FabLab Yucatan – prototyping the future together

Ileana (President of the Fab City Yucatán Association), Oscar, and Carlos gave us a tour of Fablab Yucatan when we visited Merida, Mexico in November 2019. You can watch the video of the tour on https://www.facebook.com/728801612/videos/10157850699341613/ (approx. 1h 15min)

The Lab first opened as HUBlab in 2015. The vision was to form a creative ecosystem of people, spaces and programs. The aim of the network was to inspire, connect and generate a positive impact on society, the economy and the environment.
The ecosystem comprised four areas:

  1. A coworking collaborative workspace,
  2. A Fablab, which is a digital manufacturing laboratory and third,
  3. A Social HUB is a space where art and technology converge through networking events and meetings, and
  4. An Eco-innovation-HUB consists of a creative and consulting area to promote competitiveness through sustainable projects and R&D&I in ​​micro, small, medium and large companies in Yucatan.

Today, the lab has achieved what it has set out to do, connecting designers and makers not just in Yucatan but with a wider reach in Mexico, Central and South America and with links across the globe. Current programmes include Smart Cities, Textiles, Architecture and Education. The resident makers have backgrounds in bio, electro, mechanic and mechatronics engineering, renewable design, architecture, textiles and fashion, and art. Whenever they have a new project they gather the team to understand who can contribute.

Our tour started with Melina showing us her parametric textile designs. She experiments with 3-D printing and laser cutting textiles and whenever possible using traditional Yucatecan fibres like Sisal or palm leaves. She has also started testing new materials to create textiles, for example, bio leather made from Kombucha (a kefir bacterium grown in black tea and sugar solution). A new form of dress was created in collaboration with biochemists and fashion designers. They used a bio-hacking approach to insert micro-controllers between sandwiched layers of Kombucha.

Melina and her collection

Further on, Oscar has shown one work around the Smart City. The FabLab has developed an environmental monitor (nootch) and placed it in various locations across Merida. The monitors record useful and easy to use environmental data including radiation and air particles. An online interface https://nootch.mx/Plataforma.php makes the data available for interrogation once it has been collected. FabLab Yucatan conducts workshops with citizens to help them to interpret the recorded data. Aim is to develop capacity for citizen science in Merida’s and create an environmental monitoring network.

Nootch – Monitor case and sensing unit

Finally, a novel project, that I am personally very interested in, was presented. FabLab Yucatan recently helped the governmental Institute of Entrepreneurs in Yucatan to open their own lab – FabLab IYEM. In collaboration with SEGEY (Ministry of Education in Yucatan) and IYEM, and under the FabCity Yucatan vision, an educational project to distribute smaller mobile FabLabs in remote communities was presented. It consists of a team the drives a large mobile Fablab to distant rural communities to conduct workshops over 3 weeks. The crew leaves smaller ‘Fabcarts’ in the location. The first aim is to teach the community teachers with analogic tools that prepare a mindset first, ready for programming on the computer and using expensive machines later on. They have created an award-winning game called ‘Fabstory’ that re-appropriates the innate human skill and desire to tell stories for learning STEM skills by the way. The aim is to incorporate FabLab tools, knowledge and approaches in STEM lessons in rural schools to make learning more engaging, relevant and fun. The website for the project is: https://jeschlop.github.io/FabLabMovilRutaTecnologica/

 

IYEM mobile Fablab and Fabcart with Fabstory drawer opened

We finished our tour with a long discussion about the current and future developments in FabLab Yucatan and globally. We believe that the Fablab not only prototypes things or projects in different areas or fields, but they develop a new form of cross-disciplinary working in which the ‘Studio’ as we know it from design education is at the centre of any activity. However, the studio is distributed and reaches across locations and people and programmes, which makes the FabLab Yucatan a strong centre for creativity and innovation.

Cover photo © FabLab Yucatan

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