Fab Lab Masterton is helping shine a light on 3D printing for Wairarapa students, and teachers "crying out" for lessons in the burgeoning technology.
Director and co-founder Kirsten Browne said onsite instruction at the Fab Lab Masterton in Chapel St and online video teleconferencing were elements in an Australasian trailblazing scheme that started this term for 160 students and eight teachers from five Masterton schools.
Students and teachers from Chanel, Makoura and Wairarapa colleges and Hadlow and Douglas Park schools in Masterton and St Teresa's School in Featherston were dipping their toes in 3D waters as part of the pilot programme, she said.
Year 5 and 6 students from Remutaka Class at St Teresa's School were unique among the six groups, she said, as they were visiting Masterton Fab Lab fortnightly while also completing teleconferenced lessons every other week "to see what happens with Fab Lab at a distance".
She said Fab Lab Masterton, which connected to the ultra-fast optical fibre network a fortnight ago, were creating tailormade lessons for the students that the teachers were able to match to their own assessment criteria, while the same teachers were boosting their own skillsets in 3D printing, laser cutting, and associated technologies.
"The teachers are crying out for more professional development just on their own. But the model here is that the teachers can learn along with the students and then become independent," she said. "So the next time they teach their class they don't need the tutors and technicians at Fab Lab, they can do it on their own."
She said several firms had joined with the non-profit Fab Lab Masterton, which is part of an over-arching Fab Lab Antipodes group. Masterton-based bus company Tranzit was sponsoring transport for all classes to and from the Fab Lab Masterton this term, and offering on-going discounts, and firms like The Sign Factory and the Masterton Foot Clinic were either sharing tech know-how or manufacture using Masterton Fab Lab gear.
"But we're not a business that's making things for people as such. We're educating and training."
Fab Lab Masterton was the first of its kind in Australasia to run a suite of classes for primary and secondary students, she said, and was using free browser-based apps like Tinkercad for 3D printing and the open source graphics editor Inkscape for 2D and the laser cutter.
Wairarapa College had a Year 10 class at the lab and the school was developing an NCEA Level 3 engineering course "because with us, they can now move beyond computer-aided design and into computer-aided manufacture".
"What we're excited about are those classes progressing from the pilot and what they'll be working on next term."