Turning ideas to reality: the Fab Lab at Oxford Academy
Wait till you see it. The new Fab Lab workspace behind the Middle School has come a long way since it was a bus garage. Construction approved by the 2018 capital project is now wrapping up and by the fall of 2021, this repurposed space will house a standardized array of tools for digital design that work with various materials so one can make almost anything. With laser cutting devices, 3D printers and much more, makers of all ages will acquire 21st century tech skills for becoming inventors, entrepreneurs, problem-solvers, and learners who bring ideas to life.
The Fab Lab is expected to begin as a workshop and platform for project-based, hands-on STEM learning, especially as it intersects with our established Agriculture education programs. Subsequent growth will lead to an emerging STEM ecosystem of partnerships between public schools, colleges and universities, businesses, and government, with Oxford at its center.
“I don’t think the Fab Lab will ever be a finished product,” Superintendent John Hillis said at an early planning meeting. “It will be a living entity that will keep changing and adapting to the environment around it. It will be a total district asset. Everyone will have access. I appreciate that everyone can weigh in and create a vision for what we’re trying to do here.”
In early meetings, a full complement of Oxford Academy educators plus representatives from Chobani, Raymond, Kerry Biosciences, SUNY Broome, Binghamton University, Commerce Chenango, DCMO BOCES, and Cornell Cooperative Extension and more joined the conversation about opportunities and planning. Working with consultant TIES (Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM) with support from Siemens, Inc., two virtual design sessions in the winter of 2021 focused on the following:
- Joint understanding of the Fab Lab’s capacity to enhance student instruction at Oxford Academy
- Understanding the role of design and related aspirations
- Developing a sustainable foundation for the Fab Lab
- Arriving at an alignment of vision
A Fab Lab Advisory Board comprising representatives from all sectors -- from regional businesses to universities to local public education to area organizations -- was then convened to meet bimonthly and assume responsibility for planning and keeping the Fab Lab on track.
A search is now underway for a Digital Fabrication Lab Manager
. This person will be responsible for the overall operation of the Fab Lab, and the development of programs and services which meet the needs of students, faculty, staff, and the community. Their work will be central to the launch of this Fab Lab, and its continued growth. (To apply click here.)
We hope future graduating classes will have hand-on experience in the Fab Lab before they leave for college, the workforce, or the military. We expect age-appropriate Fab Lab experiences will include the Primary and Middle School for effective vertical alignment of curriculum and learning. We intend for this resource to be for everyone. We know students will connect to opportunities outside of school, including workforce development. We welcome the developing STEM Ecosystem which will include other school districts, organizations, higher education, and businesses. We look forward to the Fab Lab’s opening the door to robust opportunity and enrichment for our students, our local community, and the wider region.