Fablab Onaki opens up a world of possibilities for indigenous youth

Thanks to the FabLab Onaki, set up by the First Peoples Innovation Center (CIPP) in 2018, young Indigenous people who have dropped out of the school system can learn about technologies and discover new horizons. At the same time, they gain confidence in themselves and in their learning potential.

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Thanks to the FabLab Onaki, set up by the First Peoples Innovation Center (CIPP) in 2018, young Indigenous people who have dropped out of the school system can learn about technologies and discover new horizons. At the same time, they gain confidence in themselves and in their learning potential.

Céline Auclair, Executive Director of CIPP, is not a little proud when she talks about the FabLab Onaki, the first indigenous FabLab to be launched in Canada. Since the creation of the digital manufacturing laboratory, the cohorts of young people have succeeded one another and the successes are there. “It's just amazing what these kids can accomplish. They progress in small steps, according to their interest, but at the end of the training, they have taken a giant step. They are proud of themselves and more positive about the future, ”she says. And that's not to mention the digital skills they develop.

A fablab (digital manufacturing laboratory) is a place of play, creation, learning, invention, innovation and mentoring.

Concretely, the FabLab Onaki, located in Gatineau, welcomes cohorts of young people for 5-month training courses. A second creation space, named FabLab Wawacte (for Milky Way), also opened its doors this fall in La Tuque thanks to a collaboration with the Council of the Atikamekw Nation (CNA), the heads of the Atikamekw communities as well as certain economic partners. .

In the spirit of a FabLab, it is the approach that counts above all, it is allowed to make mistakes and start over. Experimentation and cooperation between learners are valued. Using the various technological equipment available to the laboratory, they can create prototypes, then objects from computers, laser cutters, 3D printers, etc. The traditions of craftsmanship and indigenous knowledge can also find new expressions with technology.

“The young people who go through our training courses definitely increase their level of employability. Some also choose to continue their education. The simple fact that they quickly find themselves in action in the laboratory, that they carry out concrete projects, gives them self-confidence, ”remarks the director.

For the moment, the “graduates” of the laboratory are awarded digital badges which recognize the skills they have developed. Ms. Auclair would like one day to have a more formal form of recognition of prior learning attributed to them.

A mobile version and a completely feminine one

In order to reach more young people, the CIPP has developed different versions of the FabLab Onaki, such as the mobile FabLab which travels to the indigenous communities of the province for intensive six-week sessions. “It can sometimes be difficult for young people to leave their living environment. By going to their community, we allow them to access new possibilities, ”says Ms. Auclair. Demand is growing.

An exclusively female cohort is also being recruited and should begin in January 2022. “Technology also needs to be democratized among women. We have noticed that they have difficulty taking their place in certain contexts and we also want to give them the opportunity to exploit their full potential. This new cohort will focus on entrepreneurship to encourage women to market their artistic creations. In this sense, the program will also develop skills such as website creation, marketing and business modeling.

An approach that attracts honors

To say the least, the FabLab Onaki is eye-catching. Similar fablabs will serve Indigenous youth in Ontario and New Brunswick in 2022, thanks to the support of the CIPP team. 

In 2020, the initiative received an honorable mention in the Strengthening Communities category of the Social Impact Award. More recently, last October, she received the Grand Prix du jury du Youth Digital Literacy Recognition Award*. 

In addition :
The FabLab Onaki, a workshop where technology and indigenous culture meet
- Native people make their lucky stars

* It is in the context of obtaining this recognition that the FabLab Onaki won an article in the École branchée, since our media was a partner of the prize.

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About the Author

Martine Rioux
After studying public communication, Martine worked as a journalist for various publications, before pursuing her career as an interactive communications consultant at La Capitale, a financial group, then at Québec Numérique, an organization she took over as general manager before making the jump. as political advisor in the office of the Minister for Digital Government Transformation. Today she is the online Editor-in-Chief and Special Projects Manager at l'École branchée. Her dream: that everyone has access to technology and can use it as a tool for learning and opening up to the world.

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