Mobile Fab Lab Coming
Jim Correll, director Fab Lab ICC at Independence Community College, Independence Kansas
Four years ago, while preparing for the grand opening of Fab Lab ICC, we saw that other Fab Labs around the world were outfitting large trailers to be mobile Fab Labs. The idea was to have a small Fab Lab self-contained in the vehicle so it could be moved around to remote areas, making the Fab Lab experience available to people in those areas, especially students in the schools.
Mobile Labs Can Be Expensive
Large trailers are expensive, at around eighty-thousand dollars, let along the equipment inside and a vehicle with which to pull the trailer. We knew we would have a mobile Fab Lab at some point in the future although we weren't sure the source of funding. As we've learned with other situations and projects, funding is a status element, not an essential element to a project. We went about the business of building Fab Lab ICC with the mobile lab on our wish list. In 2017, a Fab Lab ICC program to lower barriers to women initiating full or part time businesses became the means by which to obtain a mobile Fab Lab.
The Origin of Women 4 Women
In the second quarter of 2017, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation solicited applications for their "Inclusion Open" grant program. Kauffman has always been about promoting and supporting entrepreneurship around the world. The Inclusion Open is an effort to make entrepreneurship and small business ownership available to diverse populations who currently represent a fractional percentage of business ownership in the nation, including minorities, veterans, those with disabilities and women. We enlisted Joanne Smith of Fab Creative Services to help write a grant proposal for what we named "Women 4 Women."
In the application, we proposed a series of events targeted toward women, some pure "maker" events where women would make things; some, educational events covering various business and entrepreneurship topics. Part of the proposal was to purchase a mobile Fab Lab van or trailer so we could host such events in neighboring towns.
In September of 2017, Kauffman notified us that out of around 800 applications, we made it to the top 21 to receive funding of $82,000 to launch Women 4 Women.
Procuring the Mobile Lab
The grant, although sizable, had to fund the program for two years and included a total of $20,000 for the mobile Fab Lab. We figured on starting out small with a van to haul equipment and upgrade to the bigger enclosed trailer later. Then, at a Fab Lab conference trade show in March, 2018, we learned that Fab Labs were trending away from the large trailers and toward smaller vans to transport machines and supplies to remote locations. Seems the larger vans were never large enough to hold enough people and some people didn't like the idea of being in an enclosed trailer anyway. We'd been on the cutting edge of the new trend without even knowing.
It took a while, but Romans Motors in Independence found the right vehicle for us. It's a 2014 Dodge Ram cargo van outfitted with bins and drawers for supplies and plenty of room for two or three pieces of equipment. After wrapping the van with the Women 4 Women and Fab Lab ICC logos, we'll be ready to outfit it and hit the road.
The use of this Mobile Fab Lab will not be limited to the Women 4 Women events. We see great opportunities in using it to visit schools, institutions and to host other kinds of maker events.
Next Women 4 Women Event
The next Women 4 Women event will be Thursday, September 27 from 11:30 to 1PM at Fab Lab ICC. We'll be talking about "Building Your Online Presence." The event will include a complimentary lunch.
Thanks to the grant funding most of the program is offered free of charge to participants. Anyone interested in attending the September 27 event is encouraged to RSVP to Joanne Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org; 620-330-3006.
Jim Correll is the director of Fab Lab ICC at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship on the campus of Independence Community College. He can be reached at (620) 252-5349, by email at email@example.com or Twitter @jimcorrellks.
This 2014 cargo van will soon be outfitted with the Women 4 Women and Fab Lab ICC logos along with equipment and supplies to hit the road around Southeast Kansas and Northeast Oklahoma.