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In this, the final in our series of “Letters,” Shawn Wallace, member of AS220, the Providence, RI community arts and technology space, shares his experiences with the Fab Academy, a distributed learning collaborative, built on the infrastructure of the Fab Lab network. (Links to all of Shawn’s inspiring “Letters” are available at the end of this article). — Gareth

Final Projects from the Fab Academy

By Shawn Wallace

It was pretty amazing to be part of the first year of this experiment. Technologies and processes that seemed daunting at the outset now feel very familiar. Students are still engaged in independent research and rapid prototyping even as the year winds down. It will be interesting to see how the Fab Academy evolves as more people become involved.

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The Providence Fab Academy. Photo by Elliot Clapp.

Each two-week session was project-oriented, usually with a minimal set of “Hello World” examples to implement. Many students went far beyond the minimal requirements, as you can see by browsing some of the projects documented here and here. In the first few weeks, each student was asked to envision a final project that would synthesize all of the tools and techniques we would be learning. We revisited the project proposals in the second half, then in the final weeks, performed triage to get the proposal to something that could actually be built, debugged, and presented before June 2nd. People are still wrapping up projects and documentation in preparation for graduation in August.

What follows is a collection of some of the excellent final projects. Several other projects were completed but underdocumented at the time of this writing; my apologies to anyone who is left out!

Final projects from Barcelona

The Barcelona Fab Lab is part of the Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, who hosted most of the technical and administrative infrastructure for the Fab Academy. Here are some of their finished student projects, with links to the student’s documentation sites:

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An Electronic Dobby Loom by Aysheshim Tilahun: a personal CNC weaving machine.

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Open Energy Network by Beno Juarez: a modular set of furniture to generate energy from everyday movements.

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Interactive Wearable Designs by Bereketnesh Girma: Temperature-sensing, color-changing wearable accessories.

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Flower Power by Susanna Tesconi: kits for kids for creating electricity from piezo discs.

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Nighty Lighty by Victor Freundt: an interactive toy that senses ambient light.

Final projects from Iceland

There are two Fab Labs in Iceland. The one that paricipated in the Fab Academy is located in Vestmannaeyjar and run by the Nýsköpunarmiðstöð Íslands Innovation Center.

Luckily, they were upwind of (but fairly close to) the spring eruption of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano. Here are some of the finished projects from Iceland:

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A Musical Orca by Frosti Gíslason A range-sensing wooden orca that sings.

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An Electromechanical Puffin by Gísli Matthías Sigmarsson: a walking, wobbling puffin.

Final projects from Providence

The Providence Fab Lab is located at AS220, a community arts space in Rhode Island, USA. Here are most of the final student projects from Providence:

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Puppet Master by Anna Kaziunas France: A gestural universal remote control interface.

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Chording Keyboard by Elliot Clapp: A chorded input device that can be used for typing or as a general control device.

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An Electromechanical Diorama by Jenine Bressner: Laser-cut fabrics, LEDs, and servo motors create a backdrop for handmade dolls.

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Encoded Building Materials with Computer Numerical Control Assembly by Makeda Stephenson: An assembler for coded materials based on the Mantis CNC mill.

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A Pinball Construction Kit by Shawn Wallace: The electronics system for a pinball machine themed on an unfinished opera by DylanThomas and Stravinsky.

Most of the Fab Academy students will be convening in Amsterdam in a few days at the Fab 6 International Fab Lab gathering. The next Fab Academy semester starts this fall. If you’re interested in participating, contact the
Fab Academy staff via fabacademy.org/.

More:

Gareth Branwyn

Gareth Branwyn is a freelancer writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture, including the first book about the web (Mosaic Quick Tour) and the Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Building Robots. He is currently working on a best-of collection of his writing, called Borg Like Me.


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