District Gets Grant for Mobile Fab Lab

The Fox Chapel Area School District has received a grant from The Grable Foundation to build and design a mobile Fab Lab. Because of the generous grant, Fox Chapel Area High School engineering students will build a tiny house (in partnership with 84 Lumber), outfitted with the latest technological equipment.

“We think the Fox Chapel Area School District is the first to put a Fab Lab in a tiny house,” said Fox Chapel Area High School technology education teacher and Fab Lab manager Justin Papariello. The house is prefabricated and will come with the framing, including walls and a roof. The students will do everything else, including siding and electrical wiring. While outfitting the Fab Lab, the students will also have to think of unique solutions for space confinement. As a result, they will be building objects that can be used for other things, such as a table that can be converted into a chair and/or a desk. According to Papariello, this is known as an “authentic” learning experience. The inside will be outfitted with everything people would normally find in a Fab Lab – 3-D printers, CNC machines, laser engravers, vinyl cutters, computers, and other pieces of technological equipment. Then the house will be taken on the road!

The goal is to take the Fab Lab to visit not only the four Fox Chapel Area elementary schools, but to a few other schools in the greater Pittsburgh area. These students will be ones who normally would not have access to a Fab Lab. The tiny house will be built on a trailer so that it will be easily moveable by vehicle. “We will literally roll into a parking lot and set up a classroom with tables, tents, and laptops,” Papariello said. “We want to spark technological interest among younger students, not just in our school district, but beyond.”

The project also includes funding for three high school work experience students to travel with the Fab Lab and help teach the lessons to the younger students. Led by Megan Cicconi, director of instructional and innovative leadership for the Fox Chapel Area School District, a team of local elementary school teachers are writing a curriculum for the Fab Lab which will then be shared with the teachers where the Fab Lab will visit to infuse STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics) concepts in a project-based approach to enhance the impact of the Fab Lab experience. Each student who participates in the Fab Lab experience will also make a product that requires them to utilize problem-solving and higher-order thinking skills related to the math and science standards. Project examples include a laser-engraved box, tool box, vinyl stickers, and wooden name tags.

According to Fox Chapel Area School District Superintendent, Gene Freeman, Ed.D., “We believe that we are better together, which is why we authored this grant to impact Fox Chapel Area students as well as those in neighboring communities. We are honored to have been awarded this grant from The Grable Foundation and look forward to a unique collaboration as we provide opportunities for elementary students to participate in digital fabrication.”

Papariello said the mobile Fab Lab must be completed and ready to go for Remake Learning Week which will be celebrated in the Pittsburgh area in May. The lab will be featured as part of special events that week. Additionally, Fox Chapel Area has also been asked to present about the mobile Fab Lab at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) Conference in San Antonio, Texas, at the end of June.

About The Grable Foundation
“The Grable Foundation is guided by our mission to help children and youth become independent, caring, contributing members of society by supporting programs critical to a child’s successful development. With a focus on southwestern Pennsylvania, we seek out nonprofit partners who share our commitment to making our region the best place to be a kid.”