,” Yeager said. “Students and instructors will be able to ‘quote’ the work a community member needs done based on the time and material costs to create a prototype or product for them based on submitted designs. That way, the lab becomes more self-sufficient.”
Students receive tremendous skills training in Fab Labs, from the engineering and math behind product development, to the business training related to quoting work, making deadlines and working with customers, Yager said.
The Fab Lab would also be used by other curricular areas at DDHS, she said. Art students could find creative uses for 3-D models and laser-etched pieces. Social studies students can study economics behind a product going from an idea to a mass-produced consumable good. Biology students can model cells, molecules or even parts of the human body with 3-D printers, Yager said.
It’s possible that, over time, the Fab Lab could open up for more direct community use, as well.
“The opportunities are endless and we are very excited to offer this Fab Lab opportunity to our students and community members,” Yager said. “The anticipation is certainly growing in our building to see it come to fruition.”
Foundation Grant setup
To support the ongoing development of the Fab Lab and overall improvement of the technology education department at DDHS, district officials are setting up a “foundation grant” structure, Yager said.
The grant format is based on sponsorships from community partners. In exchange for monetary, equipment or in-kind donations, donors receive various benefits and recognition depending on their level of contribution.
Yager said foundation grant programs like this have experienced much success across the state and nation. Like members of the supporting Career and Technical Education (CTE) Support Committee, local businesses often support technology education in schools because it helps improve the school-to-work pipeline for student graduates who are ready for the workforce. The schools are better equipped to teach specific skills needed in the workforce, and the business partners in turn have a greater pool of skilled, well-trained job candidates, something that often lacks in the increasingly high-tech manufacturing sector.
Funds from this type of work and through foundation grant supporters will allow the Fab Lab to continue to grow and provide additional equipment that will expand learning opportunities for students, Yager said.
Any individuals or corporations interested in becoming a partner in the Delavan-Darien “Comet Creations Fab Lab” project should contact Career and Occupations Director Cindy Yager at 262-728-2642 x4402, or email@example.com. Various sponsorship levels — from $0 to $500 “friend” giving up to $15,000+ platinum level sponsors — are available and include various benefits to the donor(s), such as recognition on promotional materials and equipment.
The following “wish list” of items will be added to the Fab Lab as additional funding becomes available:
Laser engraver, 3-D printers, 3-D mill, pick-and-place robot, Solidworks software license, storage cabinets, work tables, drill press, band saw, drills, specialty tools, tool storage, shop vacs, stools, whiteboards, computers, classroom upgrades.
CTE Support Committee
The Delavan-Darien Career and Technical Education (CTE) Support Committee exists to support Delavan-Darien’s technical education and STEM programming efforts. Committee members meet monthly to discuss ways to help and make plans to further the progress of the schools technology program offerings. The committee receives support from: Gateway Technical College, Precision Plus, Mode Industries, Continental Plastics, Micro Precision, SPX, Vision Plastics, Better by Design, Scot Forge, Walworth County Economic Development Alliance, City of Delavan officials, retired teachers and others.
If you would like to take part in the committee, contact Career and Occupations Director Cindy Yager at 262-728-2642 x4402, or firstname.lastname@example.org.