On a recent Friday afternoon, Mineola Middle School hosted Anton Media Group for a visit to the school’s Fab Lab, or fabrication laboratory, as well as a tour of the facility and recent projects by some of the program’s biggest fans.
After an introductory chat with Principal Amy Trojanowski, nine middle-schoolers demonstrated their latest projects for this reporter, and also helped show off the state-of-the-art machines and techniques they use to bring their creative visions into reality (with the help and guidance of beloved Fab Lab teacher Adrianna Guidetti).
As Trojanowski explained, Mineola Middle School and High School students both have access to twin Fab Labs at their schools, offered as part of students’ Exploratory elective at the middle-school level.
“It really is in keeping with the whole Mineola philosophy of design thinking,” Trojanowski said. “It really gives kids the opportunity to practice different skills in real time.”
Students who helped demonstrate what the Fab Lab is all about included fifth- and sixth-graders Mason Bower, Caio de Sousa, Michael Gavin, Ellie Carbone, Yannis Tam, Joao de Sousa, Tyler Alohou, Maddux Ramalhete, and Daniella Porcelli.
Downstairs in the robotics side of the Fab Lab, the group went around in a circle and explained what projects they’ve been working on.
Caio de Sousa showed off two 3D-printed figures: a Lego-style (big) mini-figure, and a model of the animate truck Mater from the film Cars. To design the figures, he explained, he used the program Tinkercad, which took him about two days. The printing, which happened across the hall, took about a day. They next thing he wants to make is a larger version of his Lego figure, specifically designed for robotics use.
Michael Gavin displayed several versions of a 3D-printed garage door opener-holder that he created for his mom. “I made this design because my mom usually can’t find the opener in her pocketbook, so she starts looking for it 20 minutes before she gets to the house.” First he designed the case, and then added a ring feature so the holder could attach to his mom’s keys or somewhere handy in the car. In addition to making improved versions of the item, Gavin also made a website to advertise his final product.
Ellie Carbone explained that one of her favorite projects this year was designing a robot to help her family. Her younger brother, she explained, is a picky eater, so the robot was designed to both clean up and cook food. She started with a cardboard model, which was stable, and then assembled a model made out of wood and glue, which even has its own wheels.
Working as a team, Tyler Alohou and Joao de Sousa were excited to show off their robot, Jeffrey, and its fancy moves. “We decided to make a slide and a robot, and before doing that, we decided to make a 3D design before printing,” Joao de Sousa said.
“We named it Jeffrey,” Alohou said. “We thought it would be funny,” de Sousa said.
The pair went through two versions or models of their robot, and worked to program it to be able to clean the floor. Using a coding program, they also instructed Jeffrey to be able to navigate a maze and other kinds of tracks.
Mason Bower also came prepared to impress with his 3D-printed model of R2-D2 from the Star Wars franchise. He explained that he didn’t borrow from pre-existing designs of the famous robot, but rather designed his figure from scratch, trying to include as much detail as possible.
Yannis Tam, Maddux Ramalhete, and Daniella Porcelli rounded out the demonstration by discussing the computer numerical control (CNC) projects they worked on, while utilizing a machine that can drill or otherwise imprint designs onto wood and other surfaces. They used the program Canva to create their designs for personalized wood blocks, featuring their names, plants, or other decorations.
Tam explained, “Once the wood is cut, we use something called resin, with a few pigments, to make the color, and just pour it on.”
Ramalhete said that he made one for his friend’s birthday, including some of his friend’s favorite logos and colors.
Porcelli made hers in honor of a show she “really liked at the time,” Stranger Things. “Once the machine is done cutting, you can add as many colors as you like. I decided, after adding the color, to sand it down, and this is how it came out.”
Overall, the group had lots of good things to say about Fab Lab, as well as their teacher, Ms. Guidetti.
“My experience with Fab Lab has been that it’s pretty fun, with lots of different challenges to do,” Tam said.
Bower said, “It’s really nice how you get a project to do and have the freedom to do whatever you want with it, really. I like it because it’s really fun and creative. My next project is a CNC board, and it’s actually being cut right now; you can hear it [across the hall].”
Ramalhete said one aspect of the Fab Lab that he appreciates is that Ms. Guidetti frequently has students work together on group projects, or encourages them to collaborate while working on solo projects, too.
Ramalhete recalled doing a group project where students were asked to build a boat out of cardboard and gradually add small weights to see how much of a load it could handle without sinking. “We combined all of our ideas to make one idea, and it worked out. Our boat held more than anybody else’s.”
Carbone said, “I really like how Ms. Guidetti helps you work on anything you want, and get different experiences inside one project.”
Joao de Sousa added, “I think working in a group is the way to be.”