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Mirabella at ASU residents learn new skills at fabrication workshops

The School of Arts, Media and Engineering’s Fabrication Lab (FabLab) team launched a series of workshops to offer a creative outlet for students while they were virtually attending classes last year, and now, that series is expanding to a hybrid format and to an audience beyond Arizona State University students. 

The School of Arts, Media and Engineering’s Fabrication Lab (FabLab) offers a series of "maker"-style workshops. Photo by Karishma Sood/ASU News

The workshops, which are hosted, organized and led by staff and students, range from holiday-themed sessions that teach physical fabrication — such as origami or laser cutting — to digital courses that show students how to model 3D objects for printing. Initially, the series was hosted completely over Zoom, but following the return to campus, workshops are now in person and virtual, and open to anyone — including the residents at the Mirabella at ASU retirement community. 

“In addition to being lifelong learners, many Mirabella residents are accomplished artists and skilled engineers,” said Lindsey Beagley, director of lifelong university engagement. “So they were thrilled to learn about the FabLab workshops happening right across the street.”

Behind the scenes of this semester's workshops is Lauren Copley, digital design and fabrication coordinator in charge of the FabLab, as well as her team of creative student workers who help design, create and teach the events. 

“There were two main motivations behind the series: enabling the student workers and staff to deepen their knowledge by sharing their skills, and offering the community opportunities to learn in a fun, accessible way,” Copley said. “The more confident and knowledgeable our staff members are, the more value we can give the community; the more access to making resources we can provide, the larger and more robust our community will become.”

Copley helped develop the series in 2020 along with Luke Kautz, the previous FabLab coordinator and now clinical assistant professor, and since then, the series has grown, offering more courses to a wider audience. 

“The first workshop that was attended by the Mirabella community was my Parametric Pendants workshop, where attendees learned how to use Grasshopper code to produce designs for laser cutting,” Copley said. “About half of the attendees were from Mirabella. They were patient, determined and excited participants, learning how to use a coding language they had never used before, in a software they had never used before, for a production medium they had never used before. They added so much to the workshop!”

Copley and Beagley said inviting the Mirabella residents to the workshops is a first step in exploring new ways for the current generation at ASU to collaborate with the lifelong learners at Mirabella. 

“There are so many new media and new techniques to experiment with,” Beagley said. “It’s amazing to see them learn with and alongside students who share this passion.”  

Copley hopes to design future summer learning courses and potentially utilize the gallery space at Mirabella.

The events are held on Fridays, and this semester Copley and her student workers have created and led 18 types of workshops — 15 of those events are developed and taught solely by student workers. 

“At the beginning of the semester, everyone proposes ideas for workshops they’d like to create and teach, then we decide on the semester’s schedule. It is entirely up to each student worker to research, plan and host their workshop. And they always do an amazing job,” Copley said.

These events are broken up into three categories: Make, Share and Learn. 

  • The Make events are hands-on activities that cover a range of media including oil pastels, laser cutting, 3D printing, paper crafts and 3D scanning. 
  • The Share events are all about digital learning opportunities and cover a range of topics including digital-integrated learning environments such as Maya, Blender, Adobe Creative Suite, Rhino and Grasshopper.
  • The Learn events are training courses specifically geared toward arts, media and engineering students, teaching them the basic safety and usage of the most popular machines in the shop so that they can gain the confidence to use these tools independently. Currently three Learn events are offered: 3D printing basics, laser cutting basics and woodshop basics.

For upcoming FabLab workshops, visit the School of Arts, Media and Engineering website.

mpatzem@asu.edu