Fab Lab Masterton starts pilot scheme

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Kirsten Browne and John Hart of Masterton's Fab Lab. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK
Kirsten Browne and John Hart of Masterton's Fab Lab. PHOTO/ANDREW BONALLACK

The biggest Fab Lab in Australasia will open in Masterton this year, starting with a pilot student programme which will be launched in term two.

Fab Lab Masterton, which will be the first lab in Australasia to run full classes for school children, is now one-third funded thanks to the Borman Family Trust and Masterton Trust House.

The lab is being set up in the Wairarapa Times-Age building on Chapel St and offers open access digital fabrication technology for public use.

Its directors Kirsten Browne and John Hart are busy designing programmes with Wairarapa school teachers to offer students an enriched learning experience in the lab.

"We've got about a third of the funding that we want for the first year of operation, which is great," Mr Hart said.

"It gives us the confidence to launch into it with schools, and we're obviously still applying for funding around the place.

"The idea that a whole class can come in and satisfy the technology curriculum by being here is kind of the whole point for us. It's great to come in for fun, but it's even better for us to be delivering this really useful service."

Mr Hart said it was "amazing" witnessing kids use the Maker Crate at the Masterton Library over the school holidays.

The Maker Crate is on loan from Christchurch with the support from Connecting Communities Wairarapa and Fab Lab Masterton Trust.

"You see kids in the Maker Crate that might be considered 'not academic' because they haven't thrived in that school environment," Mr Hart said. "As soon as they get hands-on and they learn through creating, they're off and away.

"This technology is unlocking a whole new horizon for them. We've had some amazing feedback from the holiday programme of kids that were thought to be kind of unreachable that came back excited about something for the first time."

The Fab Lab is making its own furniture on site with plywood donated by JNL and already has technology like 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC routers, and vinyl cutters.

Ms Browne said these new digital tools aren't separate from what children learn in school, but rather "gives kids a way to apply classroom knowledge practically".

"Kids are used to that quick pay-off and this digital prototyping really allows for the instant gratification to happen in a timeframe that today's kids are much more used to," she said.

Bookings for all school classes will be available from term three this year. A public opening date is still to be confirmed.

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