My name is Svavar Konráðsson. Welcome to my home on the web. This is the living and evolving documentation of my studies at the amazing Fab Academy, class 2023. I have the good fortune to work at Fab Lab Ísafjörður, Iceland. My instructor is Þórarinn Bjartur Breiðfjörð Gunnarsson, director of Fab Lab Ísafjörður.
My final project is Baksi the educational robot.
Baksi is meant to be small, inexpensive, simple and safe. You can see all the electronics, and yet it has a clean look. You can make one yourself in a Fab Lab anywhere in the world, and the local staff will help you learn the skills that you need to pull it off. So, what are you waiting for?
A big part of modern technology is in this robot in one way or another; microchips that control motors and communicate with each other, digitally fabricated parts, software to control the robot from the computer and more. I want to use this little bot to get students interested in mathematics and technology. And maybe paint candles.
1 minute video about Baksi:
What is the Fab Academy?
First thing: The Fab Academy is open for anyone who wants to make things. There are no prerequisites, and it's basically the same as the award-winning MIT class How To Make (almost) Anything. Because of the world wide network of Fab Labs, anyone in the world can apply to the Fab Academy and drink from the firehose of cutting edge technology and whimsical stories that is Professor Neil Gershenfeld, the director of the MIT Center for Bits and Atoms.
The Fab Academy is the most remarkable educational program I know of. Every year, engineers like me, artists with no technical background, PhD students, high school students and students of the school of life meet up online every Wednesday for the Fab Academy class. After the dizzying lecture on the week's subject, you have until next Wednesday to make something that works, and document it thoroughly.
My experience? It was like getting an acceptance letter into Hogwarts. A vast world opens up to you full of outstanding people who, working together, can make (almost) anything. You have the support of a group of unassuming people around the world who are actually technology wizards, but also appreciate the human element in art and design. It's the only online school where I've actually got to know the people taking part in it.
The evolution of my electronics design skills over the course of the Fab Academy. The course puts a heavy emphasis on digital electronics, because that's what makes things come alive!
Already I've made a contribution to a Spanish-Icelandic project and I'm only just getting started in the Fab Lab network. I've made friends, laughed and cried and yet the Fab Academy somehow only exists inside my laptop and I struggle to convey how significant this thing is to outsiders. Currently there are 2500 places like this in the world where I can now walk in and start making things (and so can you!) and share stories of struggling to make things work. And the number of Fab Labs in the world doubles every 18 months. Isn't that wild? Something's going on here.
The Fab Academy has existed in a side reality for a long time, but it's invisible to Muggles. They have their peculiar speech and conventions that are impenetrable to outsiders. They've been videoconferencing since ancient times. You Google the Fab Academy and find a cryptic website full of bare HTML links to technical resources without any explanations. Ah, my friend, but you lack the guidance and the context! Come on in. Check out the meme channel in the Mattermost chat.
An introduction to modern technology as we know it might realistically be taken on in a ten-year period, but we rush through it in six months. You'd better keep up, because you need to make microcontroller boards that talk to each other- wait, now you must mill a 3D shape and make a casting- hold on, now it's time for web programming, but lay that to one side because now you need to stay up all night to finish your final project and present it to a hundred faces on your laptop screen that are in all time zones and climates and circumstances in the world and you are now a part of this group, which shares a traumat- I mean a transformative experience.
Two out of three Icelanders taking the Fab Academy this year got sick right after their final project presentation, because the pressure had been so high. Was it worth it? It was. I would hardly dare make electronics before but now I'm considering taking an electronic product to market.
There is a before and after the Fab Academy. I now know how an aluminum profile feels. You know, they don't heat the material that much, they just push it with enormous force until it deforms and takes on the shape of the die. Before I was a disorganized scatterbrain. Now I'm a scatterbrain who talks about designing things in spirals and documenting everything, not because I'm being forced to do it anymore but because I enjoy the process. What is happening to me?
This is the rune that I made for myself in grade school, made up of my initials SK. To start my Fab Academy journey, I made it digital, using Inkscape.