A Fab Lab (or Fabrications Laboratory), is a concept originally dreamt up by Neil Gershenfeld at the Massachusetts Institute for Technology (MIT). A Fab Lab is a facility (building) that houses the basic machinery required to make (in Gershenfeld’s words) “just about anything”. It is Gershenfeld’s belief that personal fabrication is on the rise, and soon enough, the world technologically enabled (anyone with a computer) will be able to download and print their own personal 3-dimensional objects. These may include the latest i-phone, running shoes, and at some stage, even a car.
Personal fabrication therefore encompasses the design, prototyping and three-dimensional printing of one’s ideas.
The South African government has realised the potential of this, and as a result, has installed Fab Labs all around the country. The closest lab is situated in Thokosa, a township situated south of Johannesburg. Local Fab Labs are expected to facilitate local and innovative technology development in an open source fashion. This means that a person who designs and fabricates their idea is required to leave behind a set of instructions that teaches other people how to re-make or generate an iteration of the artefact in return for using the facilities, knowledge and material that are provided for free by the Labs.
Students resolve the design of a prototypable artefact (Fab Lab community), to inspire innovation (attract users to the Lab) and to showcase the potential of the laboratory machinery. This empowers the communities that have access to Fab Labs by allowing potential Lab users to recreate these artifacts, which in the process of making, allows them to evolve the item or create spin offs, as well as understand what the potential of the Fab Lab facilities are.
HOW WE HELPED
To show the potential the FabLab has to provide simple, innovative solutions to everyday problems. One ever-present problem is the threat of home break-ins which has become the main focus of our group. This gave rise to a system that fulfills three functions; giving a sense of being secure to the user, alerting the user that their home has been breached and causing the intruder to hesitate or shy away from entering the house.
WHAT WE DID
Light house alarm-system
• People in broader communities can finally take their home security into their own hands.
• Creating an opportunity for people to see that the FabLab could be used to inspire things that make a difference in their lives.
• It is battery powered which means it will work even if there is a power outage which is an ever present reality of all South Africans.