Written By Cheyanne Ramón, CSU STEM VISTA 2015-16, CSU Bakersfield Fab Lab
What comes to mind when you hear the word, engineering? How about fabrication laboratory (fab lab)?
I was introduced to Fab Lab* when I began my position in July. I was completely intimidated by this “engineering lab.” I barely knew what engineering was, it just sounded complicated to me. But through experimenting with machines, software, and settings, I fell in love with the lab. I had associated engineering with difficulty, but this lab was the opposite of that. And I thought, had I been exposed to this before, would I have pursued engineering?
At all the schools I attended through K-12, not one was geared towards STEM. No one had mentioned STEM majors or careers. If I was introduced to engineering early on, I would have considered it in college. But engineering was always painted as an undecipherable subject and I never got to experience in it in a way that I could understand it.
My role at California State University Bakersfield’s (CSUB) Fab Lab is to lead its outreach component for grades K-12. I coordinate in-class visits, lead lab tours and workshops that enable students to discover what engineering is. I have been working with Bakersfield’s local school district, a home learners group, the preschool on campus, and a local girl scouts troop. My hope is by exposing students to real experience, it will get them excited about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and even envision themselves as a future STEM students or professionals.
During these past couple of months I can already see developing interests in STEM through our partnerships.
I recently began working with a home-schooled group; I gave them a tour and taught a couple workshops. I asked some students why they enjoyed visiting to the lab.
I like the Fab Lab because it’s cool.
I like the Fab Lab because I can make my ideas come to life.
I like the Fab lab because there are so many machines to play with.
I like the Fab lab because I get to experiment.
I like the Fab lab because it’s interesting.
I am glad to be able to connect more students to the Fab Lab to experience STEM. I wish I had a similar program when I went to school. It allows students to experience their subjects’ hands on and outside of a classroom. And hopefully will excite them into pursuing a future in STEM.
* A Fab Lab is a digital fabrication and prototyping lab. It stems from MIT’s “How to make (almost) anything” class. It contains various computer-controlled machines such as a laser cutter, 3D printer, and vinyl cutter.