At first glance, the massive machinery and bright green signage remind you of a lab you might see in an engineering firm or professional design lab. Impressive works in progress including a built from scratch airplane with wings that span five-feet and boats in process of having the hulls crafted are scattered throughout the building.
Students are involved in deep conversations thinking through complex projects all while cultivating an aura of excitement and enthusiasm. Learners canvas the different rooms taking part in classes and hearing presentations from esteemed engineers. This is not a movie set or a college laboratory: this is the Suncoast Science Center/Faulhaber Fab Lab, and it’s where the dreams of budding scientists take flight and kids are using their minds and hands to bring their visions to life.
The Suncoast Science Center and Faulhaber Fab Lab is a new addition to the educational arsenal that is at the disposal of local students, thanks to the altruism and efforts of two local engineers, Fritz and Ping Faulhaber. For a short time, G. Wiz Science Museum served as the site of Faulhaber Fab Lab, and it was during that time that it earned the esteemed accreditation from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to be considered a “fab lab.” When the equipment from the closed science museum came up for auction, the Faulhabers purchased it and opened up the Suncoast Science Center on Beneva Road. The facility held an open house in January which was attended by over 800 people.
Recently, area students took place in the 1st annual Remote Control Car Competition at the Fab Lab. Students were allowed to work independently or in teams of up to four to redesign a stock RC car. Over several weeks, participants were invited to attend workshops and open design time to print out laser designs for the car, newly fabricated bodies, and other modifications to make their vehicle faster and better than their competitors. Students were given instruction on software and machinery they would not otherwise have an opportunity to come in contact with and were even able to design and print out team t-shirts. The event sold out quickly and proved to be a challenging and engaging way to introduce people to the science center. The kids made new friends, were able to put their car designs into practice, and loved the competition and cash prizes that were awarded.
The RC car competition is just one way that the community can get involved at the Fab Lab. The Fab Lab offers a variety of classes designed for youth all the way up to retirees. Family programs designed to get everyone involved and working on a project are also offered. Some of the programs include an educational outreach program where staff will bring hands-on science demonstrations to the classroom, and a lending library available to the teachers and students of Sarasota and Manatee Counties. In addition, fun workshops are geared to get people of all ages designing and building projects with the help of 3D printers, mills, routers, embroidery machines, and more.
Consider Suncoast Science Center for informative, fun, and interesting camps over spring and summer break. Or, if you have a project you’ve been meaning to tackle but lack the equipment or expertise to get it done, the Fab Lab can help with all of those needs. Make sure you check out their website so you can stay up-to-date on all of their workshop offerings. This is the place where innovation and curiosity meet machinery and technology to take an idea and bring it to fruition. Get your creative juices flowing and see what you and your family can build at Sarasota’s very own Fab Lab. For more information, please visit their website at http://www.suncoastscience.org/#!get-involved/csgz.
Photos: Do it yourself 2.0 courtesy of Maclej Wojnicki, Flickr commercial use allowed
3D Printer courtesy of Luke Jones, Flickr commercial use allowed