Laurent Chicoineau: "the Fab Collège project is moving up to the next level"

Laurent Chicoineau is the director of La Casemate. A year after the launch of the first Fab Collège, he takes a look back at the project and tells us about the second edition, which started in early October.

laurent chicoineau casemate fab collège fablab solidaire
Laurent Chicoineau.


How would you sum up the first Fab Collège?
It was great. We were able to get six schools in priority education areas involved very quickly. They were good sports, so despite the short timeframe we were able to set up teacher training and support for each project. And best of all, the local Education Authority told us that they found the project so relevant and successful that they wanted to involve more schools. That’s the ideal response to this type of project.

So what was the Education Authority’s position at the start of the operation?
Their teams were initially very interested. Later on they raised a lot of questions about the project. Some of them had reservations about the technical side and the use of 3D printers, but they quickly realised that the machines are just a pretext to explore digital fabrication. They were afraid that we’d be totally focused on the tools, but in this project the technical aspect is not the ultimate goal.
What is the Education Authority doing to support the second edition of the project?

The Education Authority will supply equipment, and is planning to provide support for the project and courses by assigning someone from CANOPE (a creation and educational support network) to the project. Their role will be to train and support the teachers throughout the year and maintain the equipment. They will join the support team, which includes a skills philanthropy volunteer from Orange and scientific mediators from the La Casemate FabLab.

"the machines are just a pretext to explore digital fabrication"


What feedback did you get from last year’s young participants?
They were thrilled. They had never dreamed that they could do anything like that, and they were proud to be involved in the project. When they started work in September, they certainly never imagined that just a few months later they would be displaying their work to an audience and local officials. It was pretty spectacular for them. They’ve also discovered how technology makes it possible to create myriad different things and that the machines don’t restrict them. It was a great opportunity for them to discover the potential of digital fabrication: it’s very open and creative.
Some of them even came back to the FabLab outside the formal sessions. Some of the mediators have told me, "We saw some of the kids from the solidarity FabLab." They are eager, we helped create interest in the FabLab, and above all we showed them that it’s possible, that they are capable of making things, and that they can master digital fabrication.

What will change this year?

"The project will involve over a thousand middle schoolers and a hundred teachers for the entire school year."

This year’s programme - the second - started in early October. The real difference this year is the scale of the project. Last year, six schools were involved. These year, we’ll be working with 30 schools in several departments, not just the Isère. So it’s on a very different scale now: the project will involve over a thousand middle schoolers and a hundred teachers for the entire school year.

Last year, a lot of questions came up over the course of the year, particularly practical issues with the machines. For example, the 3D printers had to be connected to a computer, which sometimes led to a problem in terms of resources since not all of the schools had enough computers. This year, we’re going to get around that problem by testing printers with USB ports so you can print right from a flashdrive.

We see this as the second and final test year. In terms of educational goals, the idea is to create multidisciplinary projects, combining English and technology, for example. Since these methods are innovative and are still fairly uncommon, we’re going to work with the Educational Sciences Laboratory at Pierre-Mendès-France University in Grenoble. Our objective is to observe and analyse new teaching practices and understand student-teacher interactions. And like last year, an exhibition of all the projects is planned for the end of the school year, this time in partnership with FrenchTech Grenoble.

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