Saint James School FAB Lab

The Saint James School FAB Lab is dedicated to developing secondary school STEAM education.

The SJS FAB Lab is one of only two MIT-certified FAB Labs at a secondary school in the state of Maryland, and one of the few in the country; most are at research institutes or colleges.

FAB Lab stands for fabrication laboratory and is a platform for learning and innovation: a place to play, to create, to learn, to mentor, to invent. The international network of FAB Labs is an initiative of MIT and was conceived to be an entrepreneurial center where anyone could take an idea and turn it into a prototype or even a product.

Saint James students have access to the FAB Lab Network, an open, creative community of fabricators, artists, scientists, engineers, educators, students, professionals, of all ages located in more than 78 countries in approximately 1,000 FAB Labs.

Students use a computer-aided design (CAD) program called Fusion 360, a professional-level program for engineering and design.

Using the iterative design process, students try to solve real world problems and create real-world products. This is a design methodology that consists of prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process. Failure is an inherent part of the design process, but students don’t think of it as failure; just a challenge in need of a solution.

Saint James students utilize the FAB Lab in Maker Club, Robotics Club, and for special projects, such as building sets for the theater department. The mission for the SJS FAB Lab is to integrate it across the curriculum so that the Lab is understood to be a multimedia resource used by the entire school.

“We live in such a high stakes culture now where kids don’t really feel like they can fail. But the problem with that is obviously that learning to overcome failure results in resiliency. It’s an important skill that’s particularly lacking in our high-achieving kids. I want to create a safe space where it’s not only ok to fail, but it’s part of the process.” -- Dr. Ian Brauner, SJS FAB Lab Director

What's in the Saint James FAB Lab?

All MIT-certified FAB Labs are comprised of common tools and equipment that allow you to “make almost anything” using open source software and programs written by researchers at MIT’s Center for Bits & Atoms. The SJS FAB Lab capabilities include:

  • A computer-controlled laser cutter for press-fit assembly of 3D structures from 2D parts.
  • A large milling machine (4’ x 8’) for making furniture- and house-sized parts.
  • A sign cutter to produce printing masks, flexible circuits and antennas.
  • A precision (micron resolution) milling machine to make 3D molds and surface-mount circuit boards.
  • Programming tools for low-cost, high-speed embedded processors.

ShopBot CNC router

ShopBot CNC router in the Saint James School FAB Lab

Four 3D printers

3D printer in the Saint James School FAB Lab

60-watt laster cutter

60-watt laser cutter in the Saint James School FAB Lab

Vinyl cutter

Vinyl cutter in the Saint James School FAB Lab

Desktop milling machine

Desktop milling machine in the Saint James School FAB Lab

Spotlight on Dr. Ian Brauner

Dr. Ian Brauner, Director of the SJS FAB Lab

A native of New Orleans, Dr. Ian Brauner arrived at Saint James School in 2017, taking over as Science Department Chair and teaching IPS, Anatomy, and Physiology while also serving as Director of the SJS FAB Lab.

Dr. Brauner is a graduate of Sewanee, where he received his BA in Psychology. After working as a researcher in pharmacology, he went on to receive his PhD in Cell Biology and Anatomy from the Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans, where in addition to doing research on the genetic control of embryonic muscle development, he also taught Anatomy to first year medical students. He taught at the Culver Academies and then at Charlotte Latin School for eight years prior to coming to Saint James.

While at Charlotte Latin, Dr. Brauner founded one of the first FAB Labs at a high school in the United States. He went through the rigorous FAB Academy, an intensive six-month course that teaches the common skill set needed to run a FAB Lab. It is rare for a high school to have an educator with a FAB Lab certification, and Saint James is fortunate to benefit from his expertise and knowledge of the equipment and the iterative design process.

sjs fab lab Projects

Auto-Leveling Drone

Will Moerschel '19 created an auto-leveling drone, with the body made on the 3D printer and the "brain" of the drone is an Arduino Uno circuit board that he coded using their open-source software.

Useless Box

Sungbum Lee '22 and Spencer Pentony '23 built a "useless" box, replicating a design found on the FAB Lab network and cut on the laser cutter.

Remote-Controlled Airplane

Dylan Weibel '19 created a remote-controlled airplane with the airplane body made from on the laser cutter and powered by an Arduino circuit board.

Ice Fishing Tip Up

A native of Canada, Riley Bishop '23 created an ice fishing tip up using the Fusion 360 software and ShopBot.

Saint James School FAB Lab promotes STEAM education