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TechShop and The Fulton School at St. Albans: Achieving a mission together.

Laser Light Technologies proudly donates memberships to TechShop, a community-based space where members have access to “over $1 million worth of professional equipment and software.” Four of the memberships donated this year were given to The Fulton School at St. Albans, a small non-for-profit private school. We had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Lensyl Urbano, a middle school math and science teacher at The Fulton School, who is changing the culture and way students think.

Mr. Urbano explained that the selection process for the TechShop memberships starts with personal interests. The Fulton School students who are interested in becoming members will complete an application. The faculty will evaluate the applications and select groups based on similar interests. Memberships are rotated approximately every 3 months, allowing up to 12 students to use the TechShop memberships throughout the year. After final candidates are selected – it’s time to create.

The creation process requires precision and projects can vary from simple to complex and small to large. Mr. Urbano mentioned that students will start with an item such as a cell phone, a case, and a stand. This familiarizes the students with the TechShop equipment and software. The student members have created a number of tools that assist with classroom learning, such as “a circle set and a tower of Hanoi game that has been quite useful for explaining the differences between degrees and radians.” Mr. Urbano will either solicit requests from other teachers, or in some cases, teachers will submit requests directly to him for items that are either needed in their class or for general school purposes. The 1st through 3rd grade teachers “requested finger labyrinths for students” and the middle school students are using “cold-frames” cut at TechShop for vegetable boxes.

While some items are specifically requested by school faculty, others are created based on an idea from a group of students. The “Makerspace interim” program, managed by Mr. Urbano, first requires students to come up with an idea and find a spot. After the school approves the idea and the design is finalized, the item is created at TechShop.  Typically, the assembly of all parts is done at school. During a one-week period, students created a cajon, a type of drum you sit on. The concept of the idea was created on day 1. The digital design was made over days 2 and 3. The production at TechShop occurred on day 4, and finally the students demonstrated the “cajon” in show-and-tell on the final day.

Some projects, like the cajon, can be completed rather quickly, but others are complicated and require more time. Urbano said that it took approximately “10 different classes” throughout the year to learn “all of the tools and methods to build a table.” This table was unique in that the center of the table features an inset with a “3d relief map of the tectonic margin off the Japanese coast lit by programmable LED lights.” The TechShop members are learning firsthand how to bring a concept to life.

Mr. Urbano said his mission is to change the culture of the school by having students think “maybe we can make this.” TechShop offers students the community space with the equipment and software to do just that. Thank you to both Lensyl Urbano and TechShop for being a positive influence to our schools and students. We would say you are achieving your mission.