Within minutes, industrial-sized laser engravers spit out key chains. Vinyl printers produce full-color signs.
A techno CNC router carves plywood pieces to create a rocking chair. And all the pieces fit together perfectly, without screws or nails.
The router slices into just about any metal, too.
From mousetraps on wheels to designer salt shakers, there’s no limit to the creativity that flows through the fab lab at EHOVE Career Center.
The school recently opened the high-tech lab, one of only about 150 of its kind in the world.
It’s modeled after the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s outreach project to empower people by teaching them to produce just about anything in a few simple steps.
Fab labs have been used for everything from small businesses to developing large-scale projects such as turbines and solar panels.
“If you think of a media, you can use it,” EHOVE director of operations David Jenkins said. “It’s amazing.”
EHOVE looked to fab labs at Lorain County Community College and the Medina County Career Center before it created its own for about $250,000.
Some community colleges have started them in recent years, but it’s rare to see them at high schools or career centers, Jenkins said.
Although fabrication is the focus, its uses are hardly limited to shop class.
Students studying early childhood education, for instance, can cut puzzle pieces, quickly assemble a craft or create signs for their classrooms.
Culinary students might use it to design menus for a restaurant project or etch logos onto leather checkbooks.
“We see it as taking all our projects that are great for students anyway and kicking it way up top,” Jenkins said. “It’s, ‘How can we design? How can we refine? And how can we develop a prototype?’ It’s applied (science, mathematics, engineering and technology) — STEM on steroids.”
NASA Plum Brook’s educational coordinator recently used the fab lab to build demonstrations at a STEM summit for students. Leaders from Sierra Lobo and Kalahari have also stopped by to brainstorm the possibilities.
The career center hopes to make its lab an asset to the whole community.
Registration for a youth enrichment class on fabrication, which starts in February, filled up on the first day.
Adult classes on fabrication have also been popular so far.
And beyond that, it’s a resource for local business owners or hobbyists, who pay only the cost of their materials.
Students in EHOVE’s computer-assisted design class recently created moveable mousetraps, starting from scratch.
They had to tweak their designs several times to make sure the traps actually worked.
“You learn a lot, not just with the project but about physics so you can put stuff together that will actually work and move,” said Brandon Deshuk, 18, an EHOVE senior from Norwalk who is studying welding in hopes of becoming a custom car designer.
“We’re really, really lucky to have this opportunity.”
Junior Tony Wampler, 17, was in the lab during class time and after school to engrave an Ohio State plaque for his brother for Christmas.
“I think it’s like a higher level of thinking,” he said. “It gets you thinking outside the box a little bit.”