By Ioanna Moriatis | This story appeared in the July 2017 edition of AUC Today.
Most of us have wondered time and again how an object was made or built, but how often do we take a step to truly understand? Two students at AUC are turning theory and curiosity into reality, loosening the bounds of creativity and imagination with the establishment of AUC’s FabLab.
A FabLab is an engineering workshop or laboratory space equipped with tools and machines for digital fabrication, and AUC is the first University in the Arab region to house its own FabLab, thanks to Mohamed Ragab and Abdel Rahman Shalaby, mechanical engineering students and founders of the University’s FabLab.
The project is part of the Mechanical Engineering Association, and the lab itself is entirely student-run, overseen by a technical team of engineering students. The team is responsible for monitoring usage of the lab, handling maintenance of the machines and training newcomers on how to properly operate all tools and machines. Each visitor to the FabLab must complete certain sets of hours in order to be able to use the machines without team supervision.
This addition to the campus can be a useful supplement to the classroom experience for AUC students. “The FabLab expands and provides many opportunities,” explained Ragab. “You never know what someone can come in and create. This will increase creativity and extend the boundaries of thinking when it comes to designing and discovering new processes.”
All FabLabs around the world share designs and documentation for their projects, allowing other labs to download materials and research on how to conduct their own projects. As a part of the accredited FabLab community, every lab is required to complete one major project every six months.
What remains for the AUC FabLab is to attain accreditation by MIT, home to the first FabLab. In order to achieve this, the FabLab team at AUC will need to obtain two more of the necessary machines. Accreditation will allow AUC entrance into the FabLab community, an invitation to the annual conference held in a different city around the world and access to a course titled How to Make Almost Anything. “We believe this course could be very useful at AUC,” explained Ragab. “The course traces the entire thought process behind creating something and rapid prototyping, detailing the cycle of designing, implementing and redesigning to make corrections.”
The FabLab is a not-for-profit entity. While the team does need to charge for use of the space, all money is poured back into the lab and used to buy materials and support projects. The lab has already begun operating, opening its doors to several students making use of the machines for their courses and theses.
For two years, Ragab and Shalaby dedicated themselves to gathering funds for the opening of the lab and discussing logistics with different members of the community. The biggest challenges for the two students were securing funding and finding a space. “I remember we were originally given a three-minute meeting with a group of AUC faculty members to make our proposal,” shared Ragab. “We ended up staying for more than an hour, answering questions and discussing plans. They showed a lot of support for our ideas. This support from the University and faculty members was essential in making the FabLab a reality.”