- Associated Press - Monday, November 12, 2018

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Dozens of Fayetteville teens will learn about 3-D printing, laser cutting, woodworking and more as part of the Northwest Arkansas Fab Lab’s “Tech for Teens” after-school program in January.

Steve Clark, president and chief executive officer of the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce, led a news conference at the lab recently to announce a $10,000 grant from the Best Buy Foundation to pay for the program.

The program is intended primarily for “underserved” kids, including those who are economically disadvantaged and those with physical or learning disabilities, Clark said. It will be free to the students, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

“Those are the students who are the workforce of tomorrow,” he said.

About 120 students ages 13-17 will be invited to the lab for four hours a week during three-week sessions that will take place over the course of the spring semester. They will be allowed access to the lab free of charge throughout the semester even when they aren’t part of the session. Admission to the lab normally costs $10 for a day. There’s a monthly rate of $20 for students and $30 for adults.

Tech for Teens students will be trained on all the equipment in the lab. Clark predicted the program will change their lives.

The lab, which opened in 2016 just off the downtown square and is operated by the chamber, serves the community as a maker space where people may tinker and use a variety of tools. Some high school students were using the laser cutter recently to carve images into pumpkins.

Whitney Green, a former teacher who runs the lab, said the lab attracts anywhere between 30 and 100 people per week. The grant from Best Buy is the largest the lab has received. She believes Tech for Teens will expose the kids to career possibilities.

“Too many kids don’t have a clue what to do with their lives,” Green said. “A lot of that is because they just don’t know what’s out there.”

She added a lot of kids who hate school love the experiences they get at the lab.

Josh Watson teaches a computer science class for high school kids through Northwest Technical Institute. He brings his students to the lab about once every two weeks.

“The great thing about this place is we get a break away from the book for a minute. They get to use their imaginations here,” Watson said.

Ryan Cook, a 17-year-old Farmington High School student enrolled in Watson’s class, said he enjoys coming up with ideas of things to make in the lab.

“The more you come here and do something, the more you want to come here each week, or each day even,” Cook said.

Shania Cardenas, 17, of Lincoln High School was using a table saw as part of a woodworking project. The lab is a fun chance to try a variety of tools, she said.

“There are a lot of fun people here too,” Cardenas said. “So it’s a good experience to just meet other people and chat with them.”


Information from: Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.nwaonline.com

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