10th Anniversary Campaign

The Fab Lab: Building a Maker Culture on Campus

Before our new students arrive on campus each August and even before the return of current faculty, our school is buzzing with activity as we welcome and introduce UWC ISAK Japan to our new faculty members. It is an exciting time as we finally get to talk to the newest members of our community and learn about who they are.

One new faculty member who joined in August 2019 made an immediate impression when he decided to forego the traditional method of getting to Karuizawa by shinkansen (bullet train), opting instead to ride his bicycle … from Tokyo … approximately 180 kilometers from campus.. Despite riding himself, Dr. Ruben Pinzon (“Dr. Ruben,” as he is fondly known on campus) is a very driven individual and that extends to his approach to education and life in general.

Introducing the Fab Lab at UWC ISAK Japan

Dr. Ruben has continued to cycle around Japan whenever he has the chance, but another of his on-campus pursuits has been turning heads and turning increasing numbers of our community into makers. Dubbed the “Fab Lab”, Dr. Ruben, along with our Deputy Head of School, Mr. Lacoste and Mr. McGibbon, have committed considerable time and expertise supervising the development of the Fab Lab. We caught up with Dr. Ruben to get more insight into what the Fab Lab is and where it is headed.

Q – Where did the idea for the Fab Lab come from?

Dr. Ruben – On campus, we already had a number of creative stations set up for making, robotics, and tinkering, but they weren’t connected. The Fab Lab emerged as a way to bring together all of these creative initiatives into one space. Not only does it make it practically easier to find the tools, but it also can inspire spontaneous ideas and collaborative projects as users of the Fab Lab see what others are doing.

Q – What is the vision for the Fab Lab?

Dr. Ruben – Provide students with the opportunity to awaken the creator-spirit inside of them in a dedicated and conditioned space.

Q – What types of students is it targeted towards?

Dr. Ruben – The Curious. The Risk-takers. The Thinkers and tinkerers. So, if you are at UWC ISAK Japan, that probably means you.

Q – What are the future plans for the Fab Lab?

Dr, Ruben – We are looking forward to the construction of the Creative Center, which will house our own dedicated Maker Space. The Fab Lab is essentially the first draft of that space. There is still a lot we hope to improve, but it is giving us a better understanding of the value of this space so that when the Creative Center is finally ready we will already have a well-developed Makers culture ready to plug-in.

The larger space in the Creative Center will also make it easier to collaborate in bigger groups and give us more options for tools and larger machines, such as our vertical CNC machine. Teachers will also benefit because it will enable them to craft multidisciplinary activities that involve students making, tinkering, and collaborating.

Q – Who built it?

Throughout the 2019-20 school year, G10 and G11 students have been highly involved in the construction of the Fab Lab under the supervision of Mr. Lacoste and Dr. Ruben. One CAS Leadership Project, in particular, the Mario Car in Karuizawa CAS, has been heavily involved in constructing and maintaining the Fab Lab. Click here to see a photo album of the construction process.

Q – How was it funded?

The Fab Lab has always been a budget-conscious project, seeking to find economical construction solutions. But thanks to a number of donations from our generous supporters, the Fab Lab has been largely funded on the basis of charity, for which we are extremely grateful.

Q – What equipment is available now?

Table Router
Vertical Drill
Table saw
Vertical saw
Laser engraver/cutter
Various Wrench sets
Vertical CNC machine
Air compressor
Various hand chisels
Traditional Japanese hand saws
Makeblock robotic kits
Electronic kits (microcontrollers)
Safety accessories

Q – What equipment do we aim to add?

Horizontal CNC machine
Robotic kits
Power tools

Q – What types of things have students made so far?

The bicycle house has been one biggest projects the students have been developing. Located next to the FabLab, students learned traditional construction techniques, such as Yakisugi (shousugiban), woodcutting and fitting, planning, and drawing.

Students are currently creating a large-scale periodic table of elements for the chemistry lab that features element names engraved into acrylic with the laser cutter. The elements will also be illuminated so some students are working on preparing the electronic circuitry required to support this feature.

Needless to say, students are learning tonnes and having an amazing time exploring their creative side in the Fab Lab. We can wait to see what else comes out of it and look forward to seeing the Fab Lab expand into the Maker Space in the near future.

Thanks to everyone involved for their hard work and dedication to this project. And a special thanks to our supporters for their incredible generosity and support of the UWC ISAK Japan mission and our students.

To view the full project gallery, visit our Facebook album here.


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Imagine… if there was an ISAK lower school!

Dear Friends of UWC ISAK,

UWC ISAK is celebrating its 10th anniversary! We are proud of where we’ve come from, and we are excited about the next decade.

At this important milestone, we are wondering – in pursuit of broadening our impact, could an ISAK Lower School be considered as one of the options and would it be feasible? A school that embraces ISAK values and vision for a better future?

As we embark on this journey, if you would like to participate in possible market research and receive updates, please subscribe to our mailing list.