The Fab Academy gives PhD students an opportunity to explore a range of skills, software and processes such that it brings a number of areas of study together. The course fee is paid by the university to the Fab Academy. Half of this fee is then returned to the Fab Lab where the students have been successfully trained: in our case to the university Fab Lab. This course counts towards the post graduate certificate and carries 20 credits.
The course has been offered for three years and in that time has brought together a number of students from different courses and different faculties. Although classified as “hard work", each student who has completed the course has stated that it has been worthwhile.
The course is run with over 100 participants from around the world hence there is a great opportunity for international co-operation. It has also allowed students from different disciplines to work together. The lectures are conducted internationally but it is really the problem solving where students contact each other around the world that brings the main advantage. We feel that even more could be done to encourage this international co-operation.
There have been a number of issues over access to the learning and communication internally to the system.
The time needs to be extremely well structured with us running into problems each year over the changes in clock for summer time happening at different dates around the world.
The Fab Academy has grown so much that the host university has problems being able to provide conference access to everyone, meaning that if you drop out at any stage it can be difficult to get back in. Due to the video conference set up of the lectures a video conference suite is needed at the receiving end on a regular basis to be able to follow interact with the lectures.
The work issued can be vague – to cover different levels of understanding as well as different levels of facilities – and does require the dedication of a fair amount of time.
This exercise is massive and even for just taking part requires a lot of organisation – i.e. access to a conference suite, connection to the remote system and being able to stay connected to the remote system.
The skills covered are varied and are applicable to a number of disciplines, which will assist in the completion of project work.
By learning how to use the equipment it is possible for students to make alterations to their designs and hence make better use of resources.