Students in Charlotte Latin School’s engineering classes are among the first middle and high school students in America to learn in a “Fab Lab.” Founded at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a Fab Lab is a special maker space that meets specific criteria for equipment such as laser cutters and 3D printers. Fab Lab faculty members also are required to participate in training conducted by MIT professors. Approximately 20 schools in the U.S. have a Fab Lab.
As a Fab Lab school, Charlotte Latin participates in a community of schools from elementary schools to universities. Teachers and students share time and expertise to contribute to the community by solving real-world problems and creating real products. Fab Lab participants also have opportunities to collaborate on projects with an international network of professional engineers, entrepreneurs, educators and students. Charlotte Latin's students are currently collaborating with professors at CPCC, UNC Charlotte and N.C. State University.
Our students are building upon their strong academic foundation to learn to design, code and build products in the Fab Lab. These projects are intended to be relevant and to provide solutions that benefit the community. For example, Charlotte Latin’s Middle school engineering students are working on a project to improve a wheelchair’s functionality. This work is just one illustration of how young people are developing the critical thinking and hands-on skills to solve problems while building empathy for others in the process.
In addition, exposing students to rapid prototyping using laser cutters and 3D printers in the Fab Lab encourages them to be open to new ideas. This school year, Charlotte Latin is taking this concept a step further by launching the Entrepreneurship and Global Leadership course for high school seniors. The goal is for the entrepreneurship students to write a business plan that they will prototype in the Fab Lab. They work with engineering students and at the same time, engineering students learn business principles to understand how to make sustainable products.
Fab Labs such as Charlotte Latin's are developing modern artisans in which students build upon their liberal arts foundation to develop theories, then learn the skills to implement them using higher mathematics and programming to solve problems, communications skills to write and present proposals and even soldering skills to manufacture products. It’s a very collaborative approach that prepares students for the workforce of tomorrow.