In order to understand this website’s purpose, it is important to know some background information about STEM education and digital fabrication.
Investment in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education has been identified as a pressing need. While science and mathematics, and to a lesser extent, technology-based learning opportunities have been important features of past efforts, and can be readily found in K12 curriculums, the E (“Engineering”) in STEM is underrepresented.
Engineering is about designing solutions to recognized problems or needs. Solutions can be new concepts envisioned for the first time by an engineer. Taking a new concept from mind’s eye to physical form is fulfilling and motivating. Young students have not typically had the opportunity to see their concepts make the trip from concept to physical form. The advent of emerging technologies such as digital fabrication potentially can give students this opportunity for the first time.
Digital Fabrication Explained
Digital fabrication is the process of translating a digital design into a physical object.
-A Rationale for Incorporating Engineering Education into the Teacher Education Curriculum, draft
Digital design in the context of digital fabrication refers more to the creation of things like shape nets, Google Sketchup models, and 3D geometric models and less to the aesthetic qualities inherent with traditional use of the word “design.” Yet, the creation of a digital design is only one step in the process; creating a physical object out of materials like paper, foam, or clay is the crucial final step in digital fabrication. Tools like the Silhouette, a die cut machine that cuts a variety of paper products, and 3D printing machines make tangible product creation a real possibility for teachers and students.
Digital Fabrication: Example
This model of the UVA Rotunda, developed in the Curry Center for Technology and Teacher Educaiton, illustrates how a graphic design tool can be used to create a digital design that outputs to a fabricator, Silhouette. Click here to download the files and construct the model.
FabLab: Ideas for Teachers & Educators
This website supports teachers and educators in their efforts to engage in the digital fabrication process. This is accomplished through freely sharing shapes and digital designs, providing examples from schools, creating a networked community, and giving assistance in the form of immediate help and tutorials. To understand how this website addresses these goals, please visit:
Portions of this text are excerpts from “A Rationale for Incorporating Engineering Education into the Teacher Education Curriculum” by Glen Bull, Gerald Knezek, and David Gibson.