DFLC Summary of Learning Model

Digital Fabrication Learning Community (DFLC)

In the face of current economic challenges, today’s manufacturing industries are employing next generation manufacturing strategies to survive. Fab Labs, developed at MIT and translated for two-year colleges through the Midwest Digital Fabrication Partnership (NSF #0802388), provide an ideal means for students to learn these next generation manufacturing skills. Fab Labs typically consist of a group of off-the-shelf, industrial-grade fabrication and electronics tools, wrapped in open source software and programs developed by MIT. Perhaps even more importantly, Fab Labs tap an almost universal passion to create and invent that can be used to motivate even the most non-technically oriented student into STEM disciplines.

Intellectual Merit

The overall goal of the Digital Fabrication Learning Community project is to establish a pilot learning community to expand the leverage of digital fabrication’s proven enrichment of STEM competencies and attitudes with selected learners and educators while driving advanced technician development throughout the USA.

A cross-disciplinary team of collaborators including five national ATE Centers, the United States Fab Lab Network, the MIT Global Fab Network, Stanford, MIT, and business and industry will form the core of this learning community. A cohort-based, interdisciplinary group of over twenty schools and organizations will learn from these experts as well as share problems, solutions, and resources as they implement Fab Labs and programs of their own. Project staff will integrate existing digital fabrication and next generation manufacturing resources with new offerings. They will disseminate materials and resources through the digital fabrication and advanced manufacturing networks via a portal, webinars, regional workshops, mentoring programs, and a national symposium.

In collaboration with nationally recognized educational researchers, the project will also research whether Fab Labs serve as an overwhelmingly positive “STEM Moment of Truth” that empowers students to form deep and lasting connections with STEM disciplines.     

Broader Impact

This project brings cutting-edge next generation manufacturing expertise together with visionary educational strategies to form a model that will sustain traditional technicians and attract non-technical students. This learning community will provide a uniquely effective way to help two-year colleges nationwide start their own Fab Labs and related programs. The project will help all educators understand how Fab Labs inspire a “passion to create” that motivates all students, particularly underrepresented students, to choose lifelong careers in next generation manufacturing and STEM disciplines.

Vision- A Digital Fabrication Learning Community

This project will establish a pilot Digital Fabrication Learning Community of community colleges, collaborators, and Next Generation Manufacturing enterprises to integrate the resources and power of digital fabrication technologies as well as enriching the quality and sustainability of USA STEM Learning and Next Generation Manufacturing.

Project Goal and Objectives

The overall goal of the Digital Fabrication Learning Community (DFLC) project is to establish a pilot learning community to expand the leverage of digital fabrication’s proven enrichment of STEM competencies and attitudes with selected learners and educators while driving advanced technician development throughout the USA.    

The product development and digital fabrication curriculum and technologies of the prior projects, will provide key resources and education to the Digital Fabrication Learning Community and NGM manufacturers and technicians.

The project has the following objectives:

  • Establish the infrastructure and offerings for a pilot Digital Fabrication Learning Community that integrates Next Generation Manufacturing technician development.
  • Develop a technology blueprint and test portal for a Digital Fabrication Learning Community to share digital fabrication curriculum and resources.
  • Define a Digital Fabrication STEM Learning Model and evaluate ongoing impacts of digital fabrication experiences on STEM learners in the pilot Digital Fabrication Learning Community.
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