Lisa Shaffren runs “The Creative Engineering Fabrication Lab (CrEF Lab) at Crefeld is the school’s makerspace, and one aspect of a robust maker-ed and experiential-learning-based program. CrEF Lab is a culture-first makerspace, committed to expression of all voices and engagement of all students, and especially those of young women and young people of color whose perspectives are often underrepresented in STEM fields and maker spaces.”

Lisa answers questions about the lab and chats with us this week over on the podcast!

Lisa Shaffren works with a student at The Crefeld School's CrEF Lab

What do you make?

I am the Program Developer and Lead Teacher of The Crefeld School’s makerspace, CrEF Lab, which stands for Creative Engineering Fabrication Lab. I designed & created the lab in collaboration with the school’s admin team. Designing and creating the program itself is a constant creative project, and I am constantly learning, researching, and iterating.

Who do you make it for?

The design of the program and the makerspace is to serve students, but I also become inspired by and addicted to both the work of designing the program, and the individual program components. Some of the software for video game design, 3D CAD, or animation is incredibly absorbing. I love to solder and do microcontroller builds, but lately, I have been especially absorbed in playing with DAWs, especially Ableton Live and the visual programming language Max8 within Ableton. My excitement gets transferred to the students and makes me a better teacher. We are a culture-first makerspace, and we work hard to explicitly invite students who identify as members of groups underreprested in STEM- so, students who identify as female, non-binary or transgender and students who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color. We work with the organization Beats by Girlz to invite more young women into digital music, which can also begin a path toward other kinds of technology and computer science. We are lucky enough to have some PUSH2s, by Ableton, as well as some Novation MIDI controllers, and students have been very excited to play with them, and with DAWs in general. 

A student at The Crefeld School working in the CrEF Lab. He is at a table and has each hand on a different laptop in front of him.

When did you start making?

I have always kept notebooks and lists of ideas, especially ideas that are intersections between genres, and been creative in an intense way that is different from most people I know. I only moved into my role as CrEF Lab Program Developer a few years ago, and since then, have been developing the program.

I started in biology because I wanted to be a vet, but it turned out that it never really spoke to me. I found computer science & creative software later. I wish I had found it sooner. It wasn’t something I had much exposure to as a young person, which is one of the reasons I am excited to make it available and accessible to students.

A student uses a sewing machine at The Crefeld Schools' Sewing Studio. She has curly hair, a blue shirt and is is holding a partially sewn pink item.
A student uses a sewing machine at The Crefeld Schools’ Sewing Studio.

What makers inspire you?

Our program is very much student-driven, and my students are a constant source of inspiration to me. I take many of my cues from them about what directions to expand the program, and that gets mixed with my own influx of research, ideas, and inspirations. For example, last year as we were forced into more digital and virtual spaces, our program grew especially in the areas of digital animation, video game design, and 3D CAD using the software Blender, because many of our students had strong interests in those areas. The school’s philosophy and approach really support that flexibility. 

The Crefeld School also has a smart, talented staff, and the arts department has some gifted artists, so I pull a lot of energy and excitement from my interactions with other staff; it’s the kind of creative environment where a casual conversation about something unrelated can spark an idea for a project or new piece of curriculum. Because everyone is working toward the same mission, the different perspectives and skills of different staff members is this constant fuel for creativity. It’s an inspiring way to work. 

I have also done a large part of my learning and training with Drexel University’s ExCITe Center, where I was teacher in residence for two consecutive summers. 

ExCITe stands for Expressive and Creative Interaction Technologies, and within the center are the MET Lab- Music Entertainment Technology, and EGS- Entrepreneurial Game Studio. Each of those labs has had a big influence on Crefeld’s maker program, which includes a game design program originally developed in collaboration with EGS and expanded from there. In addition to our usual game design electives, we are currently working with former EGS Program Manager Corey Arnold, and Shawn Pierre of Philly Game Mechanics, to offer 8-bit video game design courses for middle school and high school age groups. We’d like to help expand access to high-quality STEAM and CS programming to students outside of our school community, and this is a step in that direction. 

We also have a just-forming digital music program that evolved out of my excitement for the learning I did with MET lab, where I spent most of my time during my summer at the ExCITe center. The program is also infused with music in many ways; we have a little moog synth that was recommended to me by MET lab staff Jeff Gregorio, who also does incredible work with intersections of music & technology, I used ExCITe materials to create a project-based curriculum unit about the physics of sound for STEAM integration, and many of our microcontroller projects and even some of our soldering and electronics projects are connected to music in some way. My go-to microcontroller is the teensy, which has MIDI capability and capacitive touch sensing built in. I had an advanced student use an Adafruit kit to build a little synthesizer in an altoids-can. 

A student from The Crefeld School's CrEF Lab holding up his project. He is wearing a face mask and a hoodie.

Lisa Shaffren on the Podcast

Go listen to more about Lisa, the CrEF and more about the cool projects and technology they’re working with over at the podcast!—The-Crefeld-School-e16i8tu

Lisa Shaffren of CrEF Lab

CrEF Lab Teacher

The Crefeld Schoool


Creative Engineering Fabrication Lab

Crefeld Glass Studio



At the Philly Maker Faire