Holy Family Academy students are learning how to design and fabricate in the first FabLab at a Catholic school in the Pittsburgh region.
The SAIL (Social Action and Integrated Learning) FabLab includes an electronics area, a laser-cutter and 3-D area, a woodshop, and about 20 iMac computers. Every student uses the FabLab, funded by a $200,000 grant from the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
“Pittsburgh is this hub of technology, yet is every student in Pittsburgh really getting equal opportunity for career exposure? We know the answer is no,” says Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Ph.D., Holy Family Academy’s head of school and chief learning office, who wrote the grant request to obtain funding for the project.
An increasing number of schools and nonprofits are introducing these fabrication laboratories or small shops using digital devices to design, and fabricate. The movement springs from a project through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology about a decade ago.
Holy Family, an independent high school in Emsworth, was founded in 2014 in part to boost education and employment skills for students who were unprepared for science and technology jobs in the region.
With the new FabLab, kids enrolled at Holy Family learn how to code and develop solutions to problems. Students are encouraged to give back by applying their skills to projects that can enhance their communities, Abel-Palmieri says.
So far this year students have completed projects for the community organizations Hosanna House and Miracle League of the South Hills. Students design and create solutions to community challenges as part of project-based learning courses.
“Now you are not just building a solution, you are actually going down and fabricating it. In addition to that, we can teach students how to be entrepreneurs,” Abel-Palmieri says. “They learn how to be entrepreneurial thinkers, how to problem-solve.”