The Fab Academy will provide instruction and supervise investigation of mechanisms, applications, and implications of digital fabrication.
Like the earlier digitization of communication and computation, the digitization of fabrication is bringing the programmability of the digital world to the physical world. The research roadmap is leading to the development of a universal replicator that will eventually be able to make almost anything (included itself), by programming the assembly of functional materials. Field "fab labs" are providing early access to these capabilities, through prototype tools for personal fabrication. They are analogous to the historical role of the minicomputers that came between mainframes and PCs; fab labs, like minicomputers, have a cost and complexity within reach of a workgroup, allowing their applications to reflect the interests of individuals rather than institutions.
The possibility that anyone can make anything anywhere challenges an assumption of scarcity that has been implicit in the organzation of advanced technical education and research. Research infrastructure that was once restricted to elite institutions is now available in a fab lab. The students and teachers that have studied in these institutions can now be connected by broadband video wherever they are. And the content in libraries can be shared through online repositories of research articles and instructional material. Instead of traveling to a distant campus, or connecting remote sites for distance learning from a central hub, a global network of local labs can itself become a distributed campus. This is the mission of the Fab Academy.
The Fab Academy emerged from the experience of students who had exhausted local educational opportunities and came to fab labs for informal, peer-to-peer, project-based technical education, mentored by a growing group of faculty from around the world. To meet this demand, the Fab Academy will initially focus on a vocational FAB degree aimed at employment certification, then a Bologna-style Bachelors degree for specialized study, and finally post-graduate research leading to more advanced degrees.
The FAB degree will cover relevant aspects of physical science, computer science, engineering and design, including materials selection and characterization, additive and subtractive fabrication processes, CAD/CAM/CAE, circuit design and assembly, sensors and actuators, embedded and application programming, networking and algorithms, as well as models for managing businesses and intellectual property. Study of these areas will be integrated through a hands-on project focus on producing functional systems, and be driven by the rate of skills progression rather than a fixed schedule.
Fab labs began as an outreach project from MIT's Center for Bits and Atoms; the FAB degree is roughly equivalent to passing the rapid-prototyping course "How To Make (almost) Anything" at MIT. Fab Academy instructors will initially be drawn from collaborating faculty at existing educational institutions, however the accreditation for these degrees will be through the Fab Academy itself. Classes will be taught via networked video to students in fab labs around the world, with collaboratively developed online instructional material. Because there is no international accreditation, the Fab Academy will undertake applicable local and regional accreditation procedures, however the program content will be shared across these.
The Fab Academy in turn will work with the non-profit Fab Foundation to provide operational capacity to support invention as aid, and the for-profit Fab Fund to help global capital find local inventors and local inventions find global markets. Together, these organizations form an ecosystem to enable learning, living, and working in a world of personal fabrication.
The initial faculty participating in the launch of the Fab Academy include:
Dr Adrian Bowyer Mechanical Engineering Department Faculty of Engineering & Design University of Bath Bath BA2 7AY UK George Church Department of Genetics Harvard Medical School New Research Building, Room 238 77 Avenue Louis Pasteur Boston, MA 02115 USA Dhananjay V. Gadre Assistant Professor, ECE Division Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology Room-204, Block-4 Sector-3, Dwarka New Delhi 110075 India Dr. Kamau Gachigi Lecturer Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering University of Nairobi Kenya Neil Gershenfeld Professor and Director, Center for Bits and Atoms Room E15-411 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 20 Ames St. Cambridge, MA 02139 USA Samuel Ginsberg Lecturer Room 4.13 Department of Electrical Engineering University of Cape Town Private Bag X3 Rondebosch 7701 South Africa Debabrata (Debu) Goswami Associate Professor Department of Chemistry and Center for Laser Technology Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur - 208016 Uttar Pradesh, India Saul Griffith MacArthur Fellow President and Chief Scientist, Makani Power 2175 Monarch Street Alameda, California 94501 USA Vicente Guallart Director, Institute d'Arquitectura Avancada de Catalunya Carrer de Pujades, 102 Barcelona, 08005 Spain Behrokh (Berok) Khoshnevis Director, Center for Rapid Automated Fabrication Technologies (CRAFT) Professor, Epstein Department of Industrial & Systems Engineering University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA 90089-0193 USA Hod Lipson Associate Prof. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering and Computing & Information Science 216 Upson Hall Cornell University Ithaca NY 14853 USA Daniela Rus Professor of Computer Science and Engineering Associate Director, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory Room 32-374 Massachusetts Institute of Technology 77 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02139 USA Larry Sass Assistant Professor Director, Digital Design Fabrication Group Room 10-471M Massachusetts Institute of Technology 77 Massachusetts Ave. Cambridge, MA 02139 USA George D. Sergiadis Professor and Head, Telecommunications & Soft Computing Group Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering Aristotle University of Thessaloniki Greece