Next Gen­er­a­tion of In­no­va­tion for the Grass Roots

Southern Innovator - - YOUTH -

Tak­ing in­spi­ra­tion from science fic­tion sagas, the next gen­er­a­tion of in­no­va­tion is al­ready tak­ing shape in the South. A group of in­no­va­tive fa­cil­i­ties called Fab Labs (short for Fab­ri­ca­tion Lab­o­ra­to­ries) in Ghana, In­dia, Kenya, South Africa and Costa Rica is ap­ply­ing cut­ting-edge tech­nol­ogy to ad­dress peo­ple’s ev­ery­day needs.

Like the fu­tur­is­tic “repli­ca­tor” in Amer­i­can tele­vi­sion and film science-fic­tion se­ries Star Trek, Fab Labs en­able peo­ple to de­sign and pro­duce what they need there and then. The labs are mush­room­ing through­out the South as peo­ple get the in­no­va­tion bug.

Orig­i­nally an idea from the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy’s Cen­ter for Bits and Atoms, which spon­sors nine of the labs, Fab Labs let peo­ple use dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy to build phys­i­cal ob­jects, from eye­glass frames to toys and com­puter parts. Fab Labs em­power lo­cal in­ven­tion by turn­ing ed­u­ca­tion, prob­lem-solv­ing and job cre­ation into a cre­ative process.

With min­i­mal train­ing, chil­dren and adults are de­sign­ing and mak­ing their own toys, jew­ellery and even com­puter cir­cuit boards with the ma­chines. It is turn­ing peo­ple from con­sumers into in­ven­tors. – (Oc­to­ber 2007)

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