Students have STEM on their minds as Mobile Fab Lab Design Challenge sets off


At Lupine Hills Elementary in Hercules on Thursday, young students drew images of a robot, a light fixture outside of a home and a fraction flower. One young man exuberantly set off on a daring artistic mission to draw straight lines at random.

“Something will eventually come from it,” he said confidently.

All of the images, even the random ones, were born from a broad idea: To come up with designs that pay tribute to math, technology, engineering or science. The designs could have a lasting effect on the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD).

As part of a district-wide Design Challenge, students have been tasked with coming up with the art that will wrap around the trailer of the brand new Mobile Fab Lab, which will soon transport advanced digital fabrication technologies to schools throughout West County.


The Mobile Fab Lab is part of last month’s grand opening of the Richmond Fab Lab at Kennedy High, the nation’s largest K-12 digital fabrication lab. The mobile unit aims to share the wealth of technologies from the Richmond Fab Lab with schools throughout the district.

To raise awareness about the new resource, a five-school Design Challenge tour was launched encouraging district students to help decorate the Mobile Fab Lab’s trailer. Teaching artist Alex Wang (pictured above) of the Richmond Art Center is leading the workshops, the first of which was held at Lupine Hills Elementary. The next workshop will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Coronado Elementary School at 2100 Maine Ave. in Richmond. (see bottom of this story for full schedule of workshops).

Wang explained that he would select submissions from students and incorporate them into one large piece of artwork that will wrap around the Mobile Fab Lab. Wang also gave tips on how to get inspiration for designs: For one, he said students needing inspiration for could simply Google terms like engineering and mathematics. Also, National Geographic magazines were available to flip through for ideas.

No artistic ability is required for the Design Challenge, and multiple entries from every grade level will be chosen for the final piece.

The Richmond Fab Lab and Mobile Fab Lab will allow district students to innovate, design and produce pretty much anything using advanced technologies such as 3D printers, laser and vinyl cutters, a mini-mill and more. The goal is to provide students with hands-on learning experiences that spark an interest in STEM subjects, which will prepare them for jobs of the future.

The Fab Labs are funded by Chevron in partnership with WCCUSD and The Fab Foundation.

The Richmond Art Center’s free workshops for the Design Challenge will be held:

  • Tuesday, October 20: Coronado Elementary School, Multipurpose Room, 6:00pm-7:30pm
  • Thursday, October 22: Richmond High School, Library, 6:00pm-7:30pm
  • Thursday, November 5: Helms Middle School, Multipurpose Room, 6:30pm-8:00pm
  • Saturday, November 14: Kennedy High School, Rooms 401 and 402, 10:00am to 11:30am