IYRS School of Technology & Trades has been awarded an Industry Cluster Grant from the State of Rhode Island in the amount of $75,290 in order to begin the development of a “Mobile Maker Lab.”  The traveling lab, a trailer equipped with high-tech maker tools, will visit high schools and prisons, providing short-term hands-on courses and building awareness about careers in 21st century manufacturing.

The Mobile Maker Lab is being developed as a joint effort by IYRS, Rhode Island College, and Polaris MEP to enhance workforce development and innovation by providing educators and students in Rhode Island access to advanced technology, tools, materials, high-tech machinery, and hands-on opportunities that they may not otherwise have available to them.

“Projects like the Mobile Maker Lab are based on ideas generated by industry – and are carried out in partnership with industry,” said Stefan Pryor, Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce. “We’re glad that, supported by this grant, more young people will have the opportunity to engage with advanced manufacturing and design in their classrooms. We are pleased to support such industry clusters as they collaborate to make their business ecosystem stronger.”

The Lab will include a wide array of advanced technologies including laser cutters, 3D printers, computer-aided-design workstations, CNC routers, hand and power tools and advanced materials. The equipment will be used inside the trailer in a creative classroom space, or be quickly moved and reassembled in a shop or gymnasium. The trailer is expected to be about 28’ in length.

“The Mobile Maker Lab creates a flexible, scalable classroom and shop for educators, students, and industry partners,” said Terry Nathan, President of IYRS. “While it is about building awareness of new manufacturing technologies and associated jobs, it lets people get their hands on the equipment.”

According to Charlie McLaughlin at Rhode Island College, “this unique collaboration will create rich learning experiences in manufacturing for students who may not have access to advanced manufacturing equipment. The project will enable them to explore engineering and other technical fields.”

The Mobile Maker Lab concept comes at a time in which school budgets are challenged to purchase such equipment. State support of the maker lab helps ensure that maker labs get to more schools, preparing Rhode Island’s future workforce for real job opportunity in a manufacturing world that is increasing not about pushing buttons or repetitive and boring assembly line work.

“Polaris is thrilled to be part of the Mobile Maker Lab project and partnered with the innovative groups at IYRS and RIC,” said Christian Cowan, Director of Polaris MEP. “Our manufacturing partners continue to ask for progressive methods to engage students, and this program led by IYRS will help bring modern advanced manufacturing concepts to them.”

The Industry Cluster Grant awarded to IYRS represents phase one of the project, which will begin planning and development in the coming weeks. The Planning Grant will allow the participating parties to examine in detail the specific equipment needs and associated short-term curricula, as well as providing the opportunity for the team to reach out to schools and build the lab’s travel schedule.

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Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.