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The Nation’s First 4-H ‘Fab Lab’ Holds Grand Opening Event

The 'Fab Lab' concept, originally conceived at MIT, is geared toward helping students expand their 'STEAM' knowledge-Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math.

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Irvine, California-based Roland DGA, a manufacturer of wide-format printers, cutters and engraving devices, announces the grand opening of the nation’s first “4-H Fab Lab,” located at Blue Ridge High School in Lakeside, Arizona.

The Blue Ridge/University of Arizona 4-H Fab Labthe first public school Fab Lab established in Arizona and the first 4-H Foundation Fab Lab in the U.S.-held a grand opening ceremony in mid-January. The cutting-edge facility, located at the high school, is funded by the University of Arizona and is designed to train the next generation of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math) professionals through the use of real-world digital fabrication hardware and software.

Roland DGA made the announcement because, for its printing, cutting and milling needs, Blue Ridge chose Roland equipment and along with that Roland’s Project Based Learning (PBL) modules, which make it easy for students to learn through hands-on, step-by-step projects.

The Blue Ridge 4-H facility will serve as Arizona’s main 4-H Fab Lab, with smaller “mini-labs” planned in other locations throughout the state. Each Fab Lab will utilize the existing 4-H youth development network and programs. Within Arizona alone, 4-H programs record more than 185,000 student contacts per year.

“There are 15 Arizona county cooperative extension offices and hundreds of individual (4-H) clubs throughout the state-each of which can equip their own mini-labs as part of the network and use our flagship lab for added capabilities,” says Kevin Woolridge, director of the Blue Ridge/UA 4-H Fab Lab. “Our goal is to have a mini-lab in every Arizona cooperative extension office within the next two years, and in every 4-H community over the next five years. Additionally, we’ll be sharing our program with 110 land grant universities throughout the country. Having the support from the University of Arizona and technology manufacturers like Roland DGA makes our success possible.”

The Blue Ridge 4-H Fab Lab will provide students with free access to an array of innovative digital fabrication machines, such as Roland’s MDX-40A milling machine, LEF-12 flatbed UV printer, SP-300i wide-format printer/cutter, and GS-24 desktop vinyl cutter. Included with each device are PBL modules to make learning quick and easy, even for novices.

The lab is an “open source, open door” K-12 facility where, aside from the Roland equipment, students and community members will have access to digital design tools, electrical platforms, hardware/software, coding and training opportunities to make their projects a reality.

The Fab Lab concept was started by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Fab Foundation as a place and program where students, parents and community members interact, learn and create in an atmosphere of 21st century learning, skills and tools.

“We’re excited about playing an integral role in the opening of the country’s very first 4-H Fab Lab,” says Roland DGA president Andrew Oransky. “While the machines we have provided incorporate cutting-edge technology, they are also incredibly simple to operate. Within no time at all, students of all levels can be using our devices to learn and apply STEAM education in fun, practical ways.”

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Tony Kindelspire

Tony Kindelspire is the former digital content editor of Sign & Digital Graphics & WRAPS magazines.

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