$1M Grant Helps CITC Expand Super Fab Lab for STEAM Education
A rendering of the entry and galley of CITC’s Super Fab Lab.
A million-dollar gift helps Cook Inlet Tribal Council (CITC) expand its fabrication laboratory into a Super Fab Lab, supporting STEAM education for youth and prototyping for adult entrepreneurs.
Four Times the Size
The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust awarded $1 million as part of a $10.5 million project to build a new youth services building at CITC. Other funders include the Rasmuson Foundation, First National Bank Alaska, Northrim Bank, Wells Fargo, Enterprise, and more.
CITC already has a Fab Lab at its Anchorage headquarters off Bragaw Street. The tribal nonprofit acquired the former BurgerFi/Body Renew Alaska building near Muldoon Road, which is being remodeled to house all of CITC’s youth services, including a Super Fab Lab four times the size of the current one, which will move into the new space sometime this spring.
The Fab Lab is equipped with 3D printers, industrial sewing machines, vinyl cutters, laser engravers, electronics workbenches, and design computers to facilitate STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, art, and math). Users are encouraged to play, learn, create, and invent by developing new solutions to practical problems and transforming ideas into reality.
“Our Super Fab Lab combines cutting-edge educational tools with traditional Alaska Native cultural values, strengths, and knowledge,” says LeeAnn Cooper Garrick, chief operating officer at CITC. “Here, students will merge modern tools with traditional concepts and understanding as they experiment with architecture, construction, programming, design, and fabrication.”
The new, larger lab also allows CITC to serve entrepreneurs, makers, and fabricators in Anchorage of all ages for the first time.
“This is a huge area of growth for the Fab Lab,” Garrick says. “Folks will be able to come and schedule a time to create a model or concept here, test it, and use it to secure investment in business ideas. CITC is excited to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year with the opening of this amazing new facility in our community.”
CITC’s approach to STEAM combines cutting-edge tools and materials with traditional knowledge, measurements, and techniques. Projects have included handles for Yup’ik dance fans and a variety of traditional Alaska Native masks.
Strengthening the Cultural Base
CITC’s Fab Lab hosted its Indigenous Set Up Shop entrepreneur training in 2022.
The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust funds projects in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Montana that strengthen what it calls the “educational, spiritual, and cultural base” of the Pacific Northwest region. Over the last ten years, the trust has contributed more than $40 million to nonprofits in Alaska through approximately 200 grants. The trust is the legacy of electronics pioneer Melvin Jack Murdock, who vanished in 1971 after crashing his plane into the Columbia River.
“STEAM education is a crucial piece of learning for America’s youth, and we are grateful to organizations like CITC that are finding ways to increase access to it,” says Dana Miller, the trust’s senior program director for grants programs. “By more than tripling Cook Inlet Tribal Council’s Fab Lab size, both urban and rural youth will have access to modern and traditional approaches to fabrication and creation. This project will grow their impact and build their capacity for the long term, and we are excited to see it come to life.”
CITC has multiple partners across Alaska that currently host eighteen Innovation Stations, which include mini-Fab Labs delivered to remote communities for teachers or other youth leaders to provide a STEAM-based curriculum in their schools and facilities.
The new Super Fab Lab in Anchorage will serve as a hub for the statewide Fab Lab network, which is already expected to grow by two more Innovation Stations in 2023.
The existing Fab Lab near CITC headquarters will become office space, for the foreseeable future.
Architecture & Engineering Special Section + Small Business
In the February 2024 issue of Alaska Business, we engineered a special section that inspects the many ways architecture and engineering enrich our lives, from creating beautiful and functional spaces to crafting functional and safe transportation corridors. In addition to the built world in which we live, this issue celebrates small businesses and the many functions they provide, whether they're developing tools in the healthcare industry or opening new dining locations.