Richland students enjoy exciting STEAM opportunity

The Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s Fab Lab is at Richland this week, allowing students to explore things like building, creating, designing and coding that are directly tied to their curriculum.
Posted on 10/21/2021
Richland students work on computers to design home used by colonists centuries ago.

By Gary Weckselblatt

Richland Elementary School fifth-grade students are getting a rare opportunity this week to work with cutting-edge technology equipment provided by the Bucks County Intermediate Unit’s Fab Lab. The program is designed to inspire and encourage students to pursue careers in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) fields.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for hands-on experience with any of the STEAM categories,” said Richland Principal Nicole Zuerblis. “It sparks an interest, and the kids are loving it. Having it on site has been amazing.”

The lab is a transit van that transports several carts full of equipment such as 3D printers, a laser engraver, CNC router, vinyl cutter, and a variety of robotics equipment. It also has laptop computers with specialized software programs to control and interact with the equipment.

Richland’s Fab Lab work this week (Oct. 18-22) is linked to its social studies curriculum, employing the latest technology in digital fabrication and computer science. Students are studying the colonies, including the homes the colonists from different regions lived in. Using computers, students have been building homes from the colonies using a 3D printer to create the final product.

“This takes them to the next level, which is phenomenal,” said social studies teacher Stephanie Traumuller. “It’s fabulous that the IU makes this available. Kids love engaging with new technology. I’ll be doing something and they’ll tell me, ‘No, it goes like this.’ They show me! They pick it up so fast. Without the IU we wouldn’t be able to do it.”

Robyn Gross, the BCIU’s educational marketing leader, said the equipment is very expensive. Through PAsmart Grants, BCIU received $150,000 for the Fab Lab, to expand teacher professional development, and expand the reach of the Fab Lab to county public libraries and school districts with the greatest populations of homeless students and low-income families.

Mrs. Gross said there’s great demand for the unit. “This equipment engages the kids, gets them excited to learn. It helps them pick an academic focus or helps them decide it’s something I’m not interested in at an early age. Learning can get stale. This is something new, exciting, and sparks an interest. Plus, it’s cooperative learning, which is so important. They collaborate with other kids and teachers in the classroom.”

Richland’s fifth-grade classes have been enjoying the Fab Lab for 75 minutes a day during their social studies period. This week, grades 2, 3 and 4 are also receiving exposure to the technology. The Fab Lab has visits planned to Neidig and Pfaff later this year. 

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].

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