Dublin, IrelandDublin, Ireland
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

A Fab Lab is a place where you can make just about anything.

We're running pop-up Fab Labs in libraries where anyone can learn how to use 3D printers, CNC machines, electronics and coding to solve problems and make new things.

This pilot is the first step towards a full-scale lab in Dublin.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

anyone, anywhere could make anything?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

The digital divide is growing. Those who stand to gain the most from technological tools are the ones least likely to have access to them. Our education system has neither the resources nor agility necessary to teach the hard tech skills that people need. Hands-on STEM learning is a rarity for all but the most privileged. Never before have we been so far removed from understanding just how the things that fill our lives actually work.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We believe the most sustainable way to bring the deepest results of the digital revolution to those who need it most is to enable them to participate in creating their own technological tools for finding solutions to their own problems. Creative making promotes problem solving, resilience, risk-taking, playfulness, autonomy and self-confidence; hands-on learning is proven to have high engagement, even with learners who don't perform well in traditional academic environments. Digital making is especially exciting as the barriers to creation are low - just about anyone can learn to make something at a high level of finish in just a few hours. The aim of Workbench is to minimise the barriers to making new things.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Each Workbench day will have 3 sessions. There will be training in safe use of the equipment, a project-based class, and an open session where users can work on their own projects. Workbench's mission will always be to support Education, Creativity and Enterprise, empowering people to make new things that would otherwise be impossible. Making helps people with problem solving, creativity and self-confidence. Hands on learning gets high engagement, even from those who don't thrive in traditional academic environments. Digital making empowers less able people to make amazing things without needing fine control. Gifted learners can push boundaries. Art, hardware, apps, craft, sensors, robots - anything is possible!

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In our initial 10 week pilot, we expect to work with 200+ users. Moving from the pilot towards a permanent lab, we would expect about 500 users per month (based on use of other Fab Labs). With careful, appropriate programming very close to 100% of users will create a tangible output. Engagement in Fab Labs has been shown repeatedly to be very high. Fab Labs offer not just a place to learn new skills, but also offer open access to the resources users need to put them into use and develop further at their own pace. The Fab Lab model is highly adaptable to local needs, and since 2006, approx 330 new Fab Labs have been set up worldwide, helping communities to solve local problems, build economies and support education.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our ultimate aim is a world where everybody has access to the means of creation. This pilot represents the first steps towards establishing Fab Labs in all public libraries and other community hubs. Like libraries, Fab Labs are places which facilitate learning, and we believe that laser cutters, 3D printers and electronics equipment should be as common a sight in libraries as computers and printers are now. We aim to establish a workable model wherein all Irish public libraries contain a Fab Lab, and that eventually we can spread this model to the rest of the world.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Phase 1, Pilot - Space is provided by the Libraries. Facilitation is voluntary. We are seeking sponsorship for key equipment (e.g. Laser cutter). Phase 2 - Ongoing Library based workshops. We will seek appropriate funding from The Year of Irish Design and Science Foundation Ireland to support workshops. Phase 3, Permanent Lab - Lab begins to be self-funding through sponsorship by organisations for sessions for their members, e.g. DCCOI, EI.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

The project has close peers in Derry, Belfast, Limerick and Tipperary and we will be following their model, as well as consulting with Fab Labs internationally. The success of the project hinges on local, open access to resources. There are no Fab Labs in Dublin. Tog, a Dublin hackerspace, operates as a club for makers. As such, it does not offer the facilitation necessary to educate and support those who do not already have background in making, and can be intimidating for those without technical skills. We aim to give users the confidence to graduate to spaces like Tog.

Founding Story

Tara has always believed that making is fundamentally important both for an individual's and a community's well-being. She has been working to help people access digital fabrication for a number of years, creating a database of national fabricators to whom people could outsource manufacture, and giving classes in the basics of how to create the files. While helping people to make new things, it became obvious that they needed to use these machines first-hand. Outsourcing was just too big a jump. People needed the freedom to experiment, to make mistakes, to feel and see how this equipment works. It didn't need to be the most expensive, high-end kit, it just needed to be real. Since then, she's been working to bring Fab Labs to people.


Project Lead Tara Whelan is a former director of the Civic Works, currently working as an independent designer in Dublin. Her background is in product design, and service & strategic design. Project Support Dr. Nora O Murchú Nora O' Murchu is course director for Digital Media Design in the University of Limerick. She is the founder of Tweak an interactive digital art festival that focuses on promoting open source technology.
About You
About You
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About Your Project
Organization Name
How long has your organization been operating?

Organization Country

, Dublin

Country where this project is creating social impact

, Dublin

Funding: How is your project financial supported?

Individuals, Regional government.

Awards: What awards or honors has the project received?
Where have you learnt about the competition?

I was told about the competition by Barry Flinn in Ashoka Ireland when I inquired about advice regarding funding.

Tell us about your partnerships:

The pilot project will be taking place in Dublin City Council Libraries. DCC Libraries are very excited to explore the possibility of applied learning and access to fabrication equipment in libraries and are graciously offering use of their space and whatever assistance they can provide.

The recently founded Fab Foundation Ireland will be providing additional support in terms of expertise and advice.

Challenges: What challenges might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?

Problem: Insufficient exposure
Solution: Promotion through DCC Libraries to relevant users groups, as well as through other relevant organisations such as the Design and Crafts Council of Ireland, Dublin West Education Centre, and local groups.

Problem: Classes too difficult for target group
Solution: Follow guidelines from other experienced Fab Labs about what works with whom.