The Rhode Island Mobile Maker Lab made a much anticipated stop at Johnston High School on Tuesday for a two-day stay filled with demonstrations featuring manufacturing jobs of the future that highlighted the types of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics skills needed to successfully work in those jobs.
According to Seth Wiseman, Digital Modeling and Fabrication Adjunct instructor at the IYRS School of Technology & Trades in Newport, the lab is a public and private endeavor sponsored by IYRS, Polaris MEP, Rhode Island College, Rhode Island Commerce Corp. and the Rhode Island Department of Labor and Training.
“We’re introducing students to digital fabrication equipment including 3D printers, CNC routers and laser printers,” said Wiseman. “The goal of the Mobile Maker Lab is to build awareness across the state to the manufacturing arena as well as other peripheral industries.”
Housed in the lab were several stations: multiple 3D printers, touchscreen computerized technology, a wood-carving machine and more. Those machines were paired with software, and the students were able to create their own pieces utilizing the technology.
“I like to refer to the lab as an applied geometry setup. It’s for students interested in math, interested in design, engineering and manufacturing as well,” said Wiseman. “It allows students to begin to look at software platforms that may be used in technologies of this sort.”
Students were asked about their general interests, their knowledge of machinery in the lab and what their thoughts about post-high school life. They were then offered a chance to utilize the lab’s technology.
“For all the technology, the kind of critical path is creative software. Given the short cycle of the engagement, we really try to get students onto the technology by providing access to online databases where creatives are already developed and then working with them to move through the steps of processing the creative to get an output on the specific technology,” said Wiseman.
For the 3D printers, the students used an inexpensive plastic with a fairly low melting point to create figures that demonstrated the capability of the technology. They then could use a router or laser cutter to create images on wood.
The lab was launched in September of last year, and its mission is to build awareness throughout the state by visiting schools like the high school or a community organization.
“It’s really exciting to be on the road. We’re really grateful for all of the support from the various state agencies as well as the organizations that have engaged in the platform,” said Wiseman. “If folks are interested in scheduling a visit from the Mobil Maker Lab, they can visit our website at www.rimakerlab.com.”
Vice Principal Michael Mancieri was excited with the opportunity the lab offered for the school’s students, who were selected to visit the demonstration through the math department.
“I think what’s great about it is the skills that the students are being introduced to really are 21st century skills. A lot of our kids come out really excited about it,’ said Mancieri. “If we can plant the seed around something that they might be interested in exploring post high school, or maybe taking some classes here that we offer, we’re hopeful to do that.”