President Robinson with team members responsible for the creation of the Chevron Fab Lab.
The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Chevron STR2EAM Innovation Fab Lab held its first Design Studio, a significant step toward the launch of its initiative to enrich and expose students, parents, and educators through exhilarating learning experiences tied to science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics (STEAM) discovery.
STR2EAM is located in the College of Education. “R2,” for reading and research, allows the unit and team members to incorporate literacy, literacy practices, and research-based practices within our programmatic events.
The half-day December 1 event was designed to gather information from stakeholders in the community and academia to ascertain how they wanted the lab to work for them. Among the stakeholders were representatives from FAMU DRS, the College of Education, Tallahassee Community College, Lively Tech, Florida State University and Southern Regional Technical College of Georgia, and Jefferson County Schools. Several team-building activities and exercises provided strategic initiatives to further the lab’s mission and provide guiding design principles.
“This reality of innovation drives our institution. We can’t get where we want to go without new ideas and the resources to get there,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D., who spoke at the event. “We want to make things better, but we don’t always have the resources that are necessary to make it happen. I dreamed of many things growing up on the south side of Memphis. But I didn’t have a fab lab to turn those ideas into reality. Just imagine the importance of having the tools available here at FAMU and FAMU DRS.”
The FAMU Chevron STR2EAM Fab Lab was made possible through a partnerships with Chevron, who provided $550,000.00 in funding for equipment and staffing. Further, the Fab Foundation will provide $150,000 for Fab Lab development, management techniques, curriculum, research initiatives, and upgrades. Finally, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has contributed $50,000 to upgrade the facility infrastructure and has pledged further funding for STR2EAM initiatives brought forth through the lab, said David White, Ph.D. director of the FAMU Chevron Fab Lab.
“The Fab Foundation has partnered with Chevron since 2014 and launched fab labs across the United States to support STEM education,” said Sonya Pryor-Jones, Fab Foundation vice president, chief strategy officer. “We are excited to continue this partnership and support Chevron’s HBCU Social Equity project. This new project will expand our work together with the intention to provide access to advanced technologies and create more equity in STEM. We hope to complement the rich history and commitment of HBCUs to serve the educational needs of Black Americans and together accelerate opportunities for African American students in STEM and digital fabrication.”
The next step is updating the fab lab facilities with new ventilation and electrical systems. The initial labs will be located in the Gore Educational Complex and another at the FAMU DRS campus. The goal is to have the Fab Lab operating by the middle of the spring semester.
Another primary goal is establishing fab labs at elementary, middle, and high schools throughout Tallahassee’s southside, including Fairview Middle, Nims Middle School, Oak Ridge Elementary, Sabal Palm Elementary, and Rickards High, White said.
“We believe that when students are exposed to opportunities through STEAM and given the option to explore through engaging learning activities, it will promulgate their pathway into successful and innovating STEM careers,” said White, a distinguished professor in the FAMU College of Education.