Frontline Initiative Choice, Direction, and Control

Opportunity at the Fab Lab


Robin Kusiak is the EducationCoordinator at CLASS LTD inIndependence, Kansas, an organizationthat supports people with intellectualdisabilities. Robin works with staff and persons served to train, teach, and model person-centered planning, rights and responsibilities. She trains in implementing positive behavior supports and other strategies to improve quality of life. Robin has over 15 years working in the field. She is certified as an Autism Specialist and Intensive Support Provider, a Mandt instructor, and a master trainer for Ohio DSPaths.

Tim Haynes is the lab manager at Fab Lab at Independence CommunityCollege in Independence, Kansas. His daily responsibilities include machine maintenance, community outreach, member relations, and supervising staff. Tim’s background is in community development and sustainablecommunities, but his entrepreneurial mindset was an asset for learning the Fab Lab’s machines and software. In Tim’s words, “I define quality of lifenot by being entertained, but by being involved. At Fab Lab ICC, I can be involved and make a difference in my community.”

Randy smiling and kneeling by the stencil crosswalk artwork he created.

Randy and his artwork

Randy is a man who receives support services through CLASS LTD in Independence, Kansas. He spends some of his time in the GOALS (Giving Opportunities to Adults for Learning and Success) Program at Independence Community College (ICC). GOALS is a program where people take mini courses in a college environment. The courses are aligned with their interests.

One class Randy enrolled in was the Road and Pedestrian Safety class. In this class, Randy was introduced to the Fab Lab and the capabilities of a three-dimensional printer. During a lesson on the importance of using crosswalks, Randy and his peers wanted to beautify their town by creating a crosswalk for the local park and zoo. For a project in class, he and his classmates decided to design and install one. This was a large project, but they were ready to do it!

They first needed permission from the Park Board. Randy and another student got permission from Board and City Council members for a spot on their agenda. As members of the city, they presented their project. Randy showed pictures of various crosswalks. His classmate spoke enthusiastically about their idea. Their teacher also attended for support, but only spoke if necessary. After their presentation, the Park and Zoo Board unanimously approved their idea.

Second, the students needed approval from the City Commission. They also needed to make sure that their plans were in compliance with the city code. Randy, his classmate, and his teacher did a similar presentation for the City Commission. Again, they received a unanimous vote to proceed with their idea. Their plans were approved with appropriate measurement and legal placement for the crosswalk.

With their plan approved, the students needed to make a stencil. Since Independence is a small tennis town, Randy and his classmates wanted to use a tennis racket theme in the art they painted in the crosswalk. They would use the stencil to paint the crosswalk on the pavement. The Fab Lab’s three-dimensional printer that was located at the college was an excellent place to start. Together Randy and his teacher went to the Fab Lab. They asked advice to create and construct the metal stencil. His teacher thought the tennis rackets should be slanted with a net, but Randy tapped her on the shoulder. He shook his head “No” and made a large “X” with his arms. Instead, he communicated his own design. He added a ball at the top and a ribbon below the rackets. He got some help from Tim Haynes, the Fab Lab instructor. Tim provided some support. But ultimately, Randy created the crosswalk stencil from start to finish.

Randy has difficulty with speech. He does not use verbal communication with many people. He sometimes shrinks from challenges that are out of his “comfort zone.” But, all this changes in the Fab Lab. In this place, Randy carries on conversations with Tim. He more confidently uses speech and gestures. Knowing Randy’s insecurities with speech, it is amazing to witness how he comes out of “his cocoon” when he works at the Fab Lab with Tim.

Before this experience in the Fab Lab, Randy never worked on a computer. In fact, he showed no desire to use technology. In the Fab Lab, Randy is treated with respect and as an adult with creative ideas. His confidence level soars when he enters the Fab Lab. After his successes in the Fab Lab, Randy not only uses a computer, he now enjoys challenges and learning new things. Randy is now working on designing a mailbox in the shape of a race car. He learned the travel route from his Day Service Program to the Fab Lab. He also is learning his way around the Fab Lab. He can give directions to rooms, computers, and printers throughout the building.

Randy needed someone to believe in him and his dreams. He needed someone to give him an opportunity to make his dream a reality. He did not need someone to say, “Great idea. Some day.” He also did not need someone to take up his dream for him and say, “Randy did it.” Direct support professionals give options to people for accomplishing a task beyond apparent limitations. They can use step-by-step motivators to progress toward the dream. They can provide tools for a person so they have a chance to succeed. They can help a person find new opportunities in the community. A DSP can encourage someone, like Randy, to use gifts they’ve never used. And, when a person achieves a dream, a DSP can celebrate their success with them and continue to encourage the person in using their new skills.

Randy says, “The Fab Lab is cool.” There, he creates in ways beyond the barriers he has with language. His disability is not a barrier in the Fab Lab. When Randy completes a project, he thinks about what he’s done. He says, “That’s not bad.” But the smile on his face tells so much more.