Advancing STEAM exploration at a new construction middle school
Fuller Middle School in Framingham, Massachusetts was in its fourth year of STEAM design and implementation when its new school was under construction. In fall 2021, a new middle school opened, accelerating the district's STEAM goals. The new school allows STEAM teachers to fulfill the district's educational vision emphasizing project-based, student-centered learning, collaboration, and strategic use of technology.
The centerpieces of the new STEAM area are a makerspace and tech/digital fab lab where students identify and research problems, brainstorm possible solutions, develop and test prototypes, and ultimately communicate what they learned.
Students gain design and problem-solving skills and get exposure to the latest engineering and design hardware and software technology while raising their awareness of career options in the technical fields.
Teach 21st century skills to middle schoolers with a new makerspace and fab lab
The Technology Education classroom at the previous middle school significantly lacked the proper tools for learning in the 21st century. The computers were slow and didn’t have the appropriate software. The classroom had a 3D printer that wasn’t regularly used because it was missing complementary equipment to use with it.
With the combination of a revised Technical Education curriculum and the new construction school, Framingham Public Schools envisions the new Fuller Middle School to be a STEAM model for both the district and the state.
An essential element to the STEAM curriculum at the new school is a makerspace and tech/digital fab lab. The makerspace and fab lab needed to provide instructors with options for teaching various hands-on activities using current technology in a collaborative space.
A contemporary makerspace and fab lab for endless exploration
To ensure the makerspace and tech/digital fab lab will meet the goals of the new STEAM curriculum, AET Labs partnered with Jonathan Levi Architects to lead sessions with the Fuller Middle School administration and Technology Education instructors to discuss their vision for the space.
They uncovered that their vision was to align age-appropriate projects and equipment to the existing Fuller STEAM curriculum while working within the constraints of a tight budget.
As a result, the makerspace and tech/digital fab lab in the new construction school houses a range of equipment that immerse and inspire students, including multiple MakerBot 3D printers, an Epilog Laser cutter, and traditional wood shop tools.
In addition, AET Labs designed layouts that put safety at the forefront while allowing for a creative working environment. And to help ensure instructors gain maximum confidence in using equipment and developing projects, AET Labs provided the school with a long-term professional development strategy.
The makerspace and tech/digital fab lab, which opened in fall 2021, exposes middle school students to 21st-century careers in CAD, prototyping, graphic arts, textiles, engineering, and more.