Problem: Theoretical lessons maintain a distance between students and what occurs in the real world, creating a mindset that is passive and disinterested with respect to the subjects that are being taught. As a result, students experience a greater disconnect from disciplines that involve science and technology. The Fab Education initiative, or Fab Ed, is a global educational project that aims to change this paradigm by facilitating the adoption of digital production within the formal educational environment. The objective is to make the learning process more practical and engaging.
Solutions: Fab Ed supports educational organizations in the use of digital production as a path for integrated teaching and apprenticeship in various disciplines, such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics. The network consists of more than 450 Fab Labs, or digital production laboratories, around the world. These were preceded by the Center for Bits and Atoms at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The project is being developed through a partnership with an American organization known as the Teaching Institute for Excellence in STEM. STEM is an acronym which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
Fab Ed helps schools and school districts to align digital production learning with state and national educational standards in order to prepare digital production curricula. To do so, the organization trains professors and facilitates the use of Fab Lab types of environments. These digital production laboratories incorporate machines, such as 3D printers, milling machines, laser cutting machines and vinyl cutting machines, in addition to computers, software and other tools that allow for experiments to be conducted quickly. Teachers stimulate the maker ethic, which is based on production, autonomy and collaboration in the development of projects. During this process, the student is encouraged to imagine, build, test, perfect and present ideas. As the work progresses, the student also has to evaluate any possible mistakes and find a solution for any problems that may have arisen.
The project also connects schools to communities that have already worked in the realm of hands-on learning, such as the global network of Fab Labs. Students are encouraged to share their creations, such as toys, robots or machine prototypes, with the Fab Labs that are spread out over 30 countries.
Outcomes: Students that participate in hands-on activities find the projects interesting and useful. They begin to think about the learning process, and, as a result, they discover their interests, such as the desire to study science or mathematics. The Fab Labs learning environment promotes an academic experience that is positive and fun. Almost half of the professors insist on continuing in the program the following year. Students and teachers find the activities inspiring.