The Techlab: Where Student Projects Come to Life
It has been five years since the French engineering school Mines Nancy launched the Techlab. EducPros takes a closer look at this space dedicated to project-based learning and designed to evolve to meet student needs.
Though there is no high-powered laser cutter in sight, the Techlab at the French engineering school Mines Nancy boasts a broad range of tools, including mini PCs, soldering irons and microscopes. There is even a NAO-style robot programmed by students to guide visitors at MUDAM, Luxembourg's modern art museum. The lab also shares certain machines with other departments at the University of Lorraine.
Les fablabs ou la pédagogie de la bidouille 09.02.2015
The innovative learning lab, which features a workshop with robots, tools, circuit boards and drones in addition to a 3D printing facility, has been around since 2012. In 2017, it is scheduled to expand to 150 m2, twice its current size, and welcome a laser cutter. A group of first-year students has been given €20 thousand to design two new ergonomically sound wings: a project-based workspace and an open brainstorming space.
From Ideas to Objects
In 2011, Mines Nancy IT students were tasked with designing drones. Professor and lab manager Pascal Vaxivière remembers, "At a certain point, the drones had to take flight!" The school devised the lab as a way to encourage students to mount projects that would bring their ideas to fruition and replace theories with concrete projects. It also serves as an introduction to collaborative industry practices such as co-working.
From Fabrication to Other Applications
Studies director Marie-Reine Boudarel explains, "The idea was to create a lively place that encourages project groups to come up with new ideas and overcome obstacles." Yet the Techlab is not a fablab. For Boudarel, "Fab labs are designed for makers who create innovative objects whereas the IT students at Mines Nancy were originally more interested in software development." Another thing that makes the space unique is its mission to adapt to student needs over time.
The Techlab is open 24/7. Tuesdays are reserved for IT students. On Fridays, a group of roughly 30 students from Mines Nancy, ICN Business School and the art school ENSAN use the space to collaborate on video game, nanotechnology and robotics projects. The group is a clear reflection the university cluster's multidisciplinary ambitions.