The FabLab Nepal team completed and wrapped up their first ever FAB Trainings this month! As we’re approaching the FabLab Nepal launch and installation in January 2021, our team was super curious, excited and willing to test and roll out these first set of pilot workshops especially, since so much has changed from what we anticipated back in 2019. So this December, the FabLab Nepal team with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) organized five workshops on basic and intermediate level training modules for digital fabrication. However what’s different is that they launched a series of technical workshops fully online adapting to this ‘new normal’ and trying to test if skills building and knowledge transfer is possible through digital means. Pallab Shrestha, Program Lead at FabLab Nepal along with Pradita Pradhan, Program Coordinator of Field Ready and Ben Spencer, FabLab Nepal Advisor facilitated the sessions that consisted of five amazing and committed participants! Let’s hear from Pallab how this experience was for facilitators and our first batch of fabulous participants.
Can you briefly share your experience hosting these workshops?
Well, these workshops had many ‘firsts’. This was the very first pilot workshop program for the Fablab Nepal team and also my ‘first’ fully virtual training class that would offer technical skills. We organized five workshops across the month of December where each training consisted of two sessions. Our participants were eager and excited with the content of the workshop that included 2D & 3D printing and designing, CNC craft, using Solidworks software, electronics, etc. This time we designed to roll out basic introductory courses in the first round to test and ensure participants get good delivery. Although we didn’t see a lot of participants in the start, it however led to a small, focused and interactive group of five which was great for learning, discussions and co-creating. The amazing thing is this workshop also pushed the Nepal FabLab team to quickly adapt and design a detailed FabLab workshop curriculum which came out as a great outcome for us and can be helpful in future implementation of workshops. Now we look forward to co-creating more advanced workshops by building upon what we have already designed and tested this month by incorporating the valuable feedback and learning that participants and facilitators jointly experienced.
Did you face any challenges while organizing these workshops?
We were a bit concerned about the delivery of the workshops to start, since we were conducting a fully virtual workshop. In general, such technical workshops have always been practised or conducted live and in-person till date. Transferring technical skills without hands-on practice seemed difficult at first and so in order to make it more interactive and engaging, we installed multiple camera tripods, real time videos and on-site printing setups to help participants understand better during the workshop. We did adapt to unpredictable challenges during the virtual classes such as internet disruptions and load shedding, but at the end, we received really positive feedback from our participants which is a big achievement for us! Seeing them try to build and design their own projects, failing and re-learning during the workshop made me feel really happy and that’s when I felt, “Yes it works!”
At first, I was quite skeptical with the virtual nature of the workshop because viewing the whole workshop and side by side also trying to replicate on a split screen in my 14 inch laptop was quite challenging. But I got the hang of it quickly and was able to learn the technical workshop all virtually. Before this workshop I used to draft my drawings in AutoCad and then import to Solidworks but with this workshop, I am now confident in drafting 2d sketches in Solidworks itself. I also learnt that product design can be done effectively through 3D printers. A great experience overall.Prashanna Bajracharya, Participant
What were some of the learnings from this workshop?
From this workshop, we saw that there are indeed, curious and innovative young makers out there who have the hunger to learn these skills and tools. We found it difficult but not impossible to convey and grab technical concepts remotely from virtual sessions like this. Few of our participants also visited us here at the Communitere hub to have hands-on experience of the machines like the Cricut and 3D Printer.. Despite our entire facilitation team and working participants having tight schedules and juggling between multiple tasks, everyone dedicated their valuable evening time for the workshop and it came out to be really successful. In a good sense, this pilot workshop pushed us to create a detailed curriculum and step-by-step manual which will help us host these FabLab workshops better in the future. For me personally, it has been a month of steep growth and learning as well! Ben Spencer’s perspective and experience as a professor in the technical field was very helpful for me and Pradita to learn in delivering these workshops effectively. Human Centered Design concepts itself applies even for us when we implement such workshops with participants! Virtual sessions not just saved resources but also gave us an opportunity to test new tools and software to host this exchange remotely. We got really good feedback from the participants and pretty good engagement in the training.
When will the next series of workshops take place?
Now we plan to host the next series of workshops once we install and launch the Fab Lab equipment here at Nepal Communitere in January. We will be developing more advanced courses and curriculum building on to this and referring to resources that our partner organization: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has shared. Next month, I will be going to Kochi, Kerala for a five-month Fab Academy Course on digital fabrication. I’m very excited to learn new stuff there and return back to Nepal in June 2021 to support and share my learnings and skills with FabLab Nepal members and participants. For the time being, we will have a new member as ‘Technical Associate’ join the Nepal FabLab team to support the program here. Meanwhile, keep an eye out for the launch date of Nepal FabLab in January 2021 and more valuable workshops.