2020 Fab Academy Review


I making an attempt to complete Fab Academy 2020 and my decision to roll to the 2021 cycle I have been reflecting.

Virtual Fab Academy

(Eliminating dependence on local lab and instructors) I am on the fence myself about connecting with an external Fab Lab as my local lab for 2021. I have a strong feeling that it is time to develop a Virtual Fab Academy setup that does not require local lab access or instructors. I think that the virtual fab academy setup would allow all fab labs to take Fab Academy without requiring another local lab and instructors. This would require Fab Academy to be simplified and streamlined.

I think I may request that I go it alone next cycle (2021), using only the global instructor support on Saturdays to complete my cycle in 2021. The Global Saturday sessions have been working well for me and if they had existed from the start of Fab Academy, I may have graduated in 2020. I have a strong feeling that putting the $1200 towards a group of paid global instructors and robust Saturday sessions may work quite well. Paid, regional instructor groups may work quite well too. It seems that running Fab Academy via local individual labs hasn’t been working well consistently as Fab Academy has scaled up.

Goodbye GitLab?

Should we be using GitLab?

Why are we using Markdown templates, why not simply use GitLab as is to create our web pages?

Why use GitLab at all?

What happens to all our data once Neil retires?

I am proud that I am now proficient at nerdy programmer level use of GitLab. But is that really a useful skill and accessible skill for Fabricators wanting to learn advanced design and fabrication skills? No it’s not, the time I spent wrangling Git commands, GitLab, video compression, markdown and html trouble shooting would be much better spent on Design and Fabrication assignments.

I spent most of my time fighting with GitLab over getting my projects done. GitLab / Markdown issues were the only things that I needed help with from my local instructor (who was rightly unavailable due to covid community support).

Google G-Suite

I am a strong proponent of, using google products instead of GitLab. Google Drive can be used for repos, Google Sites for website generation

YouTube and Vimeo

YouTube and Vimeo are easy to use and the standard for maker content and online instruction.

Broken links and unavailable video are on the Fab Academy GitLab repos is as inconsistent as YouTube broken links.

The instruction on documentation skills in Fab Academy should be focused on a dedication to curating and keeping your documentation, videos, and photos up to date, curated and organized. Google products are much easier to learn and I have never lost one piece of data in over 15 years of using their services. Most employers use ms office suite or g-suite at this time. Yes programmers do use GitLab, but it is still a specialized skill.

Many Fab Academy students never were able to learn and effectively compress, format, code, and upload video to GitLab. It was sad and frustrating to see the number of times this caused issues for many students.

I spent a lot of time learning to compress video for GitLab. I’d much rather have spent time learning other design and fab skills.

Streamlining Assignments, Machines, and Materials

Instructions on how to design and fabricate could use some standardizing as well. The huge array of processors and options for fabrication can be reduced into a mail-able kit. I’d happily pay another $600 to $1200 for a kit containing all the parts and materials to complete Fab Academy. I used to think that kits and limited material choice stunted creativity and imagination, over the past 10 years I realized that’s not true. This is especially true when using common materials over fancy ones, for example cardboard over acrylic sheet. 2D paper printers and hand cutting over laser cutters. Stacking cardboard over using a 3d printer. When given a limited set of tools and materials I consistently see more iteration and risk taking by my high school students…by far!

The Future

I was planning on running Fab Academy from MSI in 2022. I am not sure if the benefits outweigh the in house Make X Fab Lab training, we have developed. The current state of Fab Academy is not structured enough to support my cohorts of Fab Youth (Local High School Students) that we already train in house on Fab Lab Skills.

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