By José Luis Calderón, Nicola Mariani Arte y Sociedad
On the occasion of the exhibition “Llega un grito a través del cielo”, that opened last October 10 at LABoral Centro de Arte y Creación Industrial, where drones have a central role, this autumn its fabLAB (digital manufacturing centre) opens its second series of workshops devoted to the actual manufacturing aircraft models. From primary education students to adults of different age groups, we can all learn how to build with our own hands different kinds of aircrafts and multicopters, in a practical and funny way in four different workshops. In order to learn more about these activities, we interview Luis Díaz, who is in charge, together with David Pello, of organising and developing them.
JLC: How did the idea of creating this aircraft modeling workshops come about? Who had the idea?
Luis Díaz: It all comes from the project The Drome en FabLAB started by David Pello. As you probably know, FabLAB Asturias is one of the labs of the global network that connects over 100 fab-labs, located in around 30 countries, whose main aim is researching on digital fabrication. Fab-labs were an initiative of the Center for Bits and Atoms del MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), where David has completed a Masters Course. Then, when he finished this course, he had to present a free project and he chose the subject of aircraft model manufacturing using digital techniques. That is the beginning of everything that has to do with drones, which furthermore coincided with the exhibition “A screaming comes across the sky”. Creating a workshop on aircraft modeling was the third pillar of this subject that was pending, for the other two pillars or pieces of research and the exhibition were already organised and there was only one other element missing: Education.
JLC: How would you describe the experience with these workshops in their first edition?
Luis Díaz: They have been very successful because in these workshops bring these fablab techniques (cheap, after all) closer to the people, so that they can learn specifically about aircraft modeling in this case with digital fabrication techniques. We have already completed a first series of four workshops: two for children and teenagers and two for adults. There three editions of each of these cycles of four workshops: The first cycle was from February to July, now we have recently opened another one on the occasion of the exhibition, and there will be another edition in November-December. The first workshop for children, “maden make and your first flight”, is the first contact with model aircrafts, addressed for children that build model aircrafts manually operated, without engine. The second workshop is for older children, and the model aircrafts feature electric motors, radio, etc. In the case of adults, one of the workshops focuses on aircraft modeling itself, aimed at creating a simple airplane, and the second one is for creating multicopters, commonly known as drones.
The experience has been very positive in general. As for enrollment, practically all of them have registered full occupation. Thos for children and youngsters are different from those for adults. With the young people we accomplished our goals. One is empowering them to manufacture instead of purchasing, and repairing instead of just throwing away. In the case of little children, creating a model aircraft may be just an excuse, as the bottomline is that they have fun and learn basic concepts such as why does an aircraft fly and what is the mechanism that enables the flight.
JLC: How do children and youngsters perceive this experience and the goal to manufacture instead of purchasing and repair instead of throwing away?
Luis Díaz: They have a good perception. At the beginning of some workshops, some of them thought that something that was broken was of no use anymore, but then they learnt that it could be repaired. They also realised that in the fabLAB one can build things. We explained to the group how does a fabLAB work, the process of creating a toy… After mounting and decorating them, we went to a project hall, we launched the airplanes and some broke, so we would go back to the fabLAB to repair them. The perceived these concepts very well, because, in addition, these workshops are very entertaining. They have fun while learning. I think that the difficult part is for them is to maintain these concepts in their daily life afterwards. However, they learnt everything very well in the workshops, they got familiar with the lab and were able to meet the deadlines. Then they took away kits to mount the aircrafts at home and many participants of the first workshop got enrolled in the second one, which implied already model aircrafts with engine.
JLC: What kind of public has enrolled so far? Do you have families with children?
Luis Díaz: The kids that have enrolled did it because they wanted to, not because their parents told them. Some had taken part in previous workshops, like Robotix. Some other enrolled because their parents were interested in new technologies, robotics, programming, digital fabrication…but I can assure you that none of them was forced to join the workshop. Besides, we have many participants who are usual visitors of LABoral.
JLC: Who is more interested, youths or adults?
Luis Díaz: I wouldn’t know. Parents are definitely interested…but also small children. As I said, no one was forced to attend. The two workshops for adults went down very well.
JLC: What aspects do you see as the main difficulty for kids in this workshops?
Luis Díaz: Off the top of my head, and even if I take some time to think about it, I would answer that they have no difficulties whatsoever. May be the hardest part, as I have mentioned, is after the workshop: To be able to continue with this activity, because we were able to make the models fly, but then we kind of lost track of its further evolution. During the workshop, may be the hardest part is to learn how to use the hot glue melt gun, which is a pistol that lays glue, but in general everything went all right and it was not difficult for any one.
JLC: Do you believe that after these workshops and activities children will be more willing to create something with their own hands instead of directly buying it?
Luis Díaz: I think this is possible if they are supported and if their mindset changes. This goes beyond making paper airplanes, this is about making something more impressive with some effort and using not-so-strange techniques. In fact, some were amazed as to how easy it was. And this does not imply that these kids will become engineers.
JLC: So far you have organised several workshops for children, some from fabLAB, somo from auLAB or in partnership with other firms, that was the case of Robotix. Is the idea to keep on working on this type of different artifacts that combine engineering, usability, learning and fun?
Luis Díaz: It all develops on the evolution of research at fabLAB. If we continue researching on drones, the answer is yes. One interesting aspect of the manufacturing of model aircrafts is the fact that it combines many concepts of engineering, physics and science…mechanics, radio-frequency, aerodynamics…this means that in a workshop, without going into detail, if you have a general view, you can learn something of each of these fields and see how they all combine. I think it is interesting to keep on working on this next year and, as I have said, this is a funny, entertaining and satisfactory activity.
During November and December there are still workshops going on. For more information on deadlines, prices (24€ and 30€) and method of registration, go to:
Luis Díaz is responsible for projects at fabLAB Asturias. Industrial engineer by the Universidad de Oviedo, in the speciality of electronics and automation, he started working in the field of robotics in 2006 at Treelogic and in 2011 he joins Adele Robots, a spin out of the previous one, at theoretical level in the application of social robotics and at practical level in the development of both software and hardware prototypes. C, C++, Java developer with profesional experience in web development and process communication, he also carries out personal projects creating prototypes of audio systems. At the beginning of 2013 he starts developing his own projects for third parties and that year he joins the Production Centre of LABoral.