Students from New Albany and other districts are learning how products are made through the New Albany-Plain Local Fab Lab, an MIT fabrication laboratory that opened at the high school this fall.

Students from New Albany and other districts are learning how products are made through the New Albany-Plain Local Fab Lab, an MIT fabrication laboratory that opened at the high school this fall.

The lab includes a 3-D printer, laser engraver, welding equipment, humanoid robots and a wood router and milling system.

Students and teachers are integrating the machines into classroom projects and the district has a series of after-school courses being offered in the lab in conjunction with its IMPACT community program.

"We're slowly introducing it to different age groups," said district spokesman Patrick Gallaway.

Recently, first-graders in Sarah Cachet's class used the wood router to build bat boxes after observing fewer signs of bats living in the district's nature preserve.

Gallaway said the students learned about bat habitats and built potential homes for the mammals.

He said New Albany Middle School teachers also have students finding quotes they like and use Fab Lab equipment to stencil the words on wood frames.

All of the machinery requires students to design a project and use computer programming to tell the machines what they want to make.

During the second day of an IMPACT class in the Fab Lab on Nov. 20, middle school and high school students were carrying plastic key chains they had made using the laser engraver the first day of the course.

"I like technology and I thought this would be a good thing for me to do," said seventh-grader Grant Kresina, 12.

Meghana Totapally, 12, an eighth-grader, said some of her friends told her about the course.

"My friends who were in Science Olympiad said they came here (to the lab) for a visit and told me about it," she said.

Though it may not be what she wants to do later in life, Meghana said, she was interested enough to sign up.

Eighth-grader Manasa Akella, 13, said she signed up for the course because she's interested in programming and electronics.

"I definitely wanted to be able to gain this knowledge," Manasa said. "In the future, this is going to be our world, so we have to know how to work them (these machines)."

Michael Van Sickle, 17, a high school senior from Groveport, said though it's not part of his career path, he was interested in learning to use the equipment.

Van Sickle is taking courses at New Albany High School through the Eastland-Fairfield Career Career and Technical Schools' environmental-science program.

He said he is not savvy about technology, but the software the machines use is easy to learn.

Tavis Spears, a high school teacher leading the IMPACT class, said the hardest part for students is thinking about the third dimension when creating objects using the 3-D printer.

"A lot of kids that are in here are really excited and the ideas they are coming up with are great," Spears said.

Spears said district officials are just beginning to learn what the Fab Lab can do for students.

As an example, he cited a request to replace a small gear in an office shredder.

Spears said by making the part in the lab, the district saved $120, the cost to repair the machine.

The MIT Fab lab was funded by a $1.13 million grant from the Ohio Department of Education's Straight A Fund.

An overall $14.4 million grant was awarded to 16 Franklin County school districts participating in the Innovation Generation initiative, part of the national Pathways to Prosperity Network that seeks to establish career pathways in advanced manufacturing/robotics, business logistics, health care and information technology.

Gallaway said the district's portion of the grant paid for the machinery and all materials the students are using in the Fab Lab.

Reynoldsburg is the lead district accepting and distributing funds. The other districts are Canal Winchester, Columbus, Gahanna-Jefferson, Grandview Heights, Hilliard, Licking Heights, Marysville, Olentangy, Pickerington, Reynoldsburg, South-Western, Upper Arlington, Westerville and Whitehall.

Gallaway said because the Fab Lab at New Albany is in a stationary location, the district eventually would offer more lab courses for students from other districts, including courses offering work certifications and college credit.

He said more programs could be in place as soon as next fall.