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Deer Isle, Isle au Haut and Stonington, Maine.
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by Jessica Brophy
In the summer of 2011, Haystack became home to one of the nation’s fab labs, or digital fabrication studios.
These fab labs use small-scale, high-tech production equipment to take ideas from sketches to three-dimensional objects in a matter of moments. The lab was originally set up on Haystack’s campus in Mountainville, but most of the smaller machines have been moved to Haystack’s offices near Deer Isle Village.
This allows for the training on and use of the fab lab equipment from November through April, when the Mountanville campus is not in use. Haystack recently received a $25,000 grant to conduct more training in the community and to have visiting artists.
The goal, said Haystack Director Stuart Kestenbaum, is to “develop a core group of teachers and students who will be able to lead.” Those who are trained and familiar with the equipment will be able to help other students or staff in education projects.
Kestenbaum used a recent project with Penobscot East Resource Center as an example. Penobscot East has been working on a “green hull” design for lobster boats, in an effort to reduce costs and environmental impact of lobster boats. Penobscot East used the fab lab’s 3D printing capabilities to produce model hulls.
In mid-December, training was held for five students and a few community members. Marcus Ford, the Deer Isle-Stonington K-12 technology coordinator, and Island Institute Fellow Wes Norton both attended training. Students worked on various projects, from intricate sticker decals to chess-piece ornaments made from felt.
Norton was working on a pop-up holiday card, and said he had needed to go back to the drawing board a few times. “Sometimes you want to do everything with the machines, and nothing by hand,” he said. “Part of this training is learning what’s easier to tweak by hand and what is best done by the machine.”
The major benefit to designing via the machine is that once the design is mastered, many copies of the thing can be made, said Norton.
High school freshman Cameron Wendell was working on creating ornaments for the Christmas tree out of felt using the laser cutter. Felt can be tricky to use because if the laser is not carefully calibrated, it will singe the edges. Other material used ranged from paper to plywood.
A series of five training sessions are planned over the winter.