The FabAcademy in 2013
In 2011 - 2012 I was an exchange student in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Soon after I started my classes in the local FabLab, I gained the trust of the LabManager and in december 2012 I got a message from him. Telling me that if I wanted, I could enroll into the FabAcademy 2013. As back then I already felt that FabLabs would become my thing, I packed my bags and moved back to Iceland.
I arrived back in Iceland, one week after the academy started (I still had finals in Belgium) and could only start classes in after the second week as I fell ill upon arival. I remember that even the first weeks were hard. I had learned to work with programs like Inkscape, but I had forgotten a lot about them in the few months in Belgium.
The worst was yet to come as I had never ever in my life worked with electronics, pcb's or anything similar. You can understand that the level was to high for me at that time, as I also tried to push myself to not just keep it simple. The description of this course tells you to have some basic knowledge already, I learned the hard way why they tell you that.
But, as I learned later in my life, failing is not an option and you just found a way how it doesn't work.
My final project got into the first prototyping phase. It worked, kinda, but not with the right electronics. Sadly time was up, and it was time to pack my bags and move back to Belgium again.
If there is one thing that I learned during my time at the FabAcademy it was that you are never alone. During my time in Iceland, I met the people from FabLab Leuven. After a first intro to their lab that summer, I'd be their fixed summer jobstudent. From 2013 until 2017, every summer I'd move half across the country so that they could go to the FabConference, take their holidays and help out during the FabLab camp for children.
But it din't end there. I figured out pretty fast that there was no FabLab near my house. The closest being Lille in France or Ghent, both more than an hour away. Luck struck and I found some people with the same idea in the city of Bruges. As the other had the idea, but I had the experience of running a FabLab, I helped them starting the lab. We got our first machines and I pushed the to move out of their first location: a house that we squatted. Well not completely, we had permission to be there until they stared demolishing it, but there was no water or electricity.
We moved from the old house to a school and from the school to the youth department of the city. Today we're +30 regular volunteers strong and trying to reach out to the younger (my) generation.
Again, it didn't stop there. while being involved in the other two labs, I started my higher education in Kortrijk. First a year of IT, then Design school. The design-school basically was a giant FabLab. Halfway my second year we got to the point where teachers would come to me for information and even today I still get mails to help them out with some machines.
Failure is the first step towards succes.
I graduated from design school and deceided to move to Paraguay for 6 months. I wanted to know how STEM-education was being thought in other countries. For 6 months I ended up at the Benjamin Franklin Science Corner. Backed by the American Embassy and Sociedad Scientifica de Paraguay I was able to teach science to kids from both private schools as well as the slums of Acuncion.
It's in that time that I met Abdon. And we made a pact, we'd both enroll into the FabAcademy. Me, so that I could finally finish it. He because he's a genius that simply deserves it to be here. We both went our way again as I moved back to Belgium and we kept word. We're both enrolled in the FabAcademy 2019.
Ofcourse, to attend the FabAcademy, you need to have a FabLab. During my internship I was lucky to meet Cristina Ciocci. And she happends to have her own FabLab. The place where I did my internship and I am working now. There are always new things that need to be delevoped in and for a FabLab. So I sat together with Cristina and she gave me some ideas for the lab that can fit into the Academy.
A part of the Academy has already been finished, the easy assignments, as I call them. Since 2013, my competences have changed a lot, so some of the old projects will be completed with some new projects. But most importantly, I'll finish my electronics projects.
For this I'm getting the help of Cristina but also from the ULB FabLab in Brussels which will supervise the projects.
The Biggest question maybe is why do I want to finish the Academy after 5 years and having a degree in Industrial Product Design? It just feels right to finish it. Even though it's still quite useless in Europe. There are no companies, except FabLabs that know about this course, and there is no credibility to it for those companies. But then again, I'm working in a FabLab at the moment. And I hate unfinished business. So those two reasons are good enough for me to start finishing this chapter.
Let us also be clear on one thing: I never saw the FabAcademy 2013 as a failure, as it would never have brought me where I am today without it.