Fab Labs vs. Makerspaces vs. STEM Labs
Fab Labs, Makerspaces, and STEM labs are three types of educational environments that play a prominent role in today’s education. In this article we will be discussing the differences between the three types of spaces, as well as the benefits, and some of the challenges that come with them.
Fab Labs are high tech areas capable of mass-producing any size product, and are focused around sharing knowledge, designs, and collaborating across international borders. In their simplest form, they are a global network of local labs enabling invention. There are four criteria a facility must have to be considered a Fab Lab: 1) provide free public access, 2) support and subscribe to the Fab Lab charter, 3) share a common set of tools, processes, and software, and 4) participate in the global knowledge-sharing Fab Lab network.
Makerspaces are sometimes referred to as a spin-off of Fab Labs. Makerspaces are still focused on the concept of providing a community to help create and innovate, but usually involve less expensive equipment and are found in various public facilities such as schools, universities, and community centers. Makerspaces share aspects of shop class, home economics, art rooms, and science labs. A Makerspace is basically a mash-up of different facilities that allow people to integrate these different kinds of skills together. Makerspaces are more characterized by the collaboration of sharing and building ideas, rather than the tools and equipment within the Makerspace.
STEM Labs differ from Fab Labs and Makerspaces because they are more focused on the physical space. The actual definition of a STEM Lab is a collaborative space where the study of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics can be integrated through hands-on experiences in a pure laboratory or combined classroom-laboratory setting.
Some benefits of these types of spaces are the portrayal of a sense of belonging and community with other inventors, providing a space to share ideas and find solutions, working with individuals from different backgrounds and countries, creating a space to provide training and professional development on the latest technologies for educators and industry professionals, and designing a space saving facility to serve many purposes such as conducting science experiments, fabricating technological and engineering solutions, and collecting data.
There are just a few challenges that should be considered with these spaces. Instructor preparation in multiple STEM fields can be difficult because of the current structure of STEM fields as separate content areas. These spaces do require special ventilation systems due to the hazardous nature of items in these facilities. Large work zones are required because of the size of most of the equipment being used, and the space required to use it safely. Fume Hoods are usually a major component of these spaces, and Longo Labs have provided fume hoods to some of these spaces and continue to do so. Lastly, overcrowding is a critical issue, and ensuring the number of students in these spaces at any time does not exceed the occupancy limit is critical for safety reasons.
Longo Labs offers a wide variety of modern furniture for Fab-Labs, Makerspaces, and STEM Labs. Longo Labs most popular product for these spaces range from Fume Hoods, to our unique Axis Table, and any of our Mobile Lab Tables.
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