Fab Lab Tulsa is a space where people who want to learn skills in software design thinking and machine working can take classes.
Fab Lab Tulsa is a non-profit makerspace with an educational mission. Fab Lab (short for Fabrication Laboratory) is a space for independent innovators who are hoping to gain design-thinking skills and improve problem-solving abilities with innovation and creativity by signing up for a membership and enrolling in courses. These courses and membership teaches users how to use machines and software they normally wouldn’t have access to because the majority of Fab Lab users are people who have very little background in machine work or creation software. It is meant to be a user-friendly experience that helps people gain confidence and learn how to make what they want or need.
The concept was developed by a popular MIT professor with his course “How to Make Almost Anything,” and at the end of this, he had left students with a very simple Fab Lab that allowed them to make almost anything they could imagine and the confidence to do so. Since this first Fab Lab, nearly 1,800 have spread across the United States and around the world.
The Fab Lab in Tulsa has been around for over 11 years, and recently has moved buildings and is in the process of updating all of the machines available for people to work with. Inside Fab Lab Tulsa, there are different studios and shops available to members and students as they are learning or have passed courses to have access to these machines. Students start with more simple machines in order to help them gain confidence that they can learn how to use these machines.
A good first start would be the laser cutters or 3D printers. These are both fairly simple machines that also combine different kinds of software and creation aspects. Students can get familiar with how these work and merge different disciplines of machine learning: the technical aspect and the software that allows the designs to come to life. Once mastering the simple machines, students can move on to larger, more complicated ones in order to do woodworking and metalworking. Currently, Fab Lab Tulsa is still ensuring that their larger machinery is calibrated correctly and safe for inexperienced learners to use.
The software can be taught both remotely and in person. Members have access to a large amount of different kinds of software learning courses, 2D and 3D design software, microcontrollers software, programming with python and circuit design, as well as paid licensed software such as CAD, Solidworks, Adobe Illustrator and more. The knowledge after learning how to use these can then be brought to the machines to bring users’ visions to life.
Membership at Fab Lab can be best suited to the user. Currently, there is not an option dedicated to college students, but the most common one with college students is the “Tinker” membership plan. This plan was designed specifically with college students in mind and provides access to Fab Lab and its resources for four months, roughly the same length as a college semester, and is billed in a single invoice. The other options are a year-long plan, and a modular plan that is billed based on the module course that the member is taking. Each plan has a cap on the number of hours that members can spend inside Fab Lab and the plans are meant for adults only due to the inherent danger that comes with using large, heavy machinery.
Fab Lab is a wonderful resource to the Tulsa community and can allow people to express their ideas in ways that would not be possible if they did not have the ability to gain the knowledge or access to the machines that are expensive and a very large commitment to own.