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Lake Geneva Badger High School Phab Lab Expands Access to the School Library

Monday, March 25, 2019

Opportunities for creating in the Badger High School library learning center expanded in a big way through a recent renovation project. Thanks to the generosity of the Palmer Hamilton Company, the school was able to install a “Phab Lab” with 3D printers, a laser cutter, Google Jamboard, animation software, and circuitry kits.

Last year, Rachel Harmeling joined the Badger High School as the library media specialist amidst a library renovation project which included plans for a fab lab area. She said they tried but did not succeed in securing a grant for the space, but were contacted shortly after by the Palmer Hamilton Company, based in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, a few days before school let out.

The company wanted to help the school build the space as a pilot for creating a turn-key fab lab. After an extremely busy and fast-paced summer to get the library renovation in order, Badger High School got their very own “Phab Lab.”

Building capacity and messaging about the new facility has been exciting. As a librarian, Harmeling is excited about the expansion for students and the community. “The whole mission of libraries is offering free and equal access to everyone,” she said. “It’s also becoming about the equipment and technology that students may not have access to. They have the opportunity in the library to have access to these things.”

Student, Riley Sontag with laser cutter
Student Riley Sontag using the laser cutter in the Phab Lab.

Response to the Phab Lab has been overwhelmingly positive. “Students absolutely love the space,” Harmeling said. “They appreciate the lab is there for them to explore free of charge. Students who may not have used our traditional library space do now, and sometimes even use the library in ways they wouldn’t have used before.”

Currently, the high school is training students and staff to use the lab in various ways. Once they have enough people trained, they plan to open it up to the community and add offerings to their community education classes. “We’ve already had people from the community ask to use it. We want to make sure that it is student-led so they can help us run those classes,” Harmeling said.

Student, John Schiltz is trained to use the Phab Lab
Student,John Schiltz is trained to use the Phab Lab and has earned an NC3 National Coalition of Certification Centers certificate.

The renovation and addition of the maker space into the library environment has enhanced the library programming and, according to Harmeling, is a product of the support of everyone involved. “We have tremendous support from our administration, school board, parents, and community members. We are very excited about the space and to have that buy-in put it together.”