Guest Post by Clayten W. Eggleston
Americorps VISTA Member, OC STEM

The Mobile Rocket and Fab Lab (MFL)

Among other duties, my role was to help facilitate the effective launch of the Mobile Rocket and Fab Lab (MFL) and oversee it’s journey; a forty foot by nine foot airstream trailer housed at the Samueli School of Engineering. On-board equipment includes: MUSE laser cutter, 3D printers, and the Raspberry Pi3 station which runs the Sonic Pi and Apollo-Soyuz simulation.

It is an initiative by which the MFL along with our team of undergraduates from the University of California, Irvine and OC STEM affiliates are deployed into the community to promote STEM preparedness and competency. The MFL allows for advanced programming and manufacturing equipment to be brought directly to schools/districts within OC. We show learners and educators that the creative possibilities are endless when it comes to striving for STEM literacy. As we’ve seen many times the sky is not the limit; indeed there may not be a limitation to our creations.

This project is made possible through a partnership between the OC STEM Initiative, the Samueli Foundation, the Samueli School of Engineering at UCI, and the Orange County Department of Education. Staying true to the OC STEM vision of combining public and private entities in order to foster a more STEM literate Orange County. The MFL fits into the OC STEM vision by being an initiative that can physically, by that effectively,  reach everyone in the community.

While thinking about outreach geared towards STEM learning, one tends to think of the classic classroom settings where teachers and students are interacting with each other to achieve the desired learning outcomes. This is, of course, the optimal classroom situation, however the MFL is effective in bringing teachers, students, and even parents together to experience new equipment; allowing them to see different STEM learning platforms.

MFL Deployment Summaries:

Marco Forster Middle School, Capistrano Unified School District: March 23, 2018

My first MFL experience was on March 23, 2018. The event was hosted at Marco Forster Middle School in the Capistrano Unified School District. It was daunting i’ll admit, because at the time I had never seen a Raspberry Pi3, or a 3d printer for that matter. However I felt comfortable talking with students, parents, and teachers about, due to the fact that some of them shared these feelings of uncertainty.

Turns out that the event is a springtime “Hoosegow’s Community Event” was not STEM or STEAM focused. Many of the students and parents were still intrigued by the equipment on-board. Indeed it was exciting to be a representative of both an institution of higher learning, UCI, as well as, Americorps, a nation service organization.

Our standard model for events is to have our undergraduate staff facilitate self-guided tours of the lab. With our staff effectively fielding questions learners would come back to see the laser cutter again, or even give the Apollo-Soyuz simulation another go. At the end of the day we had served around 150 students, educators, and parents.

Beckman Center of the National Academies of Sciences and Engineering, UC Irvine: May 9, 2018

At the Beckman Center of the National Academies for Science and Engineering we were present for the OC STEM Institute end-of-the-year ceremony. This was a congregation of about 70 educators and administrators who are dedicated to preaching the STEM competency and preparedness message in Orange County. In addition, these educators are champions within their district, finding effective ways to facilitate experiential STEM learning activities within their classrooms and districts. The Mobile Fab Lab was deployed with the intention to showcase the differing platforms for experiential STEM learning.

Sequoia Academy, Westminster School District: June 8. 2018

Scheduled for June 8, 2018 was the MFL final deployment for the regular school year. At Westminster School District’s Sequoia Academy, we were invited to their end-of-the-year PTA carnival. This is another example of how the MFL can thrive at non-STEM related events. This particular event had no STEM focus, however the atmosphere was conducive to students, parents, and teachers, at play with new STEM equipment.

As a general reflection point, I like to see how the MFL does at events that are not strictly geared towards STEM. In that non-STEM events give us the chance to see how captivating our activities are to a general audience. In that same vein, from an exposure stand-point, the MFL reaches more people, those of whom might not otherwise experience advance manufacturing equipment like laser cutters and 3D printers.