Daniel Zalik Academy Opens Fab Lab to Community

Daniel Zalik Academy Opens Fab Lab to Community

The lab at The Weber School opened for two weeks this summer to allow community members to experience a variety of courses and resources.

Daniel Zalik Academy staff this summer: (from left) Andrew Mulia, Aviv Newman, Alex McIntyre, Madi Anderson, Chris Chapman, Cathey Chapman
Daniel Zalik Academy staff this summer: (from left) Andrew Mulia, Aviv Newman, Alex McIntyre, Madi Anderson, Chris Chapman, Cathey Chapman

For two weeks this summer, The Daniel Zalik Academy of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Design at The Weber School opened its doors to the larger Atlanta community and invited visitors to take part in a myriad of courses developed to inspire, engage, and develop would-be scientists, creators, and designers.

The Fab Lab, as the space is known to students and faculty at The Weber School, became a place where participants could discover new skills or work on existing projects in the areas of science, technology, and design.

Under the direction of DZA teachers and student lab assistants, participants immersed themselves in a variety of courses, including introductory classes for laser cutting, vinyl cutting and 3D printing. In addition, visitors were able to work on new or existing projects and schedule one-on-one time with lab instructors and student assistants for guidance on app development, robotics, product design and development and applied engineering. And at the end of each day, visitors left with the tangible results of their efforts, which included earrings, engraved mugs, 3-D statues, 3-D brain teaser puzzles and laser-cut coffee cups.

Jake Malever, an incoming freshman at Weber, displays his laser-engraved cup and 3-D Spiderman with his father, Jerred Malever.

Jake Malever, an incoming freshman from Alpharetta, was excited to take part in all the activities offered by DZA this summer. “I am hoping to take courses at DZA during the school year,” he said. Malever and his father, Jerred Malever, had attended two consecutive days and created a 3-D Spiderman statue and a laser-engraved cup.

“We wanted to create an event where people could learn, create, and collaborate in the atmosphere of an open lab. Our goal was to welcome all levels of learners and encourage people to get their feet wet with this type of experience,” said Madi Anderson, the director of educational operations and community partnerships for DZA.

Chris Chapman, director of technology and design, readies the equipment for laser engraving.

The summer program came together very quickly in just one month, with all the instructors pulling together to make the experience a memorable one for all who participated. Led by Anderson, the other DZA instructors included Chris Chapman, director of technology and design; Alex McIntyre, assistant lab manager; Cathey Chapman, assistant lab manager; and lab assistants, Aviv Newman, who graduated with a DZA diploma in 2023 and is headed to University of Georgia to major in computer science; Andrew Mulia, a recent Georgia Tech graduate; and Marie Chapman.

Anderson, who had been an instructor at The Weber School lab when DZA began, worked two years in the aerospace industry before coming back to lead DZA this year. One of her goals is to make the community better understand what DZA and the Fab Lab does and how the courses are applicable to their lives.

“Human-centered design principles impact everyone. By opening our space, people can think about what they would like to create, and we can help them understand the technology to make it happen. We want our participants to feel comfortable and excited about the space and all it offers,” Anderson added.

The Fab Lab at the DZA inspires thought and creativity and is set up for students to pursue their interests in design, technology, science and engineering.

The Daniel Zalik Academy opened five years ago, due to a generous donation by the Zalik Family Foundation. Since its inception, the center has served as a hub of creativity and collaboration, providing specialized programming and a platform for student leadership in a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-inspired and fully outfitted Fab Lab. The space is filled with state-of-the-art equipment and new machinery typically found only in universities and corporate labs.

According to Head of School Rabbi Ed Harwitz, “The ‘secret sauce’ at the root of the DZA is the dynamic leadership, professional expertise and student-centered instruction provided by its mission-driven faculty and staff.” Rabbi Harwitz foresees Weber students and alumni emerging as the next generation of scientists, technology experts and design specialists committed to the Jewish values of tzedakah (righteous action) and guided by Jewish social consciousness.

Madi Anderson, the new director of educational operations and community leadership at DZA, shows a student-designed, laser-engraved cup.

During the school year, the school reports that 80 percent of enrolled students will experience DZA either through a designated class in the lab or via an interdisciplinary course. In addition, 25 percent of Weber students will receive a prestigious DZA diploma upon graduation, which is earned by taking two classes in the program as well as the Capstone class.

One of the popular interdisciplinary offerings at Weber is “Torah, Toolkits and Power Tools,” a class that incorporates Jewish studies with activities that take place in the DZA, led by Linda Parmet, Dean of Hebrew, Hebrew and DZA teacher. The students in the class produce unique pieces of art inspired by Torah and Judaic texts they study. For example, beautiful challah cutting boards that reflect personally meaningful words were created by students in the class last year.

Each student who participated designed their own board and cut, sized, and worked with their wood using a miter saw, jointer, table saw, and planer in order to create strips of squared, smooth wood that were ready to be glued together. Following this step, the wood boards were cleaned, sanded, oiled, and varnished. Each student selected a word that represented what was meaningful to them based on what they had learned and used the laser cutter to etch the word on the board.

“Part of our job is to help the teens realize that STEM is not just sitting in a dark room coding or in a lab with beakers. We want to make what we are doing relatable to their lives and everyday interests,” said Chris Chapman.

Cathey Chapman, assistant lab manager and instructor, wears the laser-cut earrings she designed.

Rabbi Harwitz pointed to Anderson, the DZA instructors and the student lab mentors for bringing the distinct, creative program and culture beyond the walls of The Weber School and into the larger community this summer.

Harwitz indicated plans to offer participation opportunities to the broader community in the future at the high school. The Weber School will introduce many new centers of excellence in 2023 and beyond, including a performance center and athletic complex.

“The DZA Open Lab is the latest in a series of initiatives to advance Weber’s broad mission as a 21st century Jewish community high school, where our distinguished faculty and staff, guiding highly committed and talented students, share ‘Only at Weber’ experiences with teenagers and families across Jewish Atlanta and throughout our broader community,” emphasized Harwitz.

For additional information about The Daniel Zalik Academy, please visit www.weberschool.org/academics/the-daniel-zalik-academy.

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