Harnessing student creativity through FabLabs

Dr. Aoki makes a presentation

A Japanese scholar is pushing for establishment of low-cost Fabrication Laboratories (FabLabs) in local universities in order to improve creativity and innovation among students and staff.

Dr. Shohei Aoki of Keio University added that the facilities should be incorporated in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)curricula fields which require ingenuity. He said that FabLabs can make “almost anything” and the students will benefit directly from the hands-on experience by systematically understanding the theory behind their innovations.

Dr Aoki who was speaking during an open seminar at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, September 19, 2018, made reference to the United States of America where FabLabs are effectively integrated from the primary schools.

“There are already many initiatives in the U.S, for incorporating FabLabs in the primary school. The way they teach is unique, because the question for the students is open-ended, which means there are no correct single answers. Students are supposed to come up with their own idea by creating artifacts,” said Dr. Shohei

Dr. Aoki also said that facilities are cost effective alternatives in realizing the development agendas in manufacturing, affordable housing, health care and food security in the country.

“FabLabs would be a training centre for traditional workers and craftsmen. They can learn new skills with digital fabrication which will make the local production more efficient. Another aspect is to produce spare parts for the machines. To import maintenance parts from abroad takes much time and cost,” said Dr. Aoki

He added that FabLabs could also boost the agricultural sector by increasing crop productivity with minimal rainfall.

“A FabLab in India has done experiments using less water to grow more agricultural produce. They made hydroponic to grow fodder, biomedome for growing horticultural plants, Aquaponics for fishery and organic vegetables. Similar projects could be done in Kenya,” said Dr. Aoki.