Fabrication Laboratories (or just Fab Labs) are rapidly becoming the hottest trend in education, but until recently they could only be found in schools in America.
Marymount International School in Kingston-upon-Thames opened the first Fab Lab in a UK school last week. The lab, which was opened by Baroness Susan Greenfield, is complete with three 3D printers, a 3D scanner, a laser cutter, a vinyl cutter, a sublimating printer, a large format printer and Raspberry Pi programming materials – everything the girls need to get excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
Research scientist Baroness Greenfield gave a lecture following the ribbon cutting on challenges women face in science. She explained the female brain’s formation and emphasised its similarity to a male brain until we reach our twenties, thus debunking the idea that men are naturally better at STEM subjects than women. It’s all about how girls are nurtured and encouraged in the sciences.
Headmistress Sarah Gallagher describes the curriculum taught in the Fab Lab as “truly interdisciplinary”, aiming to promote creativity and stretch the students’ thinking. Students in Years 7 to 11 will use the lab to learn computer programming, coding, robotics and design. The lab will also allow International Baccalaureate Art students in Years 12 and 13 to create 3D printed, laser cut sculptures as part of their coursework and final projects.
While this might be the first lab of its kind in a UK school, Fab Labs themselves are not a novel idea. School-based Fab Labs have been making the news since a maths class at Sacred Heart in New York 3D-printed a prosthetic, Wolverine-themed hand for a 6-year-old boy whose family can’t afford medical grade prosthetics.
Until now, British schools could only access Fab Labs through universities and independently run workshops. Marymount also plans to open its lab doors to local schools taking part in their Saturday enrichment programme.
Last week’s Fab Lab inauguration is the first of many celebrations to mark the school’s 60th year.
Find out more about Fabrication Laboratories in the UK here: fablablondon.org