How FabLab Factory got started

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  • Door Stijn De Mil
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Stopped being a teacher, started becoming an educator!

After a career of 12 years as a lecturer in computer science and electronics in 2 university colleges in Belgium, Fablab Factory founder Stijn De Mil decided to quit his job and became an entrepreneur in education with a focus on STEAM, in the context of fablabs.  FabLab Factory was born!

Let’s go blow off some STEAM!

STEAM is the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics and is actually the lingua franca of our modern World.  We live, work and play in a society in which technology is becoming more and more important. For that, at Fablab Factory we believe that education should give it equal weight to the humanities, communication and languages,  science, arts and physical education.  In the end, we need our schools to prepare our children for their future.  Schools need to train our children with all the competences they need to be autonomous, critical and happy citizens to tackle the challenges of their time.

FabLab Brussels

In 2011, Stijn De Mil and Mark Runacres took the initiative to open a fablab at the Erasmus University College of Brussels.  A fablab – or fabrication laboratory – is a super cool space with all kinds of equipment to make things.  Typically you find 3D printers, laser cutters, milling machines, electronics, hand tools, all kinds of modelling material to create prototypes for the concepts and ideas people have in mind.

Take a look at to get an idea of this fantastic place!

It’s in our DNA

The fablab was a brilliant idea of prof. Neil Gerschenfeld of MIT.  He started a course “How to make (almost) anything” in 1998.  To his surprise, a lot of students from non-engineering departments wanted to take this course.  Apparently, he touched on something.

People have always been Homo Faber – they build tools to change or adapt to the environment – and Homo Ludens – they want to play, have fun and feel satisfaction – and this is exactly what fablabs and the maker movement are all about.  Design, make, play and share!

On 1 april 2015 I had the honor to introduce prof. Gerschenfeld following his honorary doctorate of the University of Antwerp.

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In January 2014 I started a pilot project in the high school of Erpe-Mere, my hometown.  Together with the science-teacher we gave workshops on CAD design, 3D printing, laser cutting, programming and electronics and in the end our students made some crazy projects with all these skills – they loved it, and we felt so proud!

Together with the board of the high school, the council of Erpe-Mere and a lot of believers we started up FabLab Erpe-Mere in the summer of 2014.  It is an independent non-profit organisation run by volunteers. 4 days a week it is used by the high school and embedded into the STEAM curriculum.  Each Wednesday afternoon and -evening it is open and free for everybody.  On Friday we organise workshops for pupils from all the primary schools in the neighbourhood and also teambuilding activities for businesses and organisations.

FabLab Junior

Fablab Junior was a contemporary STEAM project for young people that combined technology, science and art. Fablab Junior is a mobile fablab stuffed with technical features such as a desktop laser cutter, 3D printer, electronic components, makey-makey and hackable toys.

Make Art now!

My friend, colleague and robotbuilder Jan De Coster creates interactive installations and is specialised in (robot) character design.  No one understands better the added value in cross fertilization of art and technology, just check his amazing realisations here: .

We believe that with the addition of Arts to STEM curricula, we can engage people to learn, be curious about and creative with science and technology.

Co-innovation, cross-creation and startups

Fablabs – especially in the context of colleges, universities and incubators – offer excellent opportunities for all kinds of people, and people with the most innovative ideas and creative concepts become entrepreneurs.  In 2013 I coordinated a European funded program “FabLabXL: Fabrication for the Future” in which we helped 100 (pre)-starters to create a physical and/or multimedia prototype for their business idea.  It was a very promising project and we got fantastic results.  Out of this program spawned cutting-edge startups: TripodMaker creates delta type 3D printers, CookieCutter makes personalised cookie-cutters, snapTonic created low-energy beacons, FabLab Factory ;)

The big success of this program lies in the fact that so many people – of different ages, backgrounds, skills and interests – meet, inspire and help each other learn how to  create,  design and make prototypes with fablab equipment.  That’s the kind of space, expertise and mindset fablabs offer.

In 2015 I was involved in a great non-profit education project in Turkey – InnoCampus.  They created this fantastic mobile space out of 3 containers, and go to different university campuses.  Students form teams and get all the resources and coaching to develop a business idea and create prototypes.

We build your fablab!

I can’t stop talking about fablabs, they are really amazing on so many different levels.  Whether it is education, entrepreneurship or social innovation – it really doesn’t matter – it just works!  And also, the global maker community is such a cool family to be part of!

For all these reasons I decided to start up FabLab Factory – in a way to help schools and organisations to overcome all the hassle in finding and judging the right equipment, installing and configuring it.  Fablab Factory is equipment, training and curricula for you and your colleagues to give your school and community a technology boost.

So, from start to finish we can setup your fablab, train you and your colleagues and enable your pupils and students to become the next generation of makers!


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