Thursday, August 10, 2023

FabLabs in Paris (Part 1)

 A  couple weeks ago, I arrived in  Paris, and have enjoyed discovering the city, with my husband, Craig. 

The first few days we had the privilege of having our five year old grandson and his parents (my son and daughter in law)  with us, so we sought out experiences that a 5 year old would also enjoy. 

The next few days, Craig and I continued to explore museums, sacred places, gardens, art galleries, eateries, hot chocolate shops, neighborhoods, and "FAB LABS".

I put FAB LAB in quotes, because I started to refer to these as maker spaces, but learned that the word maker space usually refers to 'for profit' ventures, while Fab Labs tend to refer to non profit spaces who reinvest any profits back into the vision of creating  a culture or community of makers learning and collaborating together.   Fab Labs in Paris belong to a network of Fab Labs each with their own culture and purpose.  

Our first visit was quite serendipitous.  We were visiting le Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie (a wonderful science museum) in Paris. We noticed the word "Fab Lab" on some of the signage.  After our visit to the Robot Exhibit, the Bio-Inspire Exhibits, and other exhibits, we decided to see if we could find the "Fab Lab".  Every staff member we asked gave us a puzzled look.  Eventually we ended up in the basement "Level -1" and spotted the Fab Lab Door in area named "Carrefour Numerique" .  You do not have to purchase a ticket to the museum to access the spaces on the lower (-1 Floor).   

Unfortunately the Fab Lab was closed for a training and we were told it would be open to the public again tomorrow afternoon.  But just looking at all the maker projects on display from the outside was enough to leave me feel inspired as a maker educators. 

The Fab Lab was closed for a private event or training.

The projects on display and visible from outside the locked door were inspiring.

I could tell from the projects visible in the display case outside the locked door, that this is a place where I would enjoy to spend time learning, creating, and making. 

So of course I came back the next day, and was greeted by Francois who gave me a a tour and lots of information about the space. Since the info was in French, I'm not sure I understood all the details correctly, but here were some take-aways.

First of all the Fab LAB is open to everyone at NO Cost! 
But its open hours are limited.  At the time I visited, here were the open hours. 

The FabLab is open to everyone :
Tuesday ->Thursday 15h ->18h30
Friday / Saturday 14h -> 18h30

Other days are reserved for private events, for maintaining the tools, and for training of staff. 
You can learn more about the hours and how to participate on their website.

It's mission seemed focus on raising awareness and understanding of the maker movement through 
 (1) TRAINING:  Learning how the tools work
 (2) EMPOWERMENT:  Getting certified that you are ready to use the tools independently
 (3) CREATING:  Booking slots to prototype, experiment, and create.

I found the strategy that you are not allowed to BOOK more than one slot at a time, but you can book your next slots after you have completed each slot you book an interesting strategy. 

It was obvious from the centers set up that this space was focused on fabrication tools.  
I loved that the embroidery center was so prominent.  I was surprised to learn that this center attracts more men than women.  

The FabLab tools also included vinyl cutters and heat presses which allow for multiple approaches to work with textile. 

Of course the space provided access to several tools for  laser cutting and 3D printing. 

On the way out I spotted that someone was experimenting with 3D printing
on mesh which is something I've wanted to experiment with and right in line with all theme of working with textile that I saw in this space. 

During my conversation with Francois, I learned that this Fab Lab seemed to be a hub to several other fab labs in France.  They are the main location for some of the Fab Lab network events, conferences, and maker faires.   My guess is that the Cite de Science is the main funding source for keeping it staffed and keeping the lights on.    What an amazing service to the community to offer a space for learning, creating, and making at no cost.  

One of my favorite things about maker spaces is meeting such creative people, and this visit provided a chance to learn not only about the space, but also about the maker passion of Francois creating and making skateboards customized with amazing sand art.  I'm thinking I might just need to get one of these as a gift for some of my favorite skateboarders (my son and grandson).   Check them out here.

Stay tuned for more post featuring Fab Lab visits from my visit to Paris.