The Fab Academy
Executive Summary
draft: July 7, 2008

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

George Church
Department of Genetics
Harvard Medical School
New Research Building, Room 238
77 Avenue Louis Pasteur
Boston, MA 02115

Dhananjay V. Gadre
Assistant Professor, ECE Division
Netaji Subhas Institute of Technology
Room-204, Block-4
Sector-3, Dwarka
New Delhi 110075

Dr. Kamau Gachigi
Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering
University of Nairobi

Neil Gershenfeld
Professor and Director, Center for Bits and Atoms
Room E15-411
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
20 Ames St.
Cambridge, MA  02139

Samuel Ginsberg
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

Vicente Guallart
Director, Institute d'Arquitectura Avancada de Catalunya
Carrer de Pujades, 102
Barcelona, 08005

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

Hod Lipson
Associate Prof. of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering
   and Computing & Information Science
216 Upson Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca NY  14853

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

Larry Sass
Assistant Professor
Director, Digital Design Fabrication Group
Room 10-471M
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
77 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA  02139

George D. Sergiadis
Professor and Head, Telecommunications & Soft Computing Group
Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering
Aristotle University of Thessaloniki