Apple Valley High School students find passion for STEM in new 'Fab Lab'

One of the big challenges for schools these days is getting more kids interested in science, technology, engineering and math. With the introduction of their new “Fab Lab,” Apple Valley High School may have figured it out.

With the help of companies such as Uponor and UTC Aerospace Systems, the high school built a fabrication lab, an idea that originated at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology when professors created an open-sourced lab hoping to build interest in technology.

Apple Valley High School is one of only a few schools in the country with a lab like this. The lab is already paying off for the dozens of students that have the opportunity to use it.

Emily Deboard uses the Fab Lab to learn how to make custom parts for her robotics team, which she then prints on the lab’s 3-D printer.

“We just took this model and sent it to the 3D printer and in printed it exactly,” Deboard said.

Samson Ghirmair, a senior at Apple Valley High School, has already used what he has learned in the Fab Lab in his internship testing products at Uponor.

"I’d use different samples and I’d test them to see if they would break at certain pressures with different forces.  I helped my mentor design a test for a project they're working on,” Ghirmair said.

There’s a hot job market for STEM skills. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that jobs in STEM fields will grow by 13 percent in the next seven years.  And these are good paying jobs too.  Out of 100 STEM occupations measured by the government the average income is $83,000 a year.

"We've had students that are at the top of their class.  We've had students that are barely hanging in there in school and this is that really lit them up and they're getting to the point where they are really fired up and their started to develop a vision of where they can be in a career pathway that they never really envisioned before," Jim Lynch, the school’s STEM coordinator said.

Part of the goal is to open up the Fab Lab to the entire public.  The school district wants to work with community education to offer classes here so the public can come in to design, test and build their own product.