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Let's Visit Kelliher School: The Fab Lab

Kelliher School serves nearly 300 students in kindergarten thru twelfth grade.  It’s a small school with a huge personality.  In this segment of Let’s Visit, discover some of the magic happening in Kelliher School- an active robotics team, classroom cattle, hydroponic gardening, community projects to make the world healthier and safer, and a fabrication lab that fuses art class with shop class turning kids’ design dreams into reality.  The innovative, often student-driven learning experiences cultivated at Kelliher School are inspiring. 

Kelliher School offers a unique experience unlike most other schools in the region.  It’s called the Fab Lab – the Fabrication Lab. It melds product design with fabrication in a variety of ways and it’s connected Kelliher students and teachers with educators and fabrication labs across the globe.  At Kelliher School the shop room is connected to the art room and it’s a modern educational mash-up that seems to be the perfect fit for our modern world. In the fab lab, students use computer programs and their imaginations to design their dreams, then make those dreams realities with  plasma cutters, a dye sublimation printer, mills, 3D printers, a large format printer and several other machines.

The previous superintendent had asked what would be my dream tool and I knew of CNC plasma cutters…and then he ended up finding a grant to get all of the tools that we have (most of them anyways) at that time. So in one fell swoop we ended up with a bunch of different things.  – Eric Nord, Kelliher Shop Teacher

…it was kind of a synergy type of scenario because I'd been working my whole life in Photoshop and Illustrator and these artistic programs…The  revolution is that I no longer had to just create my things on a computer. Everything that I created on a computer now could be a real world object. And that was extremely surprising and exhilarating for me because all the sudden it opened up a whole new world of creation. – Eric Carlson, Kelliher Art Teacher

Students taking classes in the fab lab are learning skills many people wouldn’t know until taking courses in college or technical school.  They also walk away with problem solving skills, understanding research and development, and the will to continue improving on projects.

We have a model in here … you start out with some goal and then you explore the options and then you develop what you want from that and then you can evaluate what you developed…when you're done evaluating it, you decide whether or not you want to improve it …most people…there's always something you think you can do better and so …you explore how to improve it and you redevelop it and evaluate it and then eventually…you end up with what you really want or what a client or somebody else would want. – Eric Nord, Kelliher Shop Teacher

In addition to creating items for themselves, students in the fab-lab have collaborated with the Red Lake DNR creating educational models of invasive species, they’ve created signs for local resorts, spirit wear and decals for the school, parts for the robotics team and during our visit they were designing a welcome sign for the city park in Kelliher.  Find out all about it in this segment of Let’s Visit!

Katie Carter started at Northern Community Radio in 2008 as Managing Editor of the station's grant-funded, online news experiment Northern Community Internet. Since 2016, she's produced Area Voices showcasing the arts, culture, and history stories of northern Minnesota. She's our local host of NPR's All Things Considered and CBC's As It Happens every weekday from 4-7pm.