April 11, 2017
6 min read

5 “Life-ready” Skills You Can Learn in a Fab Lab

There’s much talk these days about how “soft skills” are growing to be just as important than academic, technical skills for career success. The beauty of learning in a Fab Lab? You’ll acquire both! Here are five important “life-ready” skills students will learn in a Fab Lab:


With 3D printing, Laser Cutting & Engraving, 3D Scanning, and CNC technology available at the ready students are able to tinker with designs and programs and make prototypes quickly and easily. This is a shift from the linear design approach of the past, that assumed that mistakes were expensive and need to be avoided. Failure becomes just a natural part of the process. This growth mindset allows kids the confidence to bounce right back from their design errors, and the liberty to learn from their mistakes.

Altruism & Collaboration

One of the Fab Lab charter values states “designs and processes developed in fab labs…should remain available for individuals to use and learn from.” This core principle of sharing helps foster an environment of giving to others in the community & collaborating together to make a difference.

This “Sharing is Caring” outlook promotes a collective objective to improve other’s lives, through design and accessibility. Having 3D printers readily available encourages students to design and make custom solutions – on the spot – to provide help for challenges classmates and neighbors may face.

FabLabInfographicSocialManufacturing & Lean Production

What used to be only feasible in an apprenticeship or specialized vocational school, can now be taught in a Fab Lab. Access to a Fab Lab enables students to learn advanced manufacturing concepts and skills before they enter the workplace. With everything you need at your fingertips, Fab Lab users can learn to take a new idea all the way through the process of mechanical design, engineering, prototyping – even marketing it to be sold. Managing workflow in a Fab Lab teaches real-world manufacturing concepts that are applicable in today’s Industry 4.0 workplaces.

“Design Thinking” & Process

Design Thinking is a mindset and approach to learning, collaboration, and problem-solving. A Fab Lab is the perfect environment for cultivating design thinking in students. Like water and sunlight to plants, design mentoring paired with digital fabrication tools help students grow to thoughtfully engage in the design process.

Good coaching provides students with the design vocabulary to communicate their ideas, along with the encouragement to engage in reflective and retrospective thinking about their process. The ultimate reward? Students ideas can actually come to life.

Flexibility & Foresight

What will the future of work & education look like? We’ve heard it said that “the most important skill to learn as you enter the job market is the ability to learn new skills.”

There are many uncertainties, but the given is that jobs of the future will require versatility and an adaptable mindset.

When students collaborate in a Fab Lab they learn to quickly adapt to technology and seek solutions to evolving challenges. Students in STEM programs with access to a Fab Lab or makerspace learn a diverse skill-set applicable to a wide range of careers – whatever those careers might as this coming century evolves. 

What about you? As an educator, what type of “soft skills” & lessons do you find intrinsic to Fab Lab learning? Check out our graphic below for some more skills you can’t just learn from a textbook.

Trajectory of Student Progress with Digital Fabrication Tools