Nearly 100 middle and high school students joined members of the California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) campus community for a festive gathering on Sept. 27 to unveil the university’s new mobile fabrication laboratory (mobile fab lab), the first in a fleet of four that are now part of the Fab Foundation network of nearly 900 such labs around the globe.
The fabs labs are designed to expand K-12 students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education, and provide teachers and CSUDH credential students with additional tools and teaching techniques to engage and excite students into STEM. The first labs will begin touring schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District South, Torrance Unified School District, and Compton Unified School District this semester, with the other three rolling out next year.
Kristy Mar, a middle school teacher at J.H. Hull Middle School in Torrance, was excited about the new ideas that the fab labs will offer students. She enthusiastically talked about the importance of exposing students to science and technology literacy, even if that’s not the path they end up taking. She added that even if they do not become engineers, maybe the exposure to STEM skills will make them “engineers of their own lives.”
“The mobile fab labs will give students the perspective that what they are doing right now academically does go somewhere, and that higher education is important,” said Mar.
The dedication also included engaging science activities for local middle and high school students, and special remarks from CSUDH administrators, superintendents from the partnering school districts, and representatives from organizations that supported the mobile fab labs creation.
“We have to realize that we are all part of the same ecosystem – the K-12 schools, the community colleges, our campus, the corporations, and philanthropic and nonprofit organizations,” said CSUDH President Willie J. Hagan during his opening remarks. “The degree to which we can all ensure that students come to college better prepared, more inspired, more engaged, and more excited about math and science, the better it is for all of us. We all benefit.”
The CSUDH mobile fab labs were made possible through a gift from Toyota USA that included four Tundra trucks to pull the labs, and a grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Co-developed by Motivo Engineering, CSUDH’s Center for Innovation in STEM Education, and the Fab Foundation, the labs are equipped with tools and technology such as laser cutters to create 2D and 3D structures, 3D printers, and electronic components for prototyping projects.
The fab lab project also addresses several issues at the heart of the STEM crisis: the need for qualified science and math teachers; a need to inspire K-12 students through engaging STEM experiences; and the need for more women and minorities graduating with STEM degrees and pursuing careers in related fields.
“Coming from the manufacturing side of our business, I can tell you that providing hands-on, creative experiences to students, educators, and communities is critical” said Mike Goss, general manager, Toyota Social Innovation, who spoke speak on behalf of Toyota during the dedication. “At Toyota, we strongly believe that the future depends on the next generation of innovators and problem solvers” Goss added.
Zamyra Scribens, an eighth grader at LAUSD’s Samuel Gompers Middle School, does not plan to major in a STEM field; however, she was excited about the opportunity to be able to experience a variety of options and career paths at the fab lab dedication.
“I want to learn more about college, more about what I want to do, and what I want to become when I’m older,” said Scribens. “This is a great event to learn that stuff.”