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Success Stories out of the Institute of Education Sciences' SBIR Program: FabMaker Studio

FabMaker screenshot

Product: FabMaker Studio is a web-based design and fabrication tool that allows students from kindergarten to 8th grade to design, invent, and build their own geometric constructions and working machines. Students have access to low-cost materials like paper, cardstock or cardboard, and a wide range of tools from scissors to inexpensive 2D cutters, 3D printers, and laser cutters. Because FabMaker Studio allows users to evaluate, redesign, and recreate quickly, students can experience a full engineering design process, while simultaneously fostering creativity, persistence, and resilience. The product aligns to learning outcomes for math and engineering. The developers also created curricular materials for educators to integrate the product in existing practice.

Research and Development: FabMaker Studio emerged from the national Make to Learn research initiative – a collaborative of non-profit, educational, and for-profit organizations spearheaded by the University of Virginia with the goal to improve STEM education and the career pipeline. With the 2010 ED/IES SBIR Phase I award and through additional projects, developers created FabMaker Studio iteratively with regular feedback and pilot research over more than seven years. Widely deployed in schools and in remote learning environments, feedback from educators and students demonstrates that the intervention is usable across settings and can be feasibly integrated into instructional practice for in-class or remote learning. A 2010 pilot study demonstrated that the prototype functioned as intended and that 54 Grade 2 students were engaged while using the prototype. A PEAR Common Instrument study of 20 middle school students using an early beta version of FabMaker Studio demonstrated a significant increase in student interest in science and technology after eight weeks using the program. In a 2018 survey with 100 students, 96.9% reported positive gains in STEM interest and 82.1% reported that they feel like they have a STEM identity after using the FabMaker platform.

Commercialization: FabMaker Studio is available through FableVision Learning at: It is a web-based game that is available on any device connected to the internet. First deployed in 2016, approximately 360,000 prekindergarten to high school-aged students have used FabMaker Studio.

Awards & Recognition:

Related Funding and Support: Initial support for FabMaker Studio was provided through a 2010 ED/IES SBIR award to FableVision Studios and research funding support from NSF ITEST. Additional grants were secured through the Reynolds Center for Teaching, Learning and Creativity, and through private foundations, including MacArthur, Cisco, Motorola, Alcoa, Dassault US Foundation, and the Morgridge Family Foundation. The U.S. Department of Education also awarded the Fab@School initiative an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant which supported a partnership with the Smithsonian and Princeton University for the development of the Smithsonian Invention Kits that utilize FabMaker Studio, which FableVision Learning is planning to market and distribute.