The Jigme Namgyal Wangchuck Super Fab Lab (JNWSFL) piloted the first impact-based program with SFL Makers Program earlier this month. The Makers Program aims to introduce integrated and innovative technology use, and attempts to supplement current STEM education with outside-of-the-class, informal activities. Through this program, teachers and educators will be able to implement digital fabrication tools in their curriculum.
During the initial phase of the program, InnoTech identified teachers on volunteer-basis, as well as through nomination to engage with JNWSFL team members and undergo a training program. The training, as part of the Makers Program, which is currently underway, delivers hands-on experience with standard fab lab machines used for rapid prototyping as well as other machines that are required to run the program.
JNWSFL, as part of its international outreach program, had onboarded interns from the Wheaton College in Massachusetts just as the SFL Makers Program commenced. The Wheaton interns come from a wide range of academic backgrounds, including design, engineering, art, film, and neuroscience. Having graduated from MIT’s Fab Academy program, the Wheaton interns led most of the training sessions for the teachers.
The training covered lessons on digital fabrication software and tools. Each intern was in charge of leading the class in a different lesson in fabrication. Topics covered include 2D and 3D software and design, 3D printing, laser cutting, vinyl cutting, and electronics production and design. Additionally, the educators and teachers developed teaching aid kits from their personal learnings at the Makers Program. Further, the Wheaton interns assisted the participating teachers in the production of their final projects, where each teacher utilized the skills they learned to create in a way that was previously unknown to them and familiarize themselves with the world of digital fabrication and its possibilities. Elizabeth, one of the interns, summarized her experience as gratifying. Her main role for the SFL Makers Program was to lead for 3D printing and vinyl cutting lessons. Emma, the intern who led 2D Design sessions, showed the educators ways of using the software GIMP and Inkscape to create vector and raster images.
The participating teachers immersed themselves in the program and expressed their gratitude for the practical learnings they can further teach their respective students. Sangay Nidup, an educator at VTOB, has undertaken a light automation project, wherein he hopes to develop a microchip, motion sensors, and photoresistor to automate light control based on a room’s brightness and human presence. Yeshi Jigyel, another participating educator from VTOB, is working on a home automation project at JNWSFL using PIR sensor to detect motion and LDR to detect the intensity of surrounding light.
The diversity between educators and the interns made the program highly engaging and set the groundwork for integrating digital fabrication tools in STEM education. “Working with the educators was one of my favorite parts of the Makers Program,” expressed Whitney. Another Wheaton intern, Amanda iterated, “All of the educators that participated in the program were extremely dedicated and it was so rewarding to be a part of their learning experience.”
Once the training program has been completed, teachers are invited to identify 5 students and custom create a curriculum to expose them to digital fabrication tools. The teacher and their students are then expected to launch a project using the lab’s resources. “I believe that each country should have the resources to be able to sustain itself and the most important resource is the population. What’s a better way to spread knowledge than teaching the teachers and educators of Bhutan so they can go ahead and teach more people who can teach even more people!”, said Tuna, who was leading electronic design, electronics production, programming, and soldering for the SFL Makers Program.