TCTC Multiplies Learning Opportunities with Fab Lab
"When encountering any new technology, high school students are fearless — they just jump right in,” notes Laura Henning, media specialist at Trumbull Career & Technical Center (TCTC). TCTC, located in Warren, Ohio, serves roughly 1,000 11th and 12th graders from 20 schools county-wide. In her years there, Henning has worked to develop the Media Center into a space where all kinds of learning can happen.
“When I got my library degree in 2010, the term ‘maker space’ didn’t even exist,” says Henning. With support from her administration and supervisor, Henning began incorporating equipment and supplies that students could tinker with — everything from alligator clips to full robotics kits.
The success of these efforts led TCTC to fully renovate the Media Center and create a Fab Lab. Completed in 2017, the Media Center Fab Lab boasts a wealth of resources, including a 54" Roland (Booth 4616) TrueVIS SG-540 wide-
format printer/cutter, a Roland MODELA MDX-50 benchtop CNC mill, a laser engraver, a 3D scanner, three types of 3D printers, and a zSpace lab for VR applications.
TCTC offers 32 different educational programs, ranging from welding and ROTC, to newer directions like visual design, graphic design, and web design. “We try to stay ahead of the curve by teaching students what they will need to know for life after high school,” says Henning.
Learning by doing
The Fab Lab’s capabilities are being integrated into a growing list of programs. Engineering students at TCTC have made use of the MDX-50 to bring their CAD designs to life with foam models. They enter their milled prototypes in contests both regionally, and at the state level.
Physics students use the MDX-50 to create boats out of compressed foam or chemical wood, which they enter in the Physics Olympics. “Before we had the MDX, their entries would be disqualified due to lack of precision in the boat parameters. Now, thanks to the capabilities of this advanced mill, the parameters are accurate and the students can compete,” says Henning.
Using its Roland TrueVIS SG-540 printer/cutter, the Fab Lab has begun providing printing services, including banners and signage, to the school, the district, and even to community organizations and businesses. Students assist with the graphic design and printing, while Henning oversees production and billing.
So far, TCTC has printed banners announcing accolades for the district, banners for sports teams, and banners for school events such as the students’ capstone project day. They’ve also produced decals, window clings, and wall clings for classrooms, as well as some vehicle graphics, such as those created for a donated fire truck used for public safety programs.
The students have also delved into heat transfer apparel decoration, including a run of 100 custom-printed shirts for one of the student organizations. “The versatility of the TrueVIS printer makes it a great machine for our dynamic environment,” says Henning.
Choosing opportunity at TCTC
TCTC is a school students elect to attend, and the Media Center’s Fab Lab is one of the features of the school that make it stand out. “Students are choosing TCTC in part because of the Fab Lab,” says Henning. “We provide opportunities that aren’t available at other schools in the county.
“Whenever the students or faculty propose a new idea, I try really hard to just say yes — let’s make this happen. We have the tools to let them build their ideas.”