The Reynoldsburg Board of Education voted unanimously last week to approve construction of a fabrication laboratory, or a "fab lab," at the Environmental Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (eSTEM) Academy at Summit Road.

The Reynoldsburg Board of Education voted unanimously last week to approve construction of a fabrication laboratory, or a "fab lab," at the Environmental Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (eSTEM) Academy at Summit Road.

The fab lab would be the first in a central Ohio school, eSTEM Academy Principal Marcy Raymond told the board at its meeting on April 17.

A fab lab is a small-scale laboratory that allows for digital fabrication and contains equipment such as a cutter and a 3-D printer, she explained.

"You can build anything that you want with the materials and machines that would be placed in the fab lab," Raymond said. "There are seven big pieces of equipment, and there are smaller pieces of equipment."

Fab labs grew out of a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) class called "How to Make (Almost) Anything." MIT would provide free coursework and teacher training for the fab lab, Raymond said.

Battelle Memorial Institute is interested in partnering with Reynoldsburg City Schools to make the fab lab a demonstration site for other STEM schools in Ohio and nationwide, Raymond said.

The eSTEM Academy has helped local companies with projects such as designing a carrying case for vaccines, Raymond said, but had to send the plans to a fab lab to be built. A fab lab would be used by the eSTEM Academy, other Reynoldsburg schools and small businesses in the community, she said.

Building the fab lab would cost $120,000 and would involve renovating the eSTEM media center, Raymond said. She said Battelle would provide $65,000 for the project.

"Battelle has tentatively agreed to come in with more of the changes to the structures," Raymond said. "They are coming in with a matching amount and then they are interested in getting other industry partners to support it as well over time, so they want to do a challenge grant with other industries in this area to be able to make it sustainable over time."

District spokeswoman Tricia Moore after the meeting Battelle's commitment "is tentative on securing additional matching funds."
If the fab lab is constructed, the district would spend $78,000 to buy the equipment using permanent improvement funds. The district would charge businesses that use the fab lab a maintenance fee and for raw materials such as plastic resin. Raymond said a STEM school in Cleveland paid for its fab lab in this way after three years.