Background and History
A Fab Lab is the educational outreach component of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), an extension of its research into digital fabrication and computation. Fab lab is often used generically to refer to a makerspace, but we use it to mean a Fab Lab descended from this program.
In 2011 Mike Connor, then an engineer working for Cummins and living in Stoughton, WI toured a Fab Lab located at a high school in Mahtomedi, Minnesota. Mike Connor returned home and inquired about what it would take to create a similar experience at a public high school in Stoughton. The Cummins Foundation supported the concept. The school district initially had several concerns – space, training and sustainability. Once these concerns were addressed the district got behind the idea.
He and staff members of the district endeavored to raise funds to create our Fab Lab. In July of 2012, Stoughton Area School District and Cummins announced a $100,000 matching grant to start a Fab lab at Stoughton High School. In October of that year, SASD announced $97,000 of combined matching funding from the Bryant Foundation, the Wahlin Foundation, Stoughton Trailers, Nelson Global, Universal Silencer Foundation, and the Stoughton Area Community Foundation had been confirmed. Fab Lab Stoughton was built and assembled during the 2012-2013 school year.
Brad Seehafer (Tech Ed), Fran Kelley (Physics) and Chris Wiemer (Calculus) were trained in the Spring of 2013 by Professor Neil Gershenfeld (http://ng.cba.mit.edu/neil/bio/), the Director of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms through the Fab Academy (https://fabacademy.org/). We opened to students in the fall of 2013, offering an introductory course.
In January of 2014, we added a second class, at the time called Fab Lab 2. And in the Summer of 2014 we began offering Summer enrichment Fab Lab classes.
In 2015, we doubled our space in the lab and we trained Cindy Carter (Chemistry) and Ruth Phillips (Art) in house during the Summer and as a group (along with the District Administrator Dr. Tim Onsager, and Fab Lab Head Volunteer Mike Connor) we attended the International Fab Lab Conference Fab11 in Boston, MA (https://fab11.fablabbcn.org/)
In September of 2015 we began our evening Adult/Child workshops for the community.
In 2016, we trained Dan Schmidt (Band) in-house during the Summer and began our guitar making summer class which was first sponsored by grant from Alliant Energy Foundation and led by Dan. Originally called “Girls Make Electric Guitars’, it has expanded to include all students and grown significantly of the last couple years. We also began Saturday morning community workshops for adults.
In 2017 we opened a “mini” Fab Lab at River Bluff Middle School and worked to integrate the existing middle level engineering curriculum into our existing High School curriculum.
In 2019 we began reaching out to other disciplines of study. With a grant from the Cummins Foundation we installed a Ceramic 3D Printer (PotterBot) in Art, and a Plasma Cutter in the Metals/Welding Shop. Also, in 2019 Trek Bicycle Corporation joined us as a Sponsor and donated a large capacity 3D Printer.