FabLearn – Engaging Gen WiFi in Stem

Lauriston Girls High School hosted the first Australian Fablearn conference on Friday 3rd July 2015. The conference was similar to event hosted by Stanford Graduate School of Education and showcased a range of engaging keynote speakers and practical workshops by educators pioneering the STEM movement in Australia. 

The Principal of Lauriston Girls High School – Susan Just has been influential in setting up Australia’s first Fablab and provided a good insight into the key attributes in creating a Fablab, they include:

  • Make mistakes, but learn from them
  • Be persistent
  • Take risks
  • The ‘A’ in STEAM stands for ‘Any Subject’ – promote integration of disciplines
Lauriston Girls’ School’s FabLab@School officially opened in April 2014. In a collaborative partnership with Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, Lauriston is the first school in Australia to launch its own Fabrication Laboratory (FabLab) and one of only six in the world.

The keynote presentation was given by Chief Scientist for Australia – Professor Ian Chubb on The Future of Stem. Professor Chub outlined that science is a tool to change the world for the better, however it is not about learning the periodic table but about thinking scientifically and applying scientific knowledge. Furthermore, Professor Chubb also discussed the declining student numbers in Advanced Mathematics and high level Sciences such as Physics and Chemistry across Australia. He posed the question that maybe STEM is a great opportunity to change this trend?

The continuing decline in science and mathematics students in Australian High Schools

Dr Genevieve Bell who is an Australian-born anthropologist and researcher followed Professor Chubb with a presentation on The intersection of culture and technology in. Dr Bell is employed by Intel Labs and leads a research team of social scientists focusing on the audience and impact of new technology. Dr Bell gave a great insight into the impact of new technology on a social and cultural level. She also discussed the need for humans to be disconnected from the technology that is always connected and reflected on the scope of our digital footprint over the next 20 years.

New technology presents not just technical problems but also social and cultural problems – Genevieve Bell

Session 1 – 3D Fabricated Watch

My first session in the conference examined how a 3D printer coupled with the software inventor could be used to design and manufacture a watch. This gave a great insight into how small projects in design can produce big results. Too often we undertake large scale projects that are not feasible and often we fail to recognise the impact of small quality projects in the learning continuum.


The key takeaway’s of this session included:

  • providing students with an authentic design problem
  • allow students to use industry tools to construct the product
  • allow students to create beautiful work

Session 2 – Aerodynamics Workshop

This session was presented by myself and Jarryd Cook. Our aim was to expose the participants to the different ways fabrication tools such as the laser cutter could be used in an aerodynamics project.

We presented them with the problem:

Which force has the greatest effect on flying objects?

Constructing a need to know list

In groups, participants connected existing knowledge via a Carousel Brainstorm Protocol. This exposed them to the four forces in aerodynamics and other knowledge such as Bernoulli’s principle and Newtown’s Laws. The next task required participants to construct a paper plane and test how the different forces effect its ability to fly over distances.

Paper Plane being tested

The final task required the groups to construct and test a rubber band aeroplane that was designed and cut from the laser cutter. Each group discussed their findings at the end of the session.

Constructing their rubber band aeroplane

The final part of the conference was a tour of Swinbourne Universities purpose built ‘Factory of the Future’. The aim of the learning space is to connect design students with contemporary fabrication tools and businesses in order to design and manufacture innovative products for the future. The technology on show gave me a very good insight into the types of projects that students will be creating in STEM in the future.

3D printed  prosthetic limb

Overall, the first fablearn Australian was a great success. Congratulations to the staff at Lauriston Girls High School for their work in pioneering this great work I can’t wait for the 2016 showcase.

Some examples of student work from Lauriston can be seen below:

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