The Mlab story 

M stands for Meškėnas which in Lithuanian language means raccoon. Raccoons are not very spread or populated animals in our country though they are counted and treated as invasive species. Hunting season for raccoons is all year long so we have to watch out ;)

With our M-Lab project we make a small invasions into schools and their environment. M-Lab is a mini pop-up/mobile fab-lab. We have a basic set of digital fabrication tools and equipment like desktop laser cutter, CNC, 3D printer, plotter and electronics lab that we’re able to transport and bring into different and remote schools, setting up a temporary mini fab lab in their class spaces. M-Lab stays up to two weeks in one school teaching and prototyping with students and teachers. We mainly use opensource software though also install and connect via google drive all different students for their projects and design files. Usually first week of our visit is dedicated to give an introduction to students and teachers where they learn how to design and use our equipment by making our offered introduction classes and workshops and the second week is dedicated to individual projects and prototypes which are made by different teams or single students/teachers.

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At the end of our visit we help to organize a smaller but less effort demanding event – School Maker Faire where all projects built in our lab and other projects are presented. School Maker Faire serves also as a good motivation for students to finish their projects in time. Also we’re inviting adult makers other schools and teachers to show and tell about things they are making.

M-Lab Travels

M-Lab project is happening for more than a year and our crew has visited around 20 schools and various events, even Burning Man festival itself. Last year we had The Renaissance of Musical instruments as one of the Guilds workshops projects there. People were making various DIY instruments from trash even flutes from carrots etc. at the end we even performed live at local radio station with our instruments – that was really fun!

As M-Lab aims to travel to remote places and schools we’re looking on 7 more visits and School Maker Faires that we’ll popping up in different regions/smaller towns of Lithuania during this year. There is a nice synergy with Schools who had their smaller Maker Faires and now they are coming and helping to co-create a bigger one in Vilnius where all different makers, schools and other people or companies meet.
Reuse, rethink, recycle, repair

In addition to digital fabrication we explore other topics related to hands on learning.

Being raccoons we have a nice “image” obligation to present the sustainability, recycling, repairing or re-using possibilities to teachers and students which can be later applied for teachers hands on education, daily project based learning and STEAM.

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We have an agreement with local recycling company which is collecting scrap/used electronics according to our prepared list. We use the electronic devices in our workshops with students. They take apart the devices and learn how to use basic tools.  Also for the students who aren’t familiar with soldering we start their introduction by de-soldering components from boards.

Students can build various things by using motors from CD/DVD’s, printers and other devices also old Video and audio cassette players –you can guess what students say when they see these “strange” devices before taking them apart?

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Stepper motors can be connected to microcontrollers and more simple motors can be used to build vibrobots also kinetic sculptures. Movement of Vibrobot by creating the vibration is quite simple way to explain the law of physics i.e. when it is centered or actually de-centered. And this is what students learn along the way – we like to keep as a little surprise or food for thought for them – if they still don’t know that yet.

During our vibrobot workshops every student or teams build their unique design and for that lots of things and materials can be used – same parts or leftovers from the electronics devices (like mechanical parts, plastic etc.) also students can use laser cutter, plotter or 3D printer if they have a particular design idea. There is also a lot of improvisation and in our experience – we haven’t seen same looking vibrobot yet.

At the end of our workshops i.e. during School Maker Faire kids are bringing all the vibrobots together, turning them on and have vibrobot spree or a party.

The way we see it – we teach teachers how to use recycled materials in education and encourage them to partner with local recycling companies and re-use and recycle electronics and other equipment for educational hands on activities and process.

what were the students reactions? 

Students totally loved it. They like taking things apart and learning how to make their own funny toy from scrap materials is one of the best and unexpected things for them – as one father said: “I hope that my kid won’t take apart all electronics at home after this” There is no bot fight it is a party- a virbobot spree. We see it as a gender sensitive approach.

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The Big Vibe

Being crazy as we already are – we also plan to do something even more fun. We’re inviting to co-create a vibrobot spree during 2nd Vilnius Mini Maker Faire. These vibrobots will be made from laundry machines. So they will be big and dangerous – we’ll need to set-up the perimeter fence, distribute safety glasses for spectators, be ready with other safety precautions but also it should a very enormous portion of FUN and a great view as well. We’re already inviting schools, makerspaces, hackerspaces to pimp their vibe  and bring it to Vilnius Mini Maker Faire and it seems that with small vibrobots vibe and small school maker faires we’ll be co-making a big vibe during this event.

where can people find more information?

we have our web page: meskenai.lt but mostly share things on Facebook .