The Weber School is soon to be one of the few high schools in the Southeast with an MIT-inspired Fab Lab. The facility will be directed by experts, offer a variety of high-tech resources, and support hands-on experimentation in such areas as science research, engineering, robotics, architecture, digital, 3D, fashion and multi-media design.
Through a Zalik Foundation Fund grant, The Daniel Zalik Academy at Weber is set to launch when school starts Monday and “will offer courses and programs that will be fully realized and enriched” with the opening of the Fab Lab in August 2019, said Rabbi Ed Harwitz, head of the school.
The Zalik Academy, named for the brother of Zalik Foundation Fund principals David and Helen Zalik, will allow Weber students to be on the forefront of top industry in technology, engineering and design, Harwitz said.
“As a Jewish community school, it is essential that our graduates are prepared for college and careers with the capacity to realize their dreams and aspirations for academic and professional success. Yet Weber must also meet a higher calling – to ensure that our scientists, tech specialists and designers emerge as ethically informed professionals who leverage their work to serve our community and the broader world.”
The Zalik Academy will allow students to participate in high-level experimentation, create patented products and publish articles in top academic journals – not the typical pattern for high schoolers, Harwitz said.
This year, the Zalik Academy will pilot courses in design, robotics, coding, computer science and scientific research, he said. When it’s complete, Weber students will mentor others as young as the fifth grade. In addition to partnering with Jewish day schools, plans call for the lab to be used by students from synagogue youth groups and camps, such as the In the City Camp, hosted at Weber.
A counselor at the camp, Weber junior Ari Slomka looks forward to the opportunities the new Fab Lab offers. Visiting an industry Fab Lab during a recent vacation in Seoul, South Korea, he was impressed that an inventor could work with “a laser cutter or 3D printer, tinker and work ‘til they have what they want for testing and a prototype.”
There was a class of elementary school students learning about wiring and creating designs, said Slomka, who is a leader in Weber’s 3D modeling courses and technology entrepreneurship program. “If you have an idea or concept, you need materials or machines to bring it to life.”
Slomka said his new interest in design arose when his chemistry class used 3D printing, modeling and design skills in its research. “We made cars and tested different combustion factors and gasses. It was a fun and interesting way to learn what we were learning in chemistry.”
He spoke about 3D design and its potential for Weber’s Academy: “The moment it’s all finished and you click print and see an idea, something you had in your head and put on the computer, and now it’s something real you can touch, there’s something really special about that. It’s a way to bring imagination to life.”
Weber based its Fab Lab on a high school in Los Angeles. The Zalik Academy will work with that school and others in Israel, allowing for international collaboration with the start-up nation.
Started in 2009, the MIT Fab Lab global network promotes innovation and invention, connecting fabricators, artists, scientists, engineers, educators, students and others in more than 78 countries and about 1,000 facilities.
The spark for Weber’s Fab Lab came two years ago when Michael Karlin, president of the Weber board, met with friend and colleague David Zalik about the future of Jewish education in Atlanta.
“The investment is a testament to the school’s leadership and furthers our mission to improve Jewish education in a manner that empowers young minds to unleash their potential and better society,” the Zaliks said in a prepared statement.
“We hope it serves as a catalyst for The Weber School, attracting students with a passion for science, technology and design, and enabling them to leverage the Fab Lab tools, renowned faculty and resources. Our dream is that The Zalik Academy enables Weber to serve its student body and the broader Jewish community.”