When I started at Saint Paul’s School in August of 2015, the school had just completed a substantial makeover of the middle school building (see https://paulhaberstroh.com/2015/10/the-21st-century-classroom/ for details). The plans also included an area for a new, dedicated makerspace. The exciting news was that I had a wonderful empty room to develop a makerspace. The challenge was that I had a wonderful empty room to develop a makerspace.

In my research on how to equip and develop a makerspace, I came across the Fab Lab Model, the educational outreach component of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. This was the model I aspired to create.

As the first year went on, tools and materials would slowly appear through the generosity of parents and benefactors. Soon we had a great supply of recycled and repurposed electronics and things. We started with one 3D printer and a few power tools. Through the generosity of the PTA we acquired a laser cutter. With the support and shared vision of our head of school we added a CNC machine, a second 3D printer, and some significant electronics capabilities. As the makerspace took shape and evolved, the vision to be recognized by the Fab Lab community became realistic.

My goal for this year was to achieve the Fab Lab designation and global listing.

Makerspace at Saint Paul's School in Clearwater.
The before picture of the makerspace at Saint Paul’s School

As the Fab Foundation describes the concept on www.fabfoundation.org: “A Fab Lab is a technical prototyping platform for innovation and invention, providing stimulus for local entrepreneurship. A Fab Lab is also a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent. To be a Fab Lab means connecting to a global community of learners, educators, technologists, researchers, makers and innovators- -a knowledge sharing network that spans 30 countries and 24 time zones. Because all Fab Labs share common tools and processes, the program is building a global network, a distributed laboratory for research and invention”.

Becoming a Fab Lab Is more than just having the right fabrication equipment. There is a minimum expectation in fabrication capabilities: a laser cutter for cutting and engraving, a precision CNC milling machine, a 3D Printer, a vinyl cutter for making flexible circuits and crafts, and a fairly sophisticated electronics workbench for prototyping circuits and programming microcontrollers.

Most importantly, Fab Lab is about community. In addition to providing resources for the local community, a Fab Lab will network with the global community sharing projects and ideas.

Clearwater's Fab Lab at Saint Paul's School
The after picture, Clearwater’s Fab Lab at Saint Paul’s School

To be added to the global listing of Fab Labs, there is an application and approval process. We reached out to three “referee” labs, with hope of the approval of two as required to be included. The lab also needed it’s own website reflecting the capabilities. One approval came very quickly, and the second one followed shortly. Needless to say we were elated! We are now listed on the global Fab Lab website: https://www.fablabs.io/labs/saintpaulsfablab

By having a Fab Lab in an independent school, we are very fortunate to have many resources to share with the global and local community. As part of our offerings, we will have classes in prototyping and fabrication, 3D Printing and modeling, robotics, and more. On April 1st, we are hosting an “Engineering Day”, where we are opening the facility to the local community for lessons and demonstrations. We will hold many similar events throughout the year. Our summer camps are open to all students.

We are very pleased to announce the newly created Fab Lab at Saint Paul’s School in Clearwater Florida, and to be part of the global Fab Lab community. For details about our facility, please visit http://www.saintpaulsfablab.org

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