IBL’s partnership with Laney initially began in 2009 when Danny Beesley was hired to help develop a series of job readiness workshops and programs, such as green job skills training, workshops on Microsoft office products, basic web, and graphic design, advanced internet research methodology, professional social media activation and project management for the carpentry department. The goal of the job readiness programs was to provide skills that directly related to specific career opportunities while the workshops addressed the necessary auxiliary skills to help participants find employment.
As Danny began to build alliances within the College, he began to explore the potential for developing a FabLab. Several faculty ambassadors joined IBL in advocating for establishing Laney College’s first FabLab. There was considerable time spent educating another faculty in the carpentry, wood technology, machine tech, and architecture departments on the benefits and potential of digital fabrication. It took continuous exposure to digital fabrication technologies and numerous tours of other facilities before faculty began to buy into the benefits of having a FabLab on campus. In the end, it took over 3 years of influencing administrators and faculty before they finally saw the value and ultimately committed funding to building a FabLab by 2015.
What We Did
From the moment that IBL began working on the Laney campus, they saw the potential and synchronicity that could be realized in the under-utilized rooms near the Career and Technical Education Center. In order to go from the vision for it to the establishment of a FabLab, IBL managed, organized, and conducted the following milestones:
- Educate faculty on Fablabs
- Identified faculty champions to back the idea
- Lobbied faculty and administration
- Engaged stakeholders at school and within the community
- Secured the funding for the initial buildout
- Facilitated faculty’s sign-off of the plan
- Implemented the FabLab
- Developed the space programming
- Designed a 3D model to reflect how the space would look
- Ordered all tools and equipment
- Physically built out the FabLab space
- Installed all equipment and tools
The Laney College FabLab has garnered a tremendous amount of interest that has translated into buzz from local media and government. Rather quickly, it has proved to be the most popular and coolest program on campus, attracting attention and curiosity from students and faculty alike.
There is currently a class that has been created to educate students on the capabilities of a FabLab with more classes soon to be available in the school catalog. The FabLab has quickly become a focal point of the campus, as there are biomanufacturing, biology, and chemistry classes, to name a few, that are interested in incorporating the FabLab into their existing course curriculum. This demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of FabLabs and how they can be used across different subjects and departments. The ultimate goal is that the FabLab be utilized as an open campus resource available for every class and student.
In the Spring of 2016, have been classes offered in the FabLab which will include small truncated introduction courses to the different equipment in the space. The purpose of these classes is to expose students to what it takes to safely operate the lab equipment with the goal of allowing students to use the FabLab for their own projects during open lab times. Laney is also looking to utilize the FabLab for teaching adult education courses (i.e., ESL and community education) as a primary vehicle for teaching math, English, critical thinking, as well as basic instruction on how to use tools and equipment. In addition to the various uses of the FabLab on Laney College, there is the opportunity for it to serve as a key conduit to high school programs, bridging the gap to hands-on learning. For example, Albany High School has partnered with Laney for students to travel to the FabLab and receive high school credits.