Lake Macquarie to host Australia's first Fab Academy

Published on 05 January 2024

A man wearing safety goggles working with a soldering device.

Lake Macquarie is set to host Australia’s first ‘Fab Academy’, drawing on a global network of knowledge to teach digital fabrication.

Lake Mac Libraries Fab Lab at Swansea will run its first 20-week Fab Academy course later this month, with a curriculum developed by academics from the esteemed Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The course will cover everything from 3D printing and laser cutting to problem-solving, intellectual property and entrepreneurship.

Fab Academy branches already operate in Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East and North and South America, but Fab Lab Lead Claire Chaikin-Bryan said Lake Macquarie was leading the way with the first site for Australia.

“A lot of the skills required for digital fabrication are usually self-taught and self-motivated – there aren’t a lot of formalised avenues for learning,” she said.

“Fab Academy provides that opportunity.”

Participants will rotate through the Fab Lab’s diverse range of machines and technology, working on a series of assessments and a final project to present at the end of the course.

“It’s very hands-on from start to finish,” Ms Chaikin-Bryan said.

“There’s also a big emphasis on networking and cross-collaboration, including live weekly hookups online with other Fab Academy participants across the globe.”

“Participants will learn to make almost anything, using cutting-edge digital fabrication tools and machines.”

A man wearing safety glasses and a woman sitting a table.

An international faculty of academics delivers video lectures, supervises academic content and guides student research.

Professor Neil Gershenfeld, Director of MIT’s Centre for Bits and Atoms and Fab Academy Co-Founder, said Fab Labs worldwide attracted “the same profile of bright, inventive people”.

“The intersection of digital computing and communications with digital fabrication makes it possible to effectively bring the campus to them, thereby accessing more of the planet's brainpower,” he said.

"If anyone can make anything, anywhere, it fundamentally changes the meaning of business."

Fab Academy Global Coordinator Luciana Asinari said the Lake Macquarie branch marked another pin on the Fab Academy world map.

“The new Lake Macquarie node will have an incredible impact on this rich land, and will bring these amazing local experiences to a broader network,” she said.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the projects we can do together.”

A man uses a soldering tool on a circuit board.

Hands-on support is provided by accredited instructors such as Ms Chaikin-Bryan, who supervise and evaluate participants’ work and provide one-on-one advice.

Lake Macquarie City Council Manager Arts, Culture and Tourism Jacqui Hemsley said the expansion of the Fab Academy concept into Australia was an exciting development.

“We’re now able to provide an opportunity here in Lake Mac for Australians to learn from world leaders in this space and connect with a global network of innovators,” she said.

Ms Chaikin-Bryan said that while some prior knowledge of design, electronic programming, and web development would be useful for prospective participants, anyone could sign up.

“It’s a course likely to appeal to tertiary students, or as an alternative qualification for people in engineering, manufacturing or art,” she said.

“But it would be equally relevant to people seeking new skills, or someone who wants to become part of that international community doing this stuff.”

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