Spooky Science

CITC’s Fab Lab partners with Palmer school for 3D workshop

Fab Lab Instructor Andrew Regner (center) demonstrates how to use a piece of equipment in CITC’s Fab Lab to a group of students from Academy Charter School in Palmer.

On October 26 and 27, deep in their laboratory, eleven would-be scientists devised an array of hideous monsters and brought them to life. No, it wasn’t the first scene of a Frankenstein movie; it was a two-day workshop, hosted by CITC’s Fab Lab, as part of a week-long intensive put on by Academy Charter School in Palmer.

“Twice a year, we break away from traditional scholastics, get the students out of their seats, and do more hands-on activities to more deeply explore a subject,” explained Sean Reilly, a seventh grade history and language arts teacher with the Academy who’d brought eleven students to the Fab Lab to explore 3D modeling and printing.

In keeping with the workshop’s spooky timing, just a few days before Halloween, the students designed monsters using open-source, industry standard programs like Sculptris and Autodesk Fusion 360.

“There’s no bottom to their creativity, and no ceiling, either,” Sean remarked. Earlier in the week, his students spent two days at the UAA College of Engineering’s Prototyping lab, learning about different types of 3D printing software.

Fab Lab Instructor Holly McQuinn helps a Palmer student create a 3D model of a monster using the Sculptris computer program.

“At UAA, they got a more science-focused experience,” explained Fab Lab Instructor Andrew Regner. “At the Fab Lab, though, we add go beyond STEM — science, technology, engineering, and math — and make it ‘STEAM,’ by adding an ‘A’ for art. It’s not just straight engineering here, although we do a lot that has to be precise; but we also show the students that 3D printing doesn’t just have to be building parts for a space station. It can be nice, artistic pieces, too.”

While the Academy students focused on creating and printing monsters, the young people who filter through the Fab Lab by the dozens throughout the year typically incorporate culture into the projects they work on. In the past, students have 3D printed Yup’ik masks, laser-cut snowshoes, and sewn kuspuks with the help of Elders.

Youth Case Worker Michael Farahjood, who coordinated the Academy workshop, emphasized culture when he gave the Palmer students a tour of the lab before they started their projects.

Andrew Regner assists a student in preparing a 3D model for printing.

“We like to show the students that while the technology and tools have changed, we’re still working off the ideas and things Alaska Native people have been creating for thousands of years,” Michael said.

The Fab Lab, established in 2013 to provide STEM-focused education and creative opportunities for Alaska Native and other youth, is an essential part of CITC Youth Empowerment Services, which equips young people to fully realize their potential by providing them with programs that enrich academics and cultural knowledge. A number of CITC youth programs integrate projects based in the Fab Lab as part of that effort.

But the Fab Lab also offers an opportunity for CITC to partner with schools and other organizations to provide STEM education.

“Partnering with the Fab Lab is about more than just resources like the printers and other equipment,” Sean shared. “It’s about access to instructors who have a great depth of knowledge for what we’re pursuing in this intensive.”

You can learn more about CITC’s Fab Lab here, and for more information about the Youth Empowerment Services Department’s programs, visit the department webpage.

Students from Academy Charter School in Palmer sent thank-you notes to the Fab Lab for putting on a 3D printing workshop for them in October.