FabLab Experience: The first mobile digital laboratory in Czechia is on its way to schools
A specially adapted trailer equipped with a laser cutter, 3D printers, a robotic arm, and other equipment that for many seems futuristic has visited its first school in Brno. The FabLab Experience was presented at the Matyáš Lerch Gymnasium by its developers and partners. It is supported financially by the South Moravian Region, the City of Brno, and many corporate sponsors. The visionaries at the JIC who came up with the idea are going to take the digital lab to visit mostly elementary and high schools around South Moravia. They are also going to demonstrate the creativity of South Moravians abroad. In terms of dimensions and equipment, the lab is quite unique. The FabLab Experience is the largest in the world.
The first open digital workshop (FabLab Brno) has been operating for almost two years in the JIC building in Brno. During that time, it was visited by thirty schools, mostly from the city itself. The interest in tours and workshops was immense and the people at FabLab decided to create a variant on wheels. The FabLab Experience was born, and it will visit students right in their schools. “A total of 64 schools applied for the pilot half-year, which is twice our capacity. So our schedule is full until the end of June. We are going to visit schools across the region. For instance, in Hodonín, Znojmo, and Mikulov. We also plan to take part in festivals and fairs, like Open House Brno, Maker Fair Vienna, Austria, and Future Port Prague,”says FabLab Manager Tomáš Mejzlík of the JIC.
The digital lab can be invited by any elementary school in Brno and any high school in South Moravia using a registration form that is sent twice a year to school directors by the lab’s founders. The website www.fablabexperience.cz provides detailed information about the project. JIC instructors will look after the students and teachers intensively for three days. The classes will be able to try working with the devices in smaller groups. “In the morning, they will take a tour of the truck and get acquainted with digital production. After lunch, they will go through training and learn how to handle the devices. After that, they can make something and eventually take it home as a souvenir,” notes FabLab Experience Manager Daniel Šín of the JIC.
The truck with its trailer covers about 44 m2, with space for two lecturers and 10 state-of-the-art devices:
- laser cutter
- 3D printers
- robotic arm
- CNC mill
- cutting plotter
- electron microscope
- electrical and mechanical workshop
Other than registration, the special truck’s visit to schools does not require administration and the service is free of charge. The mobile FabLab cost eight million crowns to build. Partners provided equipment worth two and a half million crowns. A major part was played by contributions from the South Moravian Region. “South Moravia is a region that is strong in engineering, IT, and technical areas. We have many smart and inventive people with their own ideas who do not always have the necessary conditions to implement the ideas. The FabLab, which is in its second year of operation, connects these fields, concentrates them in a single location, and makes them available to the public. The South Moravian Region, as the founder of the vast majority of high schools, is systematically seeking to kindle interest among young people in technical fields in high demand. The mobile FabLab thus represents our next logical step. The mobile lab should inspire and motivate students at schools within and outside Brno by letting them check out the latest technologies,” stated Bohumil Šimek, the Governor of the South Moravian Region.
The City of Brno has also contributed towards the lab’s operations. “Brno is a center of science and research, and so it is naturally necessary to support young people’s interest in technical and scientific fields. Thanks to the mobile lab, FabLab devices will reach even more students and allow them to try working with devices they would not easily get access to in everyday life. I believe that they will be thrilled by modern technologies and that this experience will lead to the realization of their own ideas,” said Markéta Vaňková, the Mayor of Brno. The digital lab on wheels was financially supported by the Brno University of Technology, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Honeywell, and AT&T. Other supporters include Portiva, Vodafone, Trilab, Prusa Research, Aubo and Schunk.
FabLab (Fabrication Laboratory)
FabLab is short for “Fabrication Laboratory.” It indicates a place equipped with computer-controlled machines capable of producing a wide range of products. FabLab Brno is part of a global movement whose members – known as makers – are defined by not being satisfied with the ready-made solutions of off-the-shelf products. Instead, they develop and manufacture their own. They then share procedures for improving the products with one another. The movement includes over 1,500 certified labs in more than 100 countries. To be designated a FabLab, a lab must meet three requirements:
- have the minimum equipment (3D printers, a laser cutter, a CNC mill, a drill, a grinder, and other power tools);
- share know-how related to the manufacturing procedures for products created in the FabLab with the worldwide community; and
- be open to the public.
Ivana Malá, JIC spokesperson, phone: 737 549 742, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org