Becoming a teacher wasn’t something Jad Jadeja had envisioned prior to being hired by Dripping Springs ISD in 2007.
In fact, Jadeja, who worked previously in the technology industry, had his “arm twisted hard enough” before being persuaded to go into education.
Almost a decade later, Jadeja has molded Dripping Springs High into a Fabrication Lab, or Fab Lab, school, which was given to the district by the Massachusetts Institute for Technology earlier this year. Dripping Springs High is the first Texas school to receive a Fab Lab designation.
For Jadeja, the idea of the Fab Lab is to help students and the community when it comes to technology, robotics and manufacturing.
“I love it. I’m teaching classes where most of my students end up going to colleges like Texas, Texas A&M, San Diego and Rice,” Jadeja said.
The idea initially began four to five years ago, Jadeja said. At that point, he sought a way to provide students the tools that encompass manufacturing and technology.
It began with robotics and how students could build some components required for competitions using modern technology he said.
Initially, the group started out with a 3D printer that was able to make different parts for their robots, including making gears, wheels and grippers for the arm of the robot.
The students used a Sketch-Up pro to design their parts. They then output their design in a file to the 3D printer, which then interpreted them and created the pieces.
About 18 students worked with the 3D printer the first year, with the robotics class crafting a modern quad-copter drone.
“There were small pieces, but easy to prototype,” Jadeja said.
Over the years, Jadeja helped introduce more technology and manufacturing classes aside from robotics. Those classes offer computer programming and engineering.
Last year, Jadeja applied with the Massachusets Institute for Technology (MIT) for Fab Lab designation. Requirements include having specific machinery within the lab and certain types of classes that are offered.
The Fab Lab offers “hands-on creation, exploration and innovation that serves students and faculty as well as designers, artists and entrepreneurs in Texas” that work within Science, Technology, Education, Arts and Math (STEAM), according to the Dripping Springs Fab Lab website. Dripping Springs was awarded Fab Lab status by MIT this year.
Jadeja said Dripping Springs High has two engineering classes and works with the University of Texas-Austin where it’s part of the “Engineer your World” program.
In addition, the school has a Robotics 2 course. Students also continue to compete at robotics competitions.
Additional equipment has helped further the engineering and manufacturing focus at Dripping Springs.
The campus has three 3D printers, along with a Computer Assisted Design (CAD) program. Dripping Springs also has a recently purchased laser engraver, along with a “bigger version” of a computer numerical control (CNC) machine that “removes material to finish the final product.”
With all of the equipment, Dripping Springs’ robotics team crafted 80 percent of its robot at the school.
In November 2016, Dripping Springs High students began creating a model car from a block of composite material, which they raced at the F1 in Schools compeititon in Austin last weekend.
Dripping Springs, which competed in the event for the first time, won the best rookie team honors and finished with the second fastest time on the track.
Jadeja said students who participate in the classes are those who either want to go into engineering in college, or those who wish to use the skills learned in the workforce.
One example is CNC, which Jadeja said is a skill that’s in “short supply.”
“When kids learn how to use it, they learn an important skill and possibly getting jobs, if they decide to do that straight out of high school.”
While many students who participate end up going through college, the Dripping Springs programs help give them a “leg up” with CAD programs and manufacturing technologies.
Funding comes from grants from the Dripping Springs education foundation. Jadeja said the district also helps by matching funds to help offset the cost for equipment.
“They are prolific in helping students and the school and the district,” Jadeja said.