STOCKTON — For those who were born to code, tinker and create with their hands, there’s a lab that allows imaginations to run wild.

County leaders in education, government and business gathered at the San Joaquin County Office of Education on Wednesday to celebrate the opening of the FabLab.

Its main purpose, SJCOE officials said, is to function as a high-tech education center and workshop, complete with plenty of equipment and resources to prepare Central Valley students for jobs of the future.

“Every child in San Joaquin County should have the same opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) that are available to students in the Bay Area,” SJCOE Assistant Superintendent Jane Steinkamp said.

The FabLab, a hipper way of saying “fabrication laboratory,” features a wide-open warehouse space located in the Career and Technical Education Building that is decked wall-to-wall with state-of-the-art technology from laser cutters to 3D printers.

It’s a space that children of all ages and those preparing for college can utilize so they are better equipped for STEM-related jobs both in the present and tomorrow, county supervisor Bob Elliott said.

“We can give children — youth of all levels — seeking to improve their credentials, their certifications, abilities to apply hands-on capabilities to job opportunities that are going to be available to them in the future,” Elliott said. “This is going to be a big step.”

Kirk Brown, director of STEM at the SJCOE, detailed each of the five work stations' capabilities: laser cutters, milling machines, printers, circuitry, programming and various other tools.

The bright and colorful lab also can serve to play host to statewide robotics competitions as well as field trips.

“This is a labor of love,” Brown said.

On Wednesday, students from Merrill F. West High demonstrated robots they built to compete, while Tracy High and Venture Academy students demonstrated other technologies, like zSpace, a three-dimensional, augmented-reality computer.

“The FabLab is further evidence of the county’s commitment to improving STEM education for students of San Joaquin County,” Steinkamp said, detailing that when she was in school, she was exposed only to animal dissection and one computer programming class.

Since California adopted Next Generation Science Standards in 2013, the SJCOE overwhelmingly has embraced continued science education standards, with no plan to stop.

Said Steinkamp: “We are ready to meet that challenge.”

For more information on the lab, go to sjcoescience.org/sjcoe-fablab.

 

— Contact reporter Nicholas Filipas at (209) 546-8257 or nfilipas@recordnet.com. Follow him on recordnet.com/filipasblog or on Twitter @nicholasfilipas.