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General, Open Hardware, Technology

A Fab Lab for Norwich

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am interested in the Open Hardware Community, the maker movement, and all things creatively digital.

I’ve regularly used this blog to write about these interests and to detail why I think they’re important.

I’ve also written about the need to encourage collaboration (most recently here) and the need to help make children aware of the fantastic opportunities that technology can bring.

A few months ago I wrote about Makespace:

This week, MakeSpace, an initiative which I’ve written about in the past finally found a home in Cambridge. Fittingly enough the Community Inventing shed will move into the former Institute for Manufacturing building in Mill Lane.

The centre will provide access to the latest manufacturing equipment, from 3D printers to laser cutters, from CNC machines to lathes. This equipment – the type you’d normally only see in an episode of How Do They Do It? – to anyone with an idea, interest, passion or just plain curious.

In Manchester the Omniversity and Fablab has been running for several years, in London Makerhood launched just a few weeks ago. These community driven projects are harnessing the passion people have for making things.

Every town should have one. The Government wants to encourage innovation and enterprise. They can do so easily by backing projects like MakeSpace.

These initiatives will help encourage the next generation. Making them understand the value of making things, the opportunities and potential of fabrication. Above all it teaches people (of all ages) that making things is fun.

You can read the full post here

After speaking to some folk at an event the other night I think the time has come to stop talking and writing about how someone should do something to start one of these centres and actually follow my own advice.

I want to start Fab Lab in my home city of Norwich. Rather more to the point, I want to help form a community which will help create a Fab Lab in Norwich.

Ideally the facility will have the core capabilities as set out by MIT Fab Labs but from there the community can shape it to support:

  • New start-ups,
  • Collaborations across all sectors, creative, engineering, IT, manufacturing
  • Provide training and short courses to children and adults
  • Have an exhibition space to showcase work, projects
  • provide a venue for creative events. I would love to see an event like Story, or even the OHS take place here.
  • Work with other institutions across the region (Universities, Colleges, other hack spaces)

If anyone has any doubts as to whether Norwich is capable of sustaining such a venture, let me say this. Tonight I attended Hot Source a group designed to bring digital creatives together.

The group recently ran a Near Field Communication competition. An interdisciplinary collaborative endeavour designed to create new applications for NFC. The results were pretty interesting – read about it here.

A facility like Fab Lab could make this a more common occurrence.

Excitingly there is talk of an engineering group – similar to Hot Source – to run out of Hethel.

I think there’s scope to bring all strands of geeky makerdom together, from the high-end technologists to the hobbyists and tinkerers. From engineers to artists. Somewhere for youngsters to be inspired and adults to learn new skills.

I have ideas as to how this would work, but – having followed the progress of the Cambridge  Fab Lab closely – it takes more than one person to get this off the ground. I think Norwich could support a facility like this – I hope enough of you feel the same.

If you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch by email at doobiewotsit@gmail.com.

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