Robots hooked up to computers were dancing and singing to music. Students in crisp white lab coats created faces out of clay, ran laser cutters and a vacuum former, painted a canvas with an airbrush and hunched over a sewing machine.
Welcome to the new Garner Holt AniMakerspace brought to Franklin Elementary School by the world’s largest supplier of robotic figures to theme parks.
At the grand opening event on Monday, Oct. 22, students who had been learning in the space for a few days shared how to operate the myriad of devices that filled the room.
“My favorite part is actually working on that,” said Franki Navarro, 10, gesturing to the vacuum former beside her. “It’s like the vacuum you have at home, it sucks the air out of it, like the vacuum sucks up the dirt,” she added, excitedly showing off candy molds, plastic faces and other items formed with the machine.
“I feel like they are trying to give us a career.”
Danny Resendez, 10, said using the machines has been his favorite part as he stuffed green clay into a form. “I didn’t like this one until I started using it, and now it’s my favorite,” he said referring to the vacuum former.
“I feel like they are trying to give us a career,” Danny said, adding he thought making animatronics could be a fun job.
Leila Janzen, 7, was also sharing how the vacuum former works. Her favorite part? “All of it.”
Holt said while makerspaces have been around for a while, this one is not just for little engineers. Animatronics offers many artistic avenues as well, such as sculpture, plastics and costuming. Though Holt has made many things, a makerspace for a school is new.
“We want to make something special that’s never been done before that we can roll out that will get kids excited,” Holt said.
The Redlands Unified School District approved the nearly $600,000 project in June and it includes an upcoming space at Victoria Elementary as well. The anamatronics wizards at Garner Holt Education Through Imagination worked through the summer to get the space at Franklin ready. The project includes design, installation, support, equipment and curriculum.
Redlands Unified officials said the makerspace is a good fit for Franklin because it provides a learning opportunity for students that helps close an achievement gap between the school and others in the district.
“We wanted them to have hope, pride and excitement,” Superintendent Maurcio Arellano said, adding “because with that comes success.”
Ryan Rainbolt, director of educational programs with Garner Holt Education Through Imagination, said the idea is to get students excited about learning early in their academic careers.
“The purpose of this room is to give the opportunities to explore careers and to practice their 21st century skills,” he said, “to be problem solvers, to be critical thinkers, to be creative and imaginative, to work as team members.”
Next up, the company hopes to work with the district to expand the concept into middle and high schools.
“It’s a really neat thing to show how manufacturing is done with different machines and once it’s all done how it can all go together and create something that’s unique and unusual, something like you see at Disneyland,” Holt said. “And who doesn’t like that kind of stuff?”
Written by Jennifer Iyer for the Redlands Daily Facts.