Fab Academy

A female uses a 3-D printer at the Fab Lab.

Lake Macquarie's Fab Academy offers a unique and transformative educational experience that combines technical skills, creativity, global connectivity, and the potential for personal and professional growth.

It is an intensive 20-week course on how to make (almost) anything. The course teaches students to envision, design and prototype projects using digital fabrication tools and machines.

It is a multidisciplinary and hands-on learning experience that empowers students to learn by doing and develop future ready skills.

This course is the first of its kind in Australia with students able to attend locally in Lake Macquarie or via distance. 

Interested to learn more? Contact our team for more information.

Enrolments for Lake Macquarie's Fab Academy 2024 course are now closed. The course will also run again starting January 2025.

All course information and enrolment enquiries can be directed to Claire Chaikin-Bryan via [email protected]

For general Fab Lab enquires please email [email protected]

What is Fab Academy?

Fab Academy is an intensive 20-week course on how to make (almost) anything, that teaches students to envision, design and prototype projects using digital fabrication tools and machines. It is a multidisciplinary and hands on learning experience that empowers students to learn by doing and inspires them to make stuff locally to become active participants in sustainable cities and communities.

The program offers a comprehensive education in digital fabrication, including 2D/3D design, laser cutting, 3D printing, CNC machining, electronics and more. It is run as a part in person (at the Fab Lab) and part online course with students turning in from around the world each week for a lecture from Professor Neil Gershenfeld who is based at the Centre for Bits and Atoms at MIT, Boston. The program aims to empower individuals to create and innovate through hands-on learning and access to cutting-edge technologies.

Why do Fab Academy?

Becoming a Fab Academy student offers a unique and transformative educational experience that combines technical skills, creativity, global connectivity, and the potential for personal and professional growth.

Key reasons to do Fab Academy include:

  • Hands-On Learning: Fab Academy offers a practical, hands on education in digital fabrication and rapid prototyping, allowing students to learn by doing and creating tangible projects. It also improves problem solving skills by challenging students to tackle design and fabrication challenges.
  • Access to Cutting-Edge Technology: As part of Fab Academy students gain access to state of the art digital fabrication tools and machines, including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC routers, and more.
  • Future-Ready Skills Development: Fab Academy equips students with skills that are highly relevant in today's rapidly evolving digital world, making them future-ready while inspiring them to be innovative. These skills include critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, communication, creativity, digital literacy, and global awareness.
  • Career Opportunities: The skills acquired through Fab Academy can open up new career opportunities in fields such as product design, art, engineering, manufacturing and more. Students also gain skills in entrepreneurship and invention during the course.
  • Global Community: Fab Academy connects students to a global network of makers, inventors and innovators, fostering collaboration and knowledge exchange beyond the course. Interacting with students from diverse backgrounds also allows for cultural exchange during and after the course.
  • Access to Experts: Students have the chance to learn from experts from around the world in various fields and tap into the knowledge resources within the Fab Academy network.

Who can take Fab Academy?

Fab Academy is open to all. Whether you are a student, professional or a lifelong learner, there is something for everyone in this course. We welcome individuals from every walk of life - with or without previous technical experience or qualifications.

Students under 18 years of age will need the approval of a parent or guardian to undertake the course. The course does require a significant amount of independent work and under 18 years of age students will need to undergo an interview and evaluation process prior to being accepted as a student.

When does it run?

Lectures run from 25 January 2024 to 29 May 2024.

Final project presentations run from 5 June to 12 June 2024.

Completion of all documentation of coursework including making additions/corrections based on local instructor and global evaluator feedback will be due the first week of July 2024. Students will have the option to extend this to Dember 2024 if they are unable to complete their coursework in time.

Students wanting to attend the graduation ceremony at the international Fab Lab conference in Mexico in August 2024 will need to complete their coursework by the July cutoff, otherwise students completing their coursework in December will be able to attend the graduation ceremony at the next international Fab Lab Conference.

Student work will be showcased by the Lake Mac Libraries Fab Lab in July/August 2024.

What does the course cover?

Fab Academy comprises the following 20 topics:

  • Principles and practices
  • Project management
  • Computer-aided design
  • Computer-controlled cutting
  • Embedded programming
  • 3D scanning and printing
  • Electronics design
  • Molding and casting
  • Electronics production
  • Output devices
  • Mechanical design
  • Machine design
  • Input devices
  • Computer-controlled machining
  • Networking and communications
  • Interface and application programming
  • Wildcard
  • Applications and implications
  • Invention, intellectual property, and income
  • Project development

For each topic there is a set of individual and group assessment items that need to be completed and documented in order for the student to earn their certificate for that topic and pass.

Student coursework will be evaluated both by the local instructor and by an assigned global evaluator. Students will be able to make changes/additions to their documentation after evaluation if they do not pass the first time.

What is expected of students?

  • Attend the online weekly lecture or catch up using the lecture recording
  • Attend the online weekly check in
  • Attend the Fab Lab to undertake practical work for the course
  • Complete and document each week’s coursework
  • Complete a final project
  • Present their final project to the global evaluation panel
  • Participate in the Lake Mac Libraries Fab Lab showcase in July/August 2024

Fab Academy can take up to 20 hours or more a week to complete coursework. Depending on a student’s past skills and experience they may need less time to complete the course work each week.

An example of a typical week during Fab Academy is provided below. Final Lab work times to be confirmed with students.

We encourage potential students to look at the expectations of the course and assess if they are able to make the commitment of time to undertake the course.

Although the course is designed to be completed over the 20 weeks students can extend the time they have to complete their coursework until December. Students can further extend into future years as a continuing student. This has varying cost implications depending on the amount of coursework already completed and the time since staring Fab Academy see here for more information.

Fab-Academy-Typical-Week.jpg

What do I receive on completion of the course?

When you successfully complete Fab Academy you will graduate with a Fab Academy Diploma awarded to you by the Fab Academy as well as a portfolio of work you completed as part of the course.

The course is based on MIT’s rapid prototyping course, MAS 863: How to Make (Almost) Anything.  It has no institutional connection with MIT.

There is no university/TAFE accreditation for the Fab Academy course in Australia, however, the skills and experience gained from the course can be used to support obtaining employment and/or set you on the path of entrepreneurship.

Graduates will be listed on the Fab Academy website alumni list and be given lifetime membership to the Fab Academy Alumni Group.

Graduates also receive the minimum qualification to be a Fab Academy instructor in future years of Fab Academy.

What does it cost?

Fab Academy Tuition Fees are a combination of local (Council) and central (Fab Academy) costs.

Local Cost

Central Cost (Fab Academy)

$4,125 (incl GST)

$2500 USD

This will be paid to Lake Mac Libraries Fab Lab (Lake Macquarie City Council)

This will be paid direct to Fab Academy via online secure payment platform FLYWIRE

Local costs are paid directly to the Fab Lab, it covers:

  • Direct student expenses: Consumables and materials for weekly coursework.
  • Facilities: Machines maintenance and running costs for space.
  • Operations: This includes running the class, placing orders, scheduling meetings, tracking students.
  • Instruction: Individual technical guidance and evaluation of student work.

Central costs are paid direct to the Fab Academy, it covers:

  • Faculty: preparing and delivering the lectures, running global reviews, and developing curriculum.
  • Operations: nodes supervision, global evaluation, and direct support for the class (recording class videos, developing Evaluation App, etc.)
  • Administration: common costs across classes, including managing finances, running logistics, keeping records, and supporting servers.
  • Student support: review and accreditation of student work, registration for graduation at the FABx events, and contributions towards scholarships.

Tuition includes:

  • Access to the Fab Lab
  • Access to the online lectures, recitations and course materials
  • Instructor teaching and evaluation
  • Global evaluation
  • Materials/consumables to complete weekly coursework
  • Space for your portfolio in the online Fab Academy Archive with lifetime access and maintenance
  • One ticket to the international Fab Lab Conference

Students can use the materials/consumables provided for their weekly coursework as part of their final project. Additional materials for their final project will need to be paid for by the student in addition to their course fees.

Payment policies

Tuition Fees Due Prior to Start of Course

All tuition fees must be paid prior to the commencement of classes, 24 January 2024.

Cancellation of the course

The Fab Lab reserves the right to cancel Fab Academy if the quota of registered students is not complete. In the case that a Lab cancels Fab Academy, 100% of paid tuition fees will be refunded. 

Student’s withdrawal from the Course

A student choosing to withdraw from a course is to provide notice in writing to Central Coordination and the Local Lab, via email. Students who drop the course and had paid part of the tuition fees, will have partial refund according to the following situations:

Non-refundable Central Cost Tuition Deposit

 A student must pay $2000 USD to Central to confirm course participation, maximum 2 weeks after they receive their acceptance letter. This is the Tuition Deposit and is non-refundable if a student withdraws from the course.

Withdrawal from Course prior to the official beginning of class period

If the student paid part or the totality of the Course’s tuition fees prior to the class period, and communicates the withdrawal.

Central Coordination will reimburse the 85% of the fees paid that exceeds the Tuition Deposit, and reserves the 15% in concept of administrative costs.

100% of local costs will be reimbursed.

Important: to be subject to a refund, the student must give proper justification and proof of the reason for withdrawal.

Withdrawal for the Course after official beginning of class period

There is no refund of any kind after the official beginning of classes. There are however extension and continuing student options.

Ceasing attendance without notification

If a student fails to deliver the assignments requested by the instructors, misses the evaluation periods, does not cover 90% of classes and/or fails to attend more than 15 consecutive classes, Central Coordination and the Local Lab understands that the student abandoned the course. In this situation, the student loses all the accomplished credits and any right to claim for refund. In addition, Central Coordination will not deliver the student’s diploma nor any kind of certificate requested, until the student regularises their status and becomes a Continuing Student.

Can the course be completed remotely?

While the preference is for a student to attend the Fab Lab in person for the course, there is the option to undertake the course remotely in certain circumstances.

Remote students often need to work more independently and this will not suit everyone. We suggest students thinking about doing the course remotely have existing basic skills in 2D and 3D design, electronics and programming. We also encourage students to find local expertise that can assist them with coursework when needed.

Students wanting to undertake the course remotely must also prove that they will be able to access the required equipment to complete the course namely:

  • Laser cuter/engraver
  • Desktop mill
  • Large CNC router with a minimum cutting area of 1mx1m
  • Vinyl cutter
  • FDM 3D printer
  • 3D scanner
  • Soldering Iron
  • Oscilloscope

Students should note that instruction may be limited where the student uses a different brand of equipment to the Lake Mac Libraries Fab Lab. The student may also need to source additional local support for their coursework.

It is highly encouraged that remote students plan to spend some time in person at the Fab Lab, in particular machine building week 2-9 April 2024 when students undertake a group machine building project as part of the course. We may be able to shift machine building earlier depending on all students undertaking the course with the Fab Lab. Note if a group of students is undertaking the course together remotely then they can work as a remote group for machine building week.

Not all materials/consumables for weekly assignments may be able to be sent to the student and any such difference would need to be covered by the student at their own cost.

Tuition fees do not change for remote students and students are responsible for covering any additional costs for completing their coursework such as paying for access to equipment local to them and materials/consumables not able to be sent to them by the Fab Lab for weekly coursework.

Students wanting to undertake the course remotely will need to undergo and interview and evaluation process prior to being accepted as a student.

How do I learn more?

Please get in touch with Claire Chaikin-Bryan, Fab Lab Lead, Lake Macquarie City Council to discuss.

Email: [email protected]

Phone: 02 4921 0352