A number of years ago Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Bits and Atoms launched the first “Fab Lab” or fabrication laboratory. A worldwide network of “Fab Labs are connected with each other and the MIT Center by having a defined set of tools and equipment, shared resources for training, managing, organizing, and projects. Envisioned as a place to seed and expand product-based, small businesses across the U.S., Fab Labs began to grow in numbers across the country in libraries, community organizations, museums, and educational institutions.
Many anticipated that Fab Labs would be one vehicle to help pull us out of the recession, invigorate STEM learning in schools, catalyze innovation, and seed the personal digital fabrication movement. I am not sure if anyone knows yet what contribution Fab Labs individually, or collectively have made to any, or all of these. They have spawned other more grassroots “maker movements” in communities across the country. Typically these organizations support various community events to share technology-supported “crafts” and homemade products. At maker events, everyone who wants to share, teach, sell, or learn gathers at the maker events for a small fee. Certainly, these organizations provide similar opportunities to network.