Fab Lab innovation showcase

Prior Lake High School Fab Lab students review the pitch for their project, a communication board meant to help young students work on non-verbal and verbal communication skills in the classroom, during a recent Innovation Showcase.

Students in Prior Lake High School Fab Lab are using their design, marketing and advertising skills to think up new ways to give early learning and special education students a hands-on experience in the classroom.

During a recent innovation showcase, the high-schoolers pitched three types of learning aides they created in the school’s small-scale fabrication and 3D-printing laboratory.

Groups of students presented to district staff, special education teachers, classmates and parents, describing their takes on three tactile products that teachers could use as either a communication, shape or counting aide.

Designs for tactile tracers were meant to help students work direction and pre-writing skills, for example. And communication boards allowed young students to practice non-verbal and verbal communication in classroom or playground settings.

Though the project is meant to help early learning, students said the work got them thinking about future possibilities in engineering and design fields.

Seniors Dylan Jens and Kalel Kincaid and sophomores Jacob Krokowski and Warrick Parker designed a complicated infinity line tracer, a tool used to work hand-eye coordination and develop letter writing movements, with a series of 3D-printed interlocking gears.

“It’s also really interesting, it looks really cool and catches your eye. It could get little kids interested in engineering,” sophomore Krokowski said.

“I’m 18, and I still enjoy this,” senior Jens added.

Taught by Jennifer Reinhardt, Dan Sikowski, John Maresh and Andrew Kurkowski, Fab Lab started up in 2014. Reinhardt and Maresh began the program and designed a curriculum with technology like laser engravers, 3-D scanners, vinyl cutters and heat-transfer equipment.

The final learning aide project brings together those skills as well as real world considerations like production timelines and cost. Students estimated their products would sell between $10 and $40 in the real world.

Prototypes from previous classes have been used by district students in special education programs.

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