Fab Labs: Neil Gershenfeld on

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Today, we continue our schedule of archive gems as the media team continues their brief but necessary respite from the tough job of running Over this two week break we are hand-picking vintage talks that are just as captivating as the day they were given, and sometimes more so, in context of our rapidly changing world.

In this talk from 2005, Neil Gershenfeld, head of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms, describes an outreach program his center had recently begun called Fab Labs. Gershenfeld maps the beginnings of these fabrication laboratories that enabled ordinary people to build things they never dreamt they could. At the time of the talk, Fab Labs had just started taking off internationally. Now, there are permanent labs in Amsterdam, in Barcelona, in Iceland, in Kenya, in Norway, in Cleveland, Ohio and there’s a Fab Foundation that links them all.

The Fab Lab project has not only seen a geographical expansion since Gershenfeld’s TEDTalk, but has also increased in scope. Recently, the Fab Academy was established as a distributed, global campus that will offer technical education to people who would not otherwise have access to this type of opportunity. The Academy’s first courses will soon begin, in Fall 2009, and faculty will give instruction via videoconference from all over the world. Ideas like this are, no doubt, born at the now annual International Fab Lab Forums. Just next week, beginning Sunday, August 16, Fab Labs will hold FAB5: The Fifth International Fab Lab Forum and Symposium on Digital Fabrication in Pune, India. As with past forums, Fab Labs has partnered with the region’s leading educational facilities for technology and engineering and will also bring fab-labbers from around the world to Pune for tutorials and projects, and to begin research plans. This little, slightly crazy, idea to build a lab where anyone could build anything certainly has gone places.

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