Located in Anchorage, Alaska, the CITC’s Fab Lab centralizes local culture in developing projects for students, teachers, and community members in their innovative makerspace. Opened in May of 2021 through a partnership with MIT, this lab prioritizes education and connects youth to their science, technology, engineering, and mathematics potential by combining cutting-edge tools with Alaska Native cultural values and strengths.
CITC’s Fab Lab shares over fifteen of these engaging culturally infused lessons with the SCOPES-DF community including a lesson combining the art of beading with binary code and a lesson using the laser cutter to design and create a model of the Yup’ik Kayak. The Fab Lab staff also produce a YouTube channel with many different cultural projects from the lab and other engaging content.
Increased reach of these culturally infused STEM programs is a priority for CITC, and the Fab Lab has initiated various outreach programs and projects to reach as many Alaskans as possible. The Tebughna School located in the Native Village of Tyonek, with a population of approximately 130, is the first school to install a mini Fab Lab with an Innovation Station grant. The school, with curriculum support and teacher training from CITC, has incorporated Fab Lab into their daily activities for the student population. Nine more elementary schools in rural Alaska, including some in villages not accessible by road, are scheduled to participate in this Innovation Station grant program as well. Operation Innovation is another outreach program that will bring mini Fab Labs into three elementary schools and three middle schools with CITC support for culturally based instructional units, Fab Lab teacher training, and school break camps for students.
Over the last challenging year, CITC’s Fab Lab has responded to COVID like many other labs, adapting workshops and camps to hybrid and virtual programs. Though a few student camps were held in person with small numbers and restrictions, many of their popular student programs were adapted to a fully virtual space. Fab Lab instructors delivered kits to students’ homes, making sure to engage in a socially distanced and masked greeting so that students had the chance to meet their instructors. Each kit included the daily activities, and during virtual sessions, students opened them together to create their projects synchronously. The staff even included daily snacks in the student kits, which soon became a highlight of their virtual class time, as kids ate together and socialized with each other and the instructors.
When Renee Fredericks, senior director of Youth Empowerment Services, reflects on the success and growth of CITC’s Fab Lab programming in Alaska since its opening in 2012, she centers the youth. “I love when they learn faster and more than us.” The students return to the lab year after year and bring their parents and family members with them to share the excitement of creating with the tools. Renee loves to see kids sharing what they have learned with others, “they can teach other people no matter what age they are.”
CITC embraces the mission to reach Alaska students and communities with culturally infused STEM projects, and their staff generously shares the work and resources internationally. With care and consideration of local communities, CITC’s Fab Lab staff thoughtfully incorporates Native culture values with technology while outreaching as widely as possible so that more students can benefit from this innovative programming.
These programs are funded by the United States Department of Education – Alaska Native Education Program (ANEP) and the United States Department of Defense – National Defense Education Program (NDEP). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ANEP, NDEP, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.