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FabLab Evolved! Making Things Together....While Being Apart

Just like every other subject, The Marin School's FabLab has had to make the transition to holding class online during these strange times. "What? How is this possible?" students asked. "Surely FabLab is cancelled for now, since we can't be in the actual Lab in order to FAB!" These are reasonable questions to be sure, but it turns out these students underestimated the power that is FABLAB!

Across the various FabLab classes, students have taken their problem solving, making, and crafting skills and found projects to apply them to on the home front. Sewing, baking, interior design, computer 3D modeling, whittling, and Minecraft art are just some of the hands-on activities they have found for themselves. Then, during class time, they meet in their video classroom and they check in on the status of their projects, ask and answer questions, and have some general discussion on various Maker topics. FabLabbers also document the progress on any of their projects on personal project blogs or Instagram accounts, so that they can all stay informed about what they're working on.

To keep motivation up, Josh Cardenas, FabLab instructor, worked right along with the students, working on various projects for himself, improvements for the FabLab, examples and demonstrations for those who might be having trouble with a certain aspect of their project, or other various interactive activities. An example of this is a collaborative project he has done with the 8th Grade FabLab class.

For the last couple of sessions, the TMS 8th Graders have met in the FabLab Google Meet classroom. Each student was asked to bring a piece of white paper and a black pen. They looked up "tiki idol" images on the Internet and then everyone was asked to draw one feature of a tiki idol head - an eye, a mouth, a nose, some decorative markings, etc. Once the drawings were finished, everyone held up their artwork to their webcams and Josh took a screenshot of the 'Grid View' layout of the Google Meet window, showing all the parts at once. He took that image into Photoshop, made it high-contrast black and white, then copied and pasted all the separate features into a Tiki Idol of their own creation, while everyone watched his screen, giving suggestions as we went. When they finally had a Tiki Idol head assembled, Josh sent the image over to the 'ol FabLab Laser Cutter, threw in some thin plywood and voila! Out popped a laser engraved tiny tiki man!

This worked surprisingly well and was pretty fun, so they tried it again the following week, but this time they took it to ELEVEN! They repeated the process of drawing features and assembling through Photoshop. However this time, Josh projected the final image onto a large slab of Monterey Pine leftover from when the TMS campus's trees were trimmed in the fall. With the 8th graders watching and guiding his progress, Josh traced the image onto the wood with a marker. When complete, he dragged the log outside, propped it up securely and then began carving away with his trusty chainsaw! What better way to carve a tiki idol, eh?!

In the end, the chainsaw carving came out a little rough, but the general shape from the students' design was there, it simply needs a bit more refinement. That is however, how to correctly do FabLab! You try your ideas, as crazy as they are, see what works and what doesn't, then expand, reframe, and reiterate until you're satisfied with your project. It was a great way to collaborate creatively with the students and fun to see what came out. It just goes to show, when you can't come to FabLab, FabLab comes to you!

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