The Fab Labs, from English Manufacturing Laboratory, are workshops equipped with computer-controlled machine tools that can quickly and on demand produce goods of a variety of types (clothing, books, decorative objects, etc.), described Wikipedia. This concept was created in the late 1990s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The creator, Neil Gershenfeld, wanted to explore how the content of information relates to its physical representation, and how a community can be more creative and productive if it has access to technology. For example, its use in some third world countries (in Ghana, in Kenya, in India and in Afghanistan, for example) has enabled a few villages to generate themselves products that cannot be found or at a price they cannot afford. In addition, MIT provides the plans different machines (under free license) that can be built with modest means.
Fab Labs, like hackerspaces, are physical places, but they have specialized equipment that remains in place. For the rest, they also allow learning, sharing and making.
Fab Labs and schools aren't that far apart. The former allow you to make something yourself, while benefiting from the support of people who can guide this realization. The second aims to develop skills and acquire knowledge, while benefiting from the support of a guide called a teacher.
For the moment, the Fabs Labs are relatively few in the world because of the technological complexity related to their setting up, but the fact remains that their philosophy can have echoes in our schools. “In my opinion, a real Fab Lab would do wonders for some dropouts. Many of them are young people who do not want to know, but to do, ”believes André Cotte, advisor on free software for education at Société GRICS. He adds: “A lot of struggling students can do amazing things if they are left free. "
Marymount School, a high school for girls located in New York, inaugurated its own Fab Lab at the start of this school year. In one report of a visit of the installations on the blog of the association Smart Interaction Lab, one can read the observations of the author. He notes among other things that “the art of doing” is back in the curriculum thanks to the Fab Lab. He recalls that classes that involved making objects have completely disappeared from high school programs. These courses were marginalized and had a reputation for bringing together students who could not sit still in a classroom, doomed to a future limited to manual or industrial careers. Yet seeing young people in action in the Fab Lab, the author suggests that learning how to prototype a product teaches them skills in design, engineering, computer graphics, manufacturing systems, research and even entrepreneurship. . For him, this creates an opening and allows to understand the world in a new way.
In Canada, Father Patrick Mercredi School in Fort McMurray, Alberta, has an engineering laboratory providing students with several individual workstations for robotics, CNC milling, structural engineering, applied thermal sciences, electricity and applied electrical controls. These classrooms allow students to apply their knowledge and gain greater understanding through the design, realization and testing of their own ideas. They are used in the context of courses integrated into the curriculum. As we can read in the booklet presenting the 2012 Ken Spencer Award finalists, of which this project is a part, "The goal of junior high and senior high school programs is to provide a classroom environment that motivates, inspires and engages students by providing them with similar to the real world. By engaging students in multiple opportunities to learn science and technology, they are better prepared to make life and career choices around post-secondary education, exploring employment opportunities, and adopting. future directions in the community. »A project very much in the Fab Lab spirit, at the school level!
On the French side, there are some initiatives, such as the Fab Lab of Cergy-Pontoise University which has been open to the public since February 24. Some projects to set up Fab Labs in Quebec are underway and we can follow their news here.