The state’s first Fab Lab, a digital fabrication laboratory packed with manufacturing and electronics equipment accessible to the public, will host a series of youth camps this summer as it nears its opening.
The STEAM Room Fab Lab is organizing three electronics day camps for junior high and high school students in a temporary location at the Iowa City Marketplace, formerly known as Sycamore Mall.
The two-week camps are designed to help teens build skills through hands-on work and experimentation rather than sitting at a desk with a pencil and math book, said Kirk Cheyney, the STEAM Room Fab Lab’s founder.
“We aren’t focusing on math or equations or any of that stuff,” said Cheyney, an Iowa City engineer. “What we’re doing is guiding kids in sticking things in other things and seeing if they blow up or not. One of the first experiments we do is actually touching your tongue to a battery and making yourself a conductor. So we go from ‘what is electricity?’ to the third level, which by the end you’re literally building your own robot.”
The camps will be held in two empty storefronts at the Iowa City Marketplace. Meanwhile, Cheyney said he is in talks with the the city regarding the zoning for the full-fledged Fab Lab, which he said will open in a 20,000-square-foot portion of the old Von Maur space this fall, if all goes as planned. Until then, the Fab Lab will set up shop in the temporary spaces when it gets the green light.
“We’re ready to move in the first day it’s all figured out, but we’re still in the process,” said Cheyney, who has reviewed a lease with the Iowa City Marketplace but is awaiting a zoning decisions by the city to finalize it.
Jeff Davidson, Iowa City’s economic development administrator, said the city can issue a temporary use permit for the summer camps, though the permanent Fab Lab location in the Iowa City Marketplace will require an amendment from the zoning ordinance.
“We don’t think it will be a huge deal, it’s just a matter of making sure we have the ordinance set up if we’re going allow those more commercial intensive or industrial type uses that will impact the rest of the mall,” Davidson said.
Cheyney said the STEAM Room already has acquired a number of pieces of machinery, electronics and tools, and organizers have raised nearly $10,000 to date, not counting equipment donations.
The Fab Lab’s three summer camps will highlight various aspects of electronics, with a focus on putting the “fun back in fundamentals,” Cheyney said.
The Fab Lab also plans to host a science fair next month in its temporary location, as well as a summer class on how to build your own CNC machine. Organizers plan to order 3D printers, a laser cutter and other large machines within the next few weeks, Cheyney said.
Reach Josh O’Leary at 887-5415 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The STEAM Room Fab Lab electronics summer camps
• Where: The Iowa City Marketplace (formerly Sycamore Mall).
• Who: For students age 12 to 18.
• Cost: The cost of each camp is $300, and scholarship assistance will be available to some students in need.
• Creating With Electronics I, June 9-20 or June 16-27, will teach electronics basics through building a complex alarm with lights and sounds.
• Creating With Electronics II, July 7-18 or July 14-25, will teach soldering, programming and creating more complex circuits with motors and sensors.
• Creating With Electronics III, July 21-Aug. 1 or July 28 to Aug. 8, builds off the knowledge of the first two camps and combines it into a programming and robotics lab.