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Should you Apply for Fab Academy ?

If you follow the MakingSociety newsletter, you already know that the deadline for applying to Fab Academy 2014 has been extended. You have until November 30th to fill the form and find a local FabLab.

Fab Academy 5-months Digital Fabrication online program is directed by Neil Gershenfeld from MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms and costs about $5,000.

A few weeks ago I met Romain di Vozzo, a French visual artist who worked for Greenpeace and will be AVIZ‘s Fab Manager in a few weeks. He is alumni from Fab Academy 2012 and accepted to answer my questions about the program and what he got from it. Worth reading.


MakingSociety: Tell me more about yourself.

Romain di Vozzo: I’m a visual artist. I’m interested in relations between Arts, Politics and Environment. I just finished an experimental Master in Arts & Politics (SPEAP) for young professionals at Sciences Po Paris. I worked for Greenpeace. I was a student at Fab Academy 2012 at the FabLab AS220 in Providence, RI, USA. Starting mid-December 2013, I’ll be Fab Manager at AVIZ Laboratory at INRIA (National Institute for Research in Computing and Automatism) located in Saclay, France.


Letter cut on vinyl. A Fab Academy project by Romain di Vozzo. Link to the project.

MakingSociety: Do you consider yourself a maker?

Romain di Vozzo: Am I a Maker? By default, I guess yes. But I don’t have a specific attachment to this identity. On the other hand, I adhere to Do It Yourself and its values.

MakingSociety: Why did you want to do Fab Academy? What were your main motivations?

Romain di Vozzo: I was waiting for a digital fabrication program to be born for a while already. I wanted to prototype objects but I didn’t want others doing it for me. I wanted to be a part of something open and creative where I could learn how to control machines and that would fit with the values of DIY, which is completely different from the traditional way of seeing engineering in France.

MakingSociety: What did you learn?

Romain di Vozzo: I learn how to control the machines in a FabLab. I fabricated and programmed my own Arduino circuits and how to add sensors to them. I coded in HTML, I learned how to transform drawings into big artistic stickers, I cut plans of an hexagonal wood floor that I designed. I learnt to use Unix commands, create GUI with Processing, I used Gimp, InkScape, NetFabb, Mercurial, and more, and also cracked software. I used Kinect to scan in 3D, I milled wax to make molds, I learnt how to make press-fit objects, I learnt how to 3D print, how to build a 3D printer, and more.

The list of classes I followed is visible on my webpage.

Very important too: I learnt how to document and reproduce my works on line in the most precise way possible in order to share my experience with other users.


Building a 3D printer. Fab Academy project. Credit: Anna Kaziunas France

MakinSociety: Which machines have been the most useful to you?

Romain: For me, FabLab queens are the laser-cut and the CNC mill. I learnt how to use an Epilog and a Roland. It’s only since I have my own Ultimaker at home that 3D printing plays a role in my daily environment more and more. The only missing tool at AS220 was the Shopbot. Anna Kaziunas France – our dean and Fab Instructor at Fab Academy – had an agreement with an external shop that had one. Since then, AS220 got its own Shopbot.

MakingSociety: How did you connect with the other students? Did you keep strong connections? Would you say it’s closed in the spirit from a more classic program?

Romain: I need to precise that I moved to the United States for 7 months to follow this training. In Providence, the first contact with people was very easy. My friend Josh – who was studying with me – came with his wife in Paris last September. I was also in an artist residency at AS220. I met a lot of people who were very involved in the cultural life of the Providence community. AS220 is not only a FabLab, it’s also a powerful cultural center that is very dynamically build by and around the charismatic Umberto Crenca (TedX).

MakingSociety: In your opinion, who should do the Fab Academy? To whom would it benefit the most?

Romain: My point of view is not necessarily mainstream. Anyone having the deep desire to get a control on material settings in their daily life will find a great satisfaction in this program. If I was legitimate enough as a political consultant, I would really recommend to politics to take this kind of program. Visualizing data in three dimensions, invest thoughts in an object that you conceive yourself, stimulate creativity and make you stand still.


Molding and casting class. Fab Academy project by Romain di Vozzo. Link to the project.

MakingSociety: $5,000… Is it worth it?

Romain: For an access 24/7 to machines in the FabLab (I had the keys) in a super dynamic cultural structure like AS220, with a weekly class by Neil Gershenfeld and a diploma in digital fabricatio, yes, it’s worth it.

Discover more of Romain di Vozzo’s work on his website.

Fab Academy website is here.

Do you plan on applying to Fab Academy or a digital fabrication program this year?

Share your story in the comments,




Credit home picture: Waag Society

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