Newswise — It's quite a sight: A brightly colored trailer rolls up to a school, its doors opening to reveal a treasure trove of technical gadgets and scientific equipment, all neatly arranged and ready to be used by eager students, some as young as kindergarten.

These mobile fabrication labs — usually referred to as "Fab Labs" — are high-tech workshops on wheels, and they may soon be bringing science, technology, engineering and technology (STEM) projects and programs to K-16 educational institutions throughout the state.

In September, California State University, Dominguez Hills announced the debut of four mobile fabrication laboratories; one was presented to the CSU Board of Trustees at its November meeting (see gallery below).

The labs join a global network of nearly 900 similar centers. CSU Bakersfield has a Fab Lab as well (though it is not mobile).

"[CSUDH mobile Fab Labs] are about inspiration, innovation and creativity," says Kamal Hamdan, Ph.D., director of the campus' Center for Innovation in STEM Education (CISE). "It's about kids believing that they can do and make anything they want."

Elevating STEM Education

The mobile Fab Labs — a partnership between CSU Dominguez Hills, Toyota USA Foundation, and the W.M. Keck Foundation — are staffed by CISE staff and CSUDH STEM students. Each is equipped with state-of-the-art equipment such as 3D scanners and printers, modeling software, laser cutters, vinyl cutters, and, of course, computers.

Through the labs the university aims to:

  • address the need for more qualified science and math teachers by getting kids interested in STEM at any early age
  • inspire K-16 students through engaging STEM experiences
  • graduate more women and minorities with STEM degrees leading to  careers in related fields

"CSUDH is elevating STEM education to new levels. The Fab Lab project is truly a game-changer. It means K-16 students are going to experience STEM education like never before," says Dr. Hamdan, a CSU Dominguez Hills and San Diego State University alumnus. 

The Toyota USA Foundation recently donated an additional $4 million for the design, construction and equipping of CSU Dominguez Hills' Toyota Center for Innovation in STEM Education. The center will be housed in the new 87,000-square-foot Center for Science and Innovation.  

Learn more about CSU Dominguez Hills' mobile fabrication laboratories and see photos from a CSUDH mobile Fab Lab below.