Our VWeLab opened in August of 2017, and has been continuously used to empower student to find challenges around them they want to work to solve while they apply a design thinking mindset to use empathy and feedback to drive iteration and testing. Rather than focus on individual tools in the lab, we try as often as possible to synthesize the use of multiple tools to create actionable solutions. We are process and progress oriented, and have successfully created a culture where idea doubt has been separated from self-doubt, and all learners in the lab, students and teachers, reframe challenges to be opportunities to learn and reiterate.
We have two student-run businesses running our of our lab: Lightning Orthotics, a student-run business 3D printing help, and Sweet Victory: Ice Cream for Social Change. Lightning Orthotics has run for two years, using our 3D software and printers to have students take action in their ongoing iteration process to build tools to help the everyday lives of people needing additional assistance with their hands. They have successfully made it to market after continuous testing and reiteration with patients. Sweet Victory has students using design thinking and their capacity for creative thinking to ideate and iterate ice cream flavors. With each scoop the customers get to vote on three different local organizations to help decide where the proceeds will be used. Each month one organization is chosen, and the proceeds are used to help students use the eLab tools to help create solutions for the organization. For instance, our Sweet Victory students designed and vinyl cut Summer take home bags for The Passage 423, a local organization run by teachers.
The lab is also used to connect with content area classrooms, and allows students to drive mastery by making. Students have used the lab to test their physics knowledge rapidly iterating balloon-powered race cars, or creating scaled models of tiny-homes in their math classes. Language Arts classes have used the tools to demonstrate abstract themes in their novels, and help audiences visualize their informational and argumentative ideas by creating 3D representations of objects or ideas.
This is the general thread for discussing the lab; the thread is also visible on its page at https://www.fablabs.io/labs/npmmvwelab