Science, technology, engineering & mathematics
Flanders Make supports the Flemish manufacturing industry in view of strengthening its long-term international competitiveness. We do this above all with industry-driven, pre-competitive and excellent research in the field of mechatronics, methods for developing products and technology for manufacturing them.
To remain competitive, the industry needs a higher influx of staff trained in technology, engineering, exact sciences or mathematics. In a European context, these are also called "STEM profiles" (Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics).
6 Flemish FabLabs, especially for young people
Flanders Make wants to stimulate the influx of 10- to 14-year-olds in scientific and technological study areas and encourage these young people to choose for a STEM job later in life, such so as to be able to anticipate the needs of the Flemish knowledge economy and job market. Extra attention is paid to the following target groups: girls, top talents and disadvantaged groups. In this context, we chose to invest € 180,000 in reinforcing the Flemish FabLabs, an already existing and successful initiative. As such, Flanders Make endorses the objectives of the Flemish government as defined in its 'Action plan for promoting careers in mathematics, exact sciences and engineering 2012-2020'.
Practical operation of these FabLabs
The activities of the FabLabs are in line with the activities of Flanders Make: the development of new products using advanced technologies. To this purpose, concrete, practical workshops are organised that stimulate the creativity of young people and the general public, always departing from the everyday environment of these young people. In these laboratories, they can create their own inventions using the available digital production tools. Equipped with, among others, a laser cutter, 3D-printer and milling machine, they can discover how they can create an actual product using wood, plastics, paper and/or cardboard. In short, the FabLabs encourage young people to explore and develop their STEM talent.
Interested in FabLab experiences? Watch this video:
Schools as allies
In view of encouraging young people to choose for a STEM study, the FabLabs organise these workshops predominantly through schools. By opening up laboratories to students, these are given the opportunity to discover new, high-tech machines such as 3D-printers without the need for every school to invest in such equipment. Also the relevant teachers are closely involved in the design of these workshops and encouraged to integrate them in their teaching package as part of an innovative, high-quality technical education. With success because so far already over 2,000 children and teachers have had the opportunity to taste of everything the FabLabs have to offer.
Cooperation is crucial
Every FabLab determines itself the exact content of its workshops considering commonly established guidelines, which are assessed on an annual basis and adjusted if needed in consultation with Flanders Make. The following step that we must take is encouraging the mutual cooperation between the different FabLabs so that they can share experiences, exchange equipment and materials and learn from one another. The research centre also wants to contribute to increasing the professional skills of STEM teachers (refresher courses, technology coaches) and to provide for high-quality corporate work placements for teachers.
In all, 6 FabLabs are active at the moment: 1 in every Flemish province and one in Brussels. Thanks to the different, region-specific approach, all target groups can be stimulated in the best possible way to discover their STEM talent.
- Leuven: Catholic University Leuven
- Kortrijk: vzw De Creatieve STEM
- Brussels: Free University Brussels
- Ghent: Ghent University
- Limburg: Luca school of Arts
- Antwerp: FABLAB+