Fabrication Lab to prepare students, public for innovation jobs via school programs, lab time, and program partnerships including with Canopy and sprout & co.
Somerville, MA – A $200,000 Urban Agenda grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ Office of Housing and Economic Development opened the door for Somerville to begin preparations for a Fabrication (Fab) Lab that will prepare Somerville High School students as well as the general public for innovation jobs. The lab, which will be outfitted with prototyping tools such as 3D printers and laser cutters will offer technical classes, lab time, and special programs for both students and the general public. The Fab Lab will be housed in the former auto body shop in Somerville High’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) center, and is anticipated to open to the public starting this summer. SHS students will be able to enroll in Fab Lab elective courses starting September 2016.
“To make sure our students and residents are ready for the jobs being created by growing high-tech industries, we must prepare them to be innovation workers – and to do so, we must approach workforce development in a whole new way. That’s why, through the Working Cities Challenge, the City has been working with a cross-sector group of community partners to identify ways to retool our local job training efforts to better meet the needs of today,” stated Mayor Joseph A. Curtatone. “The Somerville Fab Lab allows us to bring together the vibrant innovation and maker mentality that is part of the fabric of our city, and our unwavering commitment to continuous growth through education, to provide those just preparing to enter the workforce and more experienced workers looking to stay ahead of the competition, with the greatest chance for success.”
The Somerville Fab Lab project leverages partnerships between the public and non-profit education sectors and private technology companies to help high school students and experienced workers develop a range of transferable 21st century skills – such as automation and design, critical thinking, and group collaboration — that industry leaders consider critical to success in today’s highly competitive markets. The space will also support a community-based model of technological entrepreneurship. The general public and entrepreneurs will be able to use the Fab Lab after school hours during the week for technical classes or for their own light-prototyping, encouraging the continuing growth of Somerville’s innovation sector. The Fab Lab will consist of three parts:
· A “Fab Academy” run by the Somerville High School CTE center, available to all SHS students during regular school hours starting in September 2016 through elective courses;
· An evening program designed and implemented by sprout & co., a STEAM education non-profit organization in Somerville, in collaboration with the Somerville Public Schools. Sprout will also lead the Fab Lab’s technical courses.
· A “Youth Entrepreneurship” mentorship program targeting economically disadvantaged students in Somerville. The program will be run by local startup incubator Canopy and will operate out of the Somerville Fab Lab and Canopy’s headquarters in Davis Square.
Somerville’s Fab Lab project was designed to help address the increasing demand for talented workers in rapidly growing and evolving high-tech industries, with an innovative workforce development model that leverages resources and partnerships. Students will learn to use a variety of high-tech equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutters, while developing 21st century, project management, and entrepreneurship skills that will serve them across industries and help them gain a competitive advantage. The Fab Lab will be adjacent to the existing Machine Technology shop and the Design & Visual Graphic Communications CTE program, allowing for interdisciplinary learning opportunities and the sharing of resources.
“With the establishment of a Fab Lab at Somerville High, an infrastructure would be in place to support and enhance collaborative endeavors between Somerville K-12 schools, local industry and local colleges,” said Leo DeSimone, Director of Somerville High’s Center for Career & Technical Education. “A STEM agenda related to education would be advanced as a result of the Fab Lab activities.”
“If we want to give our students the best opportunity for success, we need to equip them with the skills that will allow them to keep up with a changing landscape,” added Superintendent of Schools, Mary Skipper. “We also know that students learn best when we are able to connect what they’re learning in a classroom, with real-world experiences. The Somerville Fab Lab offers students the perfect learning experience to prepare for success in a rapidly evolving world.”
A broad range of community, education, and industry partners teamed up to bring this project to fruition, and have begun work on preparing the facility and developing curricula for the various components of the project. Partners include:
· City of Somerville’s Office of Strategic Planning & Community Development (OSPCD)
· Somerville High School’s Center for Career & Technical Education (CTE)
· Somerville Community Corporation (SCC)
· Somerville Center for Adult Learning Experiences (SCALE)
· Greentown Labs
· sprout & co., a non-profit STEAM education organization based in Somerville
· Canopy, a startup incubator located in Somerville
· The MIT Center for Bits and Atoms / The Fab Foundation
· Artisans Asylum, a nationally-renowned makerspace located in Somerville
· The Welcome Project
· Several private sector companies in the advanced manufacturing and tech industries.
“We at Canopy are very proud to be a part of this partnership. There is true transformative learning that will occur at the Fab Lab and through Canopy’s youth entrepreneurship program,” said Simon Towers, co-founder of Canopy. “The fabrication skills learned here are just the foundation. It’s students using these skills, building teams that complement their strengths and weaknesses and solving problems that they see needing a fix. Some of the best entrepreneurial ideas are born out of necessity.”
“If we do it right, the fab lab could be a pilot of citywide infrastructure to support people in learning, designing, and building. Just as libraries offer public space and resources for people to connect with books, the fab lab could be a nexus where people come together to learn and build with tools and ideas that are hard to find space for in a city like Somerville,” said Alec Resnick, Director of sprout & co. “In a city as diverse and creative as Somerville, this type of program could open up everything from better hands-on experiences for students at the high school to more diverse workforce development opportunities to more interesting and creative art to new businesses who have a chance to learn and prototype in ways they couldn’t before.”
The Lab is anticipated to begin offering public hours and classes after school hours in late May or early June, and will be utilized by Somerville High School students during the school day beginning in September 2016.