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Fab Lab Education in German Academia

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This contribution describes the current state of the ongoing German federal research project 'FAB101' which explores Fab Labs and their role in German academia for three years by way of a real-world, action-oriented research infrastructure of four existing (Fab) Labs at universities. Currently, the results point to infrastructure, collaboration aspects and governance as well as educational concept issues as main factors influencing the more widespread adoption of personal digital fabrication and Fab Labs in German academia. This contribution details these results further and draws some first conclusions as well as recommendations. It also describes FAB101's distributed research infrastructure and methodology and is intended to invite further comments, discussions and input for the project.
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Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 1
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek
Anke Brocker, Jan Borchers : RWTH Aachen University, Germany
Oliver Stickel, Melanie Stilz, Volkmar Pipek: University of Siegen, Germany
Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann: University of Bremen, Germany
Contact : oliver.stickel@uni-siegen.de, brocker@cs.rwth-aachen.de
Abstract
This contribution describes the current state of the ongoing German federal research project ‘FAB101’ which
explores Fab Labs and their role in German academia for three years by way of a real-world, action-oriented
research infrastructure of four existing (Fab) Labs at universities. Currently, the results point to infrastructure,
collaboration aspects and governance as well as educational concept issues as main factors influencing the more
widespread adoption of personal digital fabrication and Fab Labs in German academia. This contribution details
these results further and draws some first conclusions as well as recommendations. It also describes FAB101’s
distributed research infrastructure and methodology and is intended to invite further comments, discussions and
input for the project.
Keywords
Fab Lab Education, German Academia, Transdisciplinarity, Digital Fabrication, Governance
1 Introduction
With the growing importance of and activities around personal digital fabrication in academia and other
contexts [3, 5] universities are challenged to think about how to best develop teaching and research
opportunities in such domains. This is not a trivial process because personal digital fabrication
transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries and requires infrastructures as well as skill, competence
and organizational structures that are, to an extent, also non-traditional in academic contexts. There is a
substantial number of experiments and cases to learn from in practice, though [5, 11]. Certainly, the
concept of the Fab Lab Network itself, the ‘How to Make Almost Anything’ lecture as well as the ‘Fab
Academy’ are the three big, very practical, successful and long-running contexts to draw upon. However,
there are also smaller, more local teaching and curricular experiments as well as infrastructural and
governance aspects relating to (Fab) Labs as infrastructures in academic contexts that need to be
considered. The goal of project FAB101 is to work on such considerations based on a research
infrastructure of four (Fab) Labs at German universities. From 2017-2020, the four research groups
hosting the Labs will analyze and compare prior experience of ‘their’ Labs as well as do reviews of the
state of the art and carry out empirical work such as the co-development of new, experimental,
interdisciplinary and inter-university educational formats in the domain of personal digital fabrication. In
a further step, experiences from other (inter-)national Labs will be included into these research and
development activities. This contribution describes the project’s context, its methodology as well as first
findings regarding infrastructure, collaboration, governance and educational concepts.
2 A brief State of the Art
In recent years, Fab Labs, Makerspaces and similar open, community-oriented lab infrastructures have
been opened in a variety of contexts, including a number of universities [5, 10]. Within this variety of lab
developments, the Fab Lab concept is of special interest to academia because it offers elements of
standardization and support structures and has its roots in academia and research infrastructures itself
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 2
[3, 9]. With the How to Make Almost Anything’ lecture as well as the ‘Fab Academy’ and many more
localized projects, there are long-running successful examples of offering students from virtually all
disciplines access to Fab Labs within their courses of study.
With regard to learning theories, didactics and pedagogical approaches linked to Fab Labs , there is a
substantial body of work on Constructivism [1], Constructionism [4] and, later, more specific
considerations about learning models and literacies [6, 8], learning-focused projects [2] curricula [7] and
other domains that frames educational work in and with Fab Labs and Makerspaces specifically. [6]
evaluated what types of learning are taking place in Fab Labs. They tested whether students gain certain
competencies, e.g. in teamwork, communication, design thinking or knowledge sharing when working in
Fab Labs. This evaluation took place for a whole semester in fall 2016 and they found that students
achieved such competencies successfully.
In Germany, as of the time of writing, there are insular experiments with joining the Fab Academy from a
university Fab Lab by way of a research project on 3D printing competences. There are also some locally
developed experiments with Fab Lab introduction formats similar to the Fab Academy as well as a
generally increasing number of seminars, lectures and other educational activities in the German Fab Lab
scene.
There are gaps in the state of work regarding the documentation of and the options for the collaborative
development of accessible and safe introductory educational formats to (academic) Fab Labs. Similar
gaps can be found regarding documentation and consensus in underlying infrastructural aspects such as
organizational and financial models, rules and regulatory aspects as well as (community) management
for academic Fab Labs. Further contributions will include more in-depth literature reviews, also including
further thematic foci such as international cooperation perspectives that are not part of this publication.
3 Problem Domains
It is our observation that the integration of (personal) digital fabrication in German higher education is
still at an early stage and moderated by a variety of open issues. Based on our own long-term
experiences in running Fab Labs at universities as well as empirical work centered on understanding
these issues, we believe that they broadly relate to the following domains:
Educational concepts: Safety & competences, transdisciplinarity and didactic requirements.
Infrastructure: Tools, Machines, Space & Location, contextual /local grounding.
Collaboration & Sharing: Project- / Community- / Stakeholder-Levels.
Governance: Organization, safety & regulation, (Community) Management, academic credit.
These domains relate to gaps in the state of work and also represent emerging categories in an on-going
(action) research process. This contribution is intended to broadly map them out for discussion and
input before implementing and evaluating experimental organizational and educational measures in the
FAB101 project consortium and their associated Fab Labs.
4 Methods and Research Context
The FAB101 project consortium consists of four research groups at different German universities. Each
group brings long-term experience in setting up, managing and working with (open) interdisciplinary
laboratory-infrastructures in academic contexts. The groups’ disciplinary backgrounds - and hence, the
communities they mainly work with are diverse and different. All groups have further grounding,
collaborations and connections with other labs or communities (e.g. the global Fab Lab network).
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 3
Table 1: FAB101 consortium overview
Abbrev.
CSCW
MCG
dimeb
DbT
Name
Computer- supported
Group Work & Social
Media
Media Computing
Group
Digital Media in
Education
Design by
Technology
Background
Cooperative Systems
research with a
strong tradition in
grounded and
participatory design
methods, action
research, value-driven
appraches as well as
organizational and
public infrastructuring
processes
Develop & study new
interaction techniques
and systems in areas
like personal digital
fabrication & design,
tangible, mobile, and
wearable user
interfaces, interactive
textiles, augmented
reality, and visual
coding environments
Educational
applications in
Computer Science
and Media
Informatics. Digital
media and media
education within
the context of
pedagogical
didactics
Interdisciplinary
and transmedial
design, parametric
design, animation,
experimental
fabrication,
adaptive materials,
modular
structures, coding
and design
Faculty
Faculty of Economics
Faculty of Engineering
Faculty of
Mathematics and
Computer Science
Faculty of Design
Courses of
Study
Human Computer
Interaction,
Information Systems,
general studies
Computer Science,
Media Informatics
Teacher
Educations
Studies, Media
Informatics
Industrial Design,
Communication
Design, Art
City
Siegen
Aachen
Bremen
Essen
Figure 1: Map of the FAB101 Fab Labs (Image: Modified Screenshot from https://fablabs.io)
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 4
This distributed research infrastructure of labs and communities serves as the basis for a three-year,
action-oriented project that broadly consists of the following packages:
1. Pre-Study to consolidate prior knowledge and experiences in teaching, governance and other
aspects of personal digital fabrication and integration of Fab Labs into academic settings in
Germany.
2. Iteration on educational concepts and hosting of experimental courses at each university based
on knowledge from pre-study. Focus on integration of experiences from other labs and opening
courses to other faculties.
3. Iteration on educational concepts and hosting of joint experimental courses between universities.
Development of a cooperative educational format to safely introduce interdisciplinary students to
personal digital fabrication.
4. Work on underlying but crucial “infrastructuring” factors, mainly Governance, basic and support
infrastructure, community as well as collaboration. Consolidation of knowledge and practices,
development of recommendations and demonstrators. Development of a ’booklet’ for basic
requirements to run Fab Labs in German academia.
The project’s main methodological foci are transdisciplinarity (see
Table 1), action-oriented research and Cooperative Systems Perspectives. Research activities explicitly
comprise the participatory development and practical evaluation of new educational concepts, the co-
development of functional prototypes for support systems and the active involvement of project
researchers with ‘their’ Labs and their communities. Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer
Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) bring research perspectives into the process that deal with the
analysis and improvement of socio-technical systems. Considering a Fab Lab as such a system, HCI and
CSCW methods and perspectives are applicable to achieve an understanding of how labs and their
communities work and to help shape management and integration practices for personal digital
fabrication in (German) academic contexts. HCI research can be applied to gain an understanding how
machines and the lab itself can become more approachable for users. The European conceptualization
of CSCW also brings its methodological spotlight on qualitative, ethnographically motivated systems
development into the project the problem domains mentioned above represent emerging categories
in a Thematic Analysis inspired and on-going research process that handles existing data from the
FAB101 consortium (such as lecture slides, workshop materials, etc.) as well as new empirical work. At
the time of writing, the latter consists of multiple interviews between different project partners who
teach in and manage Fab Labs, the development of multiple comparison tables (e.g. regarding
infrastructure, tools, theses, etc.), observations in the consortium labs, joint workshops and lectures as
well as analytical sessions face-to-face on the consortial level. Participatory elements such as co-design
workshops about lecture formats together with students also were and are part of the process. A more
detailed description of the methods, the data and the coding scheme will be part of future contributions.
5 Results
5.1 Infrastructure
Unsurprisingly, all FAB101-Labs use similar tools and machines. However, there are some specific
observations that are of interest: Machines are often sourced differently than advised by the Fab
Foundation an example from our research is purchasing a CNC machine from a local supplier instead of
the recommended purchase of a big CNC mill from the US. Besides market-related considerations
(especially in the context of publicly funded infrastructure) the local manufacturer also offered
additional customization and support which would not have been easily possible with an international
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 5
order. Hence, the general spirit of the Fab Inventory is preserved but problems down the line (e.g. with
software compatibility and sharing projects) can come with this approach. A considerable number of 3D
printers is available in all labs (with FDM being most prevalent). 3D printer and laser cutter are also the
machines with the highest numbers of users in all partner Fab Labs. The amount of hand tools differs
highly. All partners have basics electronics and microcontrollers. Space, location and crucially
disciplinary traditions and requirements influence machine and tool choices and usages. As an example
from our research, the DbT-group has substantially more heavy machinery, woodworking equipment
and robots available than all other partners. This is due to DbT working with Industrial Designers, artists
and similar disciplines where there are long-standing tradition, budgets and management practices for
extensive lab infrastructures unlike, for example, in the context of project partner CSCW who opened
the first ever lab with heavy equipment at the economic faculty of their university.
On the software side, cost and accessibility (e.g. web-based vs. download-based application) are always
relevant factors and influence the tool choice substantially, especially for beginners. To get a better
understanding of current practices, a comparison matrix between the tools used in the consortial Labs
and a selection of tools for the use in a Fab Lab according to the Fab Academy notes of 2017 was
developed. There was a certain number of tools that overlap, but especially the requirements for tools
for 3D design and scanning are more advanced in the Fab Academy list. The comparison matrix was also
used as a conversation-guiding artifact in further interviews in order to understand the practices behind
the tool use and will be covered in more detail in future contributions.
Space and Location are general and major factors influencing the infrastructural development of a Fab
Lab. In a case from our research, the machines, tools, furniture as well as the space design (and the
users) of a very open and public lab in the inner city looks and ‘feels’ rather different from a smaller on-
campus lab a few kilometers away from the city center e.g. in regard to space distribution for social and
technical activities. Mobile labs or distributed, smaller ‘node’ labs associated with a mother labalso
were mentioned as space- and location-related considerations because (easy) access to a fully equipped
Fab Lab as of now is still moderated significantly by the individual users’ place of residence (e.g. rural
areas) and mobility options (minors, financially disadvantaged people, etc.).
5.2 Collaboration & Sharing
One of the core results regarding collaboration and sharing was that on the project group level, every lab
community seems to have problems with (collaborative) documentation and sharing of data, procedural
information, learnings and other aspects about users’ projects. Infrastructural, motivational,
organizational and other issues as well as a lack of appropriate standard formats and support tools are
being mentioned regularly as potential causes for these problems. This problem domain is also being
mentioned and discussed regularly in the global Fab Lab and Makerspace communities.
On the community and organizational levels, substantial amounts of collaboration and knowledge
sharing are already happening in the open Fab Lab settings themselves (e.g. through ad-hoc over the
shoulder learning), in distributed lecture formats such as the Fab Academy as well as conferences,
meetups of lab managers and the like. With the current growth of open lab infrastructures, a further
increase of collaboration and professional exchange between lab managers (as well as potentially a
professionalization of the role itself) are also increasingly being mentioned as open issues as are
practices, organizational models and support tools to balance such a professionalization with the
collaborative and participatory elements of (Fab) Labs.
Further preliminary results include that face-to-face communication is seen as most important and
effective both in organizational and educational matters. Personal recommendations are trusted most
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 6
and result in the adoption of practices, procedures and tools. Physical presence plays a major role in
joint learning and collaboration in general.
In the academic context, disciplinary boundaries and traditions are also factors moderating collaboration
and sharing. Expectations regarding students’ independence in project work, project-orientation in
teaching, workload, appropriate form and length of documentation and similar factors can vary wildly
between disciplines and faculties. Political and, sometimes, personal issues also can influence this
problem space significantly.
5.3 Governance
Organizational models: There still seems to be a significant amount of unclarity and local as well as
informal agreements about the organizational structure, financial basis, legal and personnel
requirements, (open) access as well as other formal aspects of Fab Labs at universities in Germany. Most
Fab Labs in academia here have been initiated and are being run by singular entities such as student
groups, university chairs or institutes and are only slowly - if at all - being integrated in more strategic
academic development. On an administrative level, it might be unclear why and how a Fab Lab relates to
traditional academic facilities like e.g. a library. It is, in practice, unclear how Fab Labs relate to
traditional central academic services (such as data centers or libraries). For the most part, the labs do not
have staff that is employed directly for and in the lab but rather have to cross-finance such roles (if they
exist at all). However, the need for such positions in technical, managerial and educational roles have
been made explicit numerous times.
Safety, Regulatory and Formal Aspects in Germany: Fab Labs are laboratory spaces with potentially
dangerous equipment. As such, an extensive regulatory and legal body as well as local agreements and
practices necessarily influence such spaces at German universities. This comprises lab regulatory
documents, access, formalized role and responsibility structures, safety introductions as well as the
layout and equipment of the actual lab space. With open access for the public and new, interdisciplinary
ways of managing and running a lab, Fab Labs also touch on relatively uncharted regulatory issues. We
have collected the safety, regulatory and formal documents and agreements from the FAB101 partner
labs and will compare and as far as possible consolidate them in the next steps. The intended
outcome is a basic collection of good practices and broadly acceptable model documents to help create
certainty and assurance as well as working materials for (new) German Fab Labs.
Community Management, Awareness and Appropriation: Quite often, a substantial number of potential
stakeholders be they students, lecturers or others - do not even know about the Fab Labs at their
universities. The labs themselves can also still often be viewed by the general public as techno-
deterministic, elitist and not approachable for ‘regular people’. Better, broader and clearer
interdisciplinary curricular integration of personal digital fabrication, qualification opportunities for
educators as well as a professionalization of the community manager role in Fab Labs are being
mentioned as potential solutions. The latter aspect a focus on community management work also
relates to the substantial amount of hidden work that lab managers seem to invest into community
management activities.
Curricular Integration & Academic Credit: All consortial labs offer courses in the Fab Lab that fit into the
curriculum of their own courses of study but also are open to participants from other contexts, up to and
including external participants not enrolled in the university. In all labs, there is substantial interest in
such activities from students from all faculties. However, relatively rigid exam regulations and module
combinations can make it hard, if not impossible, to allow all students to get academic credit for their lab
work which is further influenced by the organizational grounding of the Fab Lab in the university (e.g. a
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 7
Lab associated with a chair from faculty A might have no way to offer students from faculty B academic
credit). More permanent and stable curricular integrations are desirable.
5.4 Education
One of the core requirements for a Fab Lab in German academic contexts is its ability to teach basic and
safe Fab Lab usage to students across disciplines. This requires an introductory format including hands-
on time with the respective equipment, instruction, supervision and legal documentation. It also seems
desirable or even essential to teach some more meta-skills and knowledge such as basic competences
with digitized collaboration (e.g. version control, open source as a concept, etc.). A huge problem is how
to scale such a course in terms of the number of students attending and the number of advisors.
Additionally, the space in the Fab Lab has to be considered, as does the infrastructure (which is not
necessarily available for bigger groups). Another aspect is that personal digital fabrication fits into very
different areas of study which leads to widely varying competences, motivations and skills among
users introductory concepts should reflect that and be modular and low-level.
The Fab Academy represents a way of approaching this problem space and is being mentioned
frequently in our research. It already is a distributed, introductory lesson format for Fab Labs and there is
extensive knowledge about its requirements available, as are students’ documentations and many other
documentary artifacts. However, it does not (and cannot) consider location-specific legal and other
requirements. It also has substantial workload requirements that may be challenging to fit into curricula
on a broad basis in Germany and the finance model of students paying for participation is not
appropriate for the core European educational market. For appropriation on a broader level, more
‘didactic bridges’ to the varying disciplinary backgrounds of potential students as well as their individual
motivations are also being mentioned frequently as potential success factors. Making the development
of such courses open and participatory as well as putting them on open platforms is also viewed as
desirable. The co-development of a ‘personal fabrication’ module based on those learnings is part of the
upcoming phases in our project - Figure 1 shows how it might look in practice. This conceptualization
(which is a work-in-progress) splits the module in two semester-long courses of 2 lecture hours and 3
practical hours per week with simple 2D and 3D operations, electronics, basic coding and socio-cultural
as well as collaboration competences being covered in semester one. Semester two comprises more
advanced CNC operations, advanced electronics and IoT, textile and other current research topics. As a
first step, we are currently conducting and evaluating a series of experimental shorter guest-lectures, -
talks and -workshops centered on topics of the planned personal fabrication module between all
consortial labs.
6 Discussion and Outlook
We hope to have presented a useful and broad overview of the state of our research and practice
activities as well as our learnings. At this point in the research process, it is too early for a substantial
written discussion but there are a few items that should already be discussed:
We welcome input and comments to our general categorization (Infrastructure, Collaboration,
Governance) as well as the concrete content of those categories. All sorts of useful documents such as
lab regulation documents, information about personnel structure, agreements as to the organizational
structure or educational concepts are also more than welcome. As of mid-2018, there is still enough
time to integrate such data into our research process as well as the development of experimental
educational formats in our consortium potentially even together with other interested parties. This
contribution will be discussed at the FAB14 conference and our categories and learnings are actively
being put forward for discussion and comments at gatherings we attend (Maker Faires, scientific
conferences, educator and lab-manager meet-ups, etc.).
Oliver Stickel, Anke Brocker, Melanie Stilz, Antje Möbus, Iris Bockermann, Jan Borchers, Volkmar Pipek:
Fab Lab Education in German Academia
Paper presented at Fab14, NN, France, 19 22 July 2018 8
A booklet, brochure or some other form of concise and clear basic requirements, assurances and model
legal documents for establishing and managing Fab Labs in German academia seems necessary. The
development of such a medium is one of our long-term goals for the project.
As mentioned, more communication and professionalization between lab managers seems warranted.
In 2017, the ViNN-Lab at TH Wildau initiated the first gathering for all German Fab Lab managers
(Fab:UNIverse 2017) and after its initial success, project FAB101 will host the event in 2018-2019 and
integrate the findings and results in its research process.
Open, democratic access to education in general and as far as practically possible to academic
education for everybody, even without formal qualifications, is a core value for German universities.
These values match well with ‘Makercontexts and personal digital fabrication which are incorporate
elements of broad access, openness and explicitly include academic and non-academic users. The same
is true for the ‘Third Mission’ of universities supporting regional and, ideally, sustainable activities
beyond the scope of research and teaching. Personal digital fabrication and Fab Labs mesh well with
these values and the labs themselves seem to be able to act as focus points, community spaces,
knowledge transfer infrastructures, exhibitions, showcases, coffee corners, meeting points, boundary
(negotiating) artifacts and in many other roles associated with increasing cooperation between cities,
regions and universities (see also the Fab City project and similar initiatives). Hence, management and
regional grounding of open Fab Labs likely can and should not be carried out by a university alone. Other
regional stakeholders and organizations need to be involved. On the one hand, this complicates the
management and organization, on the other, it also potentially makes a lab more stable and more
potent long-term infrastructure. Such considerations will influence our governance recommendations
and may result in perspectives for follow-up research projects in the long term.
7 Literature
[1] Ackermann, E. 2001. Piaget’s Constructivismd, Papert’s Constructionism : What’s the difference? Future of
learning group publication. 5, (2001), 111.
[2] Blikstein, P., Martinez, S.L. and Pang, H.A. 2016. Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspirations for Fab Labs
and Makerspaces. Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
[3] Gershenfeld, N. 2012. How to Make Almost Anything The Digital Fabrication Revolution. Foreign Affairs. 91,
(2012), 4257.
[4] Harel, I. and Papert, S. 1991. Constructionism. Ablex Publishing.
[5] Hielscher, S. and Smith, A. 2014. Community-based digital fabrication workshops: A review of the research
literature.
[6] Lorenzo, C. 2017. Digital Fabrication As a Tool for Teaching High-School Students STEM at the University.
Proceedings of the 2017 Conference on Interaction Design and Children (New York, NY, USA, 2017), 549554.
[7] Roffey, T., Sverko, C. and Therien, J. The Making of a Makerspace: Pedagogical and Physical
Transformations of Teaching and Learning. 41.
[8] Wallace, M., Trkay, G., Musick Peery, K. and Chivers, M. 2017. Making Maker Literacies: Integrating Academic
Library Makerspaces into the Undergraduate Curriculum. International Symposium on Academic
Makerspaces (2017).
[9] Walter-Herrmann, J. and Büching, C. eds. 2013. FabLab: of machines, makers and inventors. transcript.
[10] Weinmann, J. 2014. Makerspaces in the university community. TU Munich.
[11] About the Fab Academy: http://fabacademy.org/about/. Accessed: 2018-06-22.
... However, integrating and sustaining such a Lab in an academic context can be challenging and there are gaps in (published) knowledge about such organizations [8]. There is a need for applied research into and more exchange between academic (Fab) Lab stakeholders regarding matters such as governance, infrastructure and didactic considerations. ...
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In the current paper is documented an ongoing education program designed at FabLab Madrid CEU (the Digital Fabrication Laboratory based at CEU University's Institute of Technology) to teach high-school students STEM in a university environment through digital fabrication technologies. Inspired by the ideas of Neil Gershenfeld and Paulo Blikstein, we are using digital fabrication as a learning tool through which we attempt to create a working educational environment to improve the motivation of the students to finish their pre-college studies and to start a career at the university. All the pedagogies that we are exploring though the programs are based on Seymour Papert concepts related to the use of technology as a building material, the need of a "learning by doing" approach, the importance of learning to learn to keep learning or the benefits of enjoying while learning.
Article
What is the difference between Piaget's constructivism and Papert's "constructionism"? Beyond the mere play on the words, I think the distinction holds, and that integrating both views can enrich our understanding of how people learn and grow. Piaget's constructivism offers a window into what children are interested in, and able to achieve, at different stages of their development. The theory describes how children's ways of doing and thinking evolve over time, and under which circumstance children are more likely to let go of—or hold onto— their currently held views. Piaget suggests that children have very good reasons not to abandon their worldviews just because someone else, be it an expert, tells them they're wrong. Papert's constructionism, in contrast, focuses more on the art of learning, or 'learning to learn', and on the significance of making things in learning. Papert is interested in how learners engage in a conversation with (their own or other people's) artifacts, and how these conversations boost self-directed learning, and ultimately facilitate the construction of new knowledge. He stresses the importance of tools, media, and context in human development. Integrating both perspectives illuminates the processes by which individuals come to make sense of their experience, gradually optimizing their interactions with the world
Meaningful Making: Projects and Inspirations for Fab Labs and Makerspaces
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Walter-Herrmann, J. and Büching, C. eds. 2013. FabLab: of machines, makers and inventors. transcript.
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