STEM-ulating minds: Facilitating a user-lead active learning environment with the FabLab ConFab
Peery, Katie Musick
Williamson, Peace Ossom
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The presenters will describe the project consultation created for the new learning environment arising in many libraries: the makerspace or fab lab. The UT Arlington FabLab is a space developed in October 2014 that provides open access to state of the art equipment and software in order to provide users with the opportunity to work with others while teaching them specific technical knowledge and professional skills. In order to assist users in developing their own projects, the FabLab managers have developed the ConFab, a process similar to a library research consultation, where users are engaged with an in-depth, exploratory conversation around what they want to execute. The ConFab is a way of achieving the overarching goal of the UTA FabLab: facilitating the education of UTA, local, and broader communities on how to think creatively, fail fast, and use new technology to transform their ideas into reality. For students, the incorporation of projects within the FabLab into their coursework allows them to steer their own learning experience and to collaborate across disciplines. When users of different areas of expertise are able to work side-by-side with one another, they build their knowledge base and create innovative products and solutions they may have never previously conceived of. Furthermore, the space provides an opportunity to create meaningful experiences—especially when applying their education to attempt a solution to a real-world problem—leading to skill-learning in a more lasting way. With the ConFab, the user is able to flesh out their undeveloped ideas and vision and to begin the work. The presenters will detail the specific format of questions and active listening strategies that often allow users to come to a solution organically and empowers them as they realize how much they already know.