Fab@School: Children’s Engineering across the Curriculum in Your Classroom

ID: 31673 Type: Workshop
  1. Shaunna Smith, The University of Houston, United States
  2. Willy Kjellstrom, Daniel Tillman, Eric Yoder, Erika Carson, Jake Cohen, Monty Jones, Kari Wold, and Peter Malcolm, University of Virginia, United States
  3. Peggy Healy Stearns, Fab@School Initiative, United States

Monday, March 7 1:30 PM-5:00 PM Location: McGavock's B

Abstract: Digital fabrication is the use of technology to "make (almost) anything" yourself...a phrase which was coined by Neil Gershenfeld at the MIT Media Lab. The digital fabrication process allows users to interchange from 2D idea to 3D object by becoming manufacturers and engineers capable of not only construction, but deconstruction and reconstruction as well. It is the same process that is used to create product packaging, such as cereal boxes, and even the creation of cars - from concept to full-scale reality. This workshop will provide a hands-on experience, in which the participants will make their own creations by digitally designing in special software, printing on cardstock, fabricating on a personal fabrication machine, and finally assembling the design. Digital fabrication has the potential to foster an engineering mindset and encourage the development of creative problem-solving skills in students of all ages with tangible hands-on activities that can reinforce classroom concepts and skills.


Participants will: o Learn what children’s engineering and digital fabrication are; o Discover the different types of digital fabrication and view examples; o Examine the process of digital fabrication; o Discuss educational uses of digital fabrication; o Investigate the considerations for educators who want to begin integrating digital fabrication in their instruction; o Consider future potential for collaboration with fellow educators; and o Create pop-ups and scale-model paper sculptures.

Topical Outline

1. Introduction a. Children’s Engineering Initiative b. Digital Fabrication i. Digital fabrication is the use of technology to "make (almost) anything" yourself (Neil Gershenfeld ). ii. With innate connections to engineering education skills and concepts, digital fabrication addresses many 21st century skills, including: problem-solving, creativity, innovation, and communication. iii. Different types of digital fabrication 1. 2-D: Silhouette SD fabrication machine 2. 3-D: Fab@School 3D printer c. How is this being used in the schools? Set the context for the participants. i. Used as pedagogy to provide seamless integration of engineering education, digital fabrication uses guided discovery to engagingly communicate concepts which are already being taught in the K-12 curriculum. ii. Through the use of a scalable K-12 curriculum, core principles can be taught and connected to the next grade level. iii. STEM-related areas: a holistic approach that addresses inquiry, design, redesign/prototyping, and the employment of logic iv. Humanities: an engaging approach that links 21st century skills to a variety of literacy and creative objectives 2. The digital fabrication process: a. Design b. Print c. Fabricate d. Assemble 3. BREAK 4. Hands-on Activities a. Specific curriculum connections& examples b. Preprinted activity i. Pre-printed cardstock with registration marks for an easy beginning activity at each station to enable participants to use Silhouette easily for the first time. c. Group activity i. Pop-ups or other ideas currently under development, ex. Paper Airplanes ii. Encourage individual creativity and the sharing of ideas across content and grade levels. d. Gallery Showcase of created products and challenge contest entries i. Encourage idea sharing and discussion 5. Closing a. Demo 3D fabricator to show future scalability b. Resources & Collaboration Opportunities i. Website ii. SITE Digital Fabrication SIG, ISTE SIGTE, and other organizations. iii. SITE Digital Fabrication Presentations


This workshop is intended for K-12 teachers, administrators, and teacher educators in all content areas. No experience or prerequisite knowledge is required. Participants are expected to bring their own laptop and all other materials will be supplied by workshop organizers.

Experience Level



Shaunna Smith is a doctoral student in the Instructional Technology program in the University of Houston’s College of Education. She is currently working as a graduate assistant for the college’s Laboratory for Innovative Technology in Education (LITE), where she teaches mini-workshops on educational technology tools. She previously taught art, graphic design, animation, and web development at the high school and community college level. Her research interest is the educational implications of the use of digital fabrication to produce original pop-up books in the middle school grades. She is also the co-chair of the SITE Digital Fabrication SIG.


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