John Marshall High School Students Prepare For Jobs of Tomorrow

John Marshall High School students Caleb Cunningham, left, and Jordan Adams look over digital video 3-D programs on their compters in the school’s new fabrication lab. Photo by Scott McCloskey

GLEN DALE — A fabrication lab that is designed to expand students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and math and is the only one of its kind in West Virginia was unveiled Wednesday at John Marshall High School.

The lab will better prepare John Marshall students for careers in technical education and engineering fields well after after high school, sad lab director Tom Romick.

The lab, which is the first and only MIT-certified digital fabrication maker space in West Virginia, encourages students to be creative and problem solve while realizing there are several ways to complete a task.

The high tech lab is designed to expand students’ skills in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program and provide teachers the tools to engage students.

In addition to having the proper facility and high-tech equipment the school had to go through an application process in order for the lab to be “MIT certified.” Romick said it was essential that the program be “wrapped around” the STEM program as part of that process.

“This lab was built to give students an experience in digital design and fabrication that they might not likely encounter through the course of their average day,” said Romick. “It gives students a chance to get hands-on with industry design elements, to create whatever needs creating. It is a multi-media class. So we don’t work with any one particular structure or piece of machinery.”

He said students have been extremely excited about having the opportunity to work in such a creative environment.

“They show up energetic and motivated to work on projects of their own creation,” said Romick. “In fact, from the first semester to second semester, enrollment in the program has doubled.”

He said the program went from 15 students to about 32 students in the class with the numbers “trending upwards.”

While students began using the lab at the beginning of the school year, the “grand opening” was held this week as a way to provide students the opportunity to complete several lab lessons throughout the year and showcase some of their projects to the community.

The lab is equipped with such options as an embroidery and sewing station and 3-D printers. It also has what is considered the crown jewel piece of machinery in the classroom — the ShopBot — which is a computerized wood milling machine.

John Marshall Principal Cassandra Porter said being able to put a fabrication lab in place this year has been a very exciting venture for the school. The lab was fully funded. Funding came from a nearly $300,000 innovations grant through the West Virginia Department of Education and several smaller private grants, Porter said.

“This is amazing for our school to have this (lab),” she said.

Porter said the lab is proving to be a huge asset to the school and community, as the students are able to make and design a variety of things. She said the class is in the process of making wooden plaques to represent every Marshall County School. Each of the 13 plaques will be displayed on the walls at the school’s administration offices.

In addition to fabricating some of the stage set pieces for the school plays and musicals, the students have designed and created a variety items such as digital speakers and engraved glass vases for Mother’s Day.

“So our ‘Fab Lab,’ as it’s known as, has its hands all over the school in different kinds of projects,” said Porter.

She said the school also provides a “community day” with the lab once a month that gives residents the opportunity to learn some lab skills.

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