This May, the Northampton Community College (NCC) FabLab at the Fowler Family Southside Center brought in 25 high school students from the Centennial School, affiliated with Lehigh University, to learn new hands-on skills. The students, who range in age from 16-21 years old, have special education needs. The goal of the collaboration was meant to provide a holistic approach to learning.  

After touring the Fowler Center in March, Dr. Julie Fogt, director of the Centennial School, realized the unique opportunity for these students to participate in project-based, hands-on learning. The courses provided a different skillset that the students wouldn’t be exposed to sitting in a classroom.  

Students at various stations in the FabLab

“Through the interactive, hands-on classes at the Fab Lab, it is awesome to witness our students tap into their creativity and take ownership of their learning. They display a tremendous sense of pride upon completion of their course projects,” says Fogt. 

FabLab instructors, Sean Brandle, Amy Rotzell, Bil Mitchell and Mike Lobus, taught four groups of students from May 3-25. The students cycled through basic electronics, plastics, laser technology, and wood working courses. They learned how to make personalized wooden cheese boards, Hollywood-style zombie make-up, and solar-powered cell phone chargers.  

Students told Fogt that the FabLab instructors, the learning environment and the projects were fun and interesting, and they looked forward to their days in the Lab. 

Student working one on one with instructor

Each course was led by two instructors from the FabLab and two from the Centennial School to ensure students had individualized attention they needed to learn at their own pace. In order to minimize contact with others because of COVID-19 precautions, the classes were held Monday and Tuesday mornings when less people were using the FabLab. 

“At least one student in each class left saying they were going to come back and take more classes,” said Audree Chase, associate dean of community education at NCC. 

If you’re interested in taking classes at the FabLab, find more information here.