Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Starting a Fab Lab: 10 Things We Learned

When we started planning for Fab Lab Tulsa in 2008 we had no idea what it would take to get our lab launched and operational.  We had a great team and generous community support.

Now that we've had a chance to look back on the experience, we wanted to start with a quick list of lessons learned about starting a Fab Lab.  There'll be more to come so stay tuned.

No. 10...No Egos Allowed
There's simply too much to for one person to do.  Sincere team members will build a Fab Lab in your community, not just a collection of individuals.

No. 9...Improvise and Be Prepared to Think in Your Feet
Especially early on, don't get too fixated on your concept of a Fab Lab.  Keep your options open.  Fab Lab Tulsa is in its present location because of a purely random connection between Tulsa's network of community gardens.  Had we not kept our options open and listened to our community, we might still be searching for suitable location.

No. 8...Read Malcom Gladwell's "The Tipping Point"
Your team needs three types of people...Mavens (the machine geeks), Salesmen (making pitches), and Connectors (they seem to know everyone!).  Fab Lab Tulsa was so lucky to have individuals with all of these characteristics.

No. 7...Listen to Your Community
Be proactive.  Build relationships.  Host community information meetings.  Discover their needs.  At Fab Lab Tulsa's first community meeting we met the donor who eventually donate the money to pay for all of our equipment.

No. 6...Plan Your Exit
As a founder or core team member of your lab, you cannot be involved forever.  Build a team, identify talent and start recruiting your replacement now.  The first set of founders from Fab Lab Tulsa just "retired" from our Board of Directors, while the remaining group of founders will be "retired" in two years.

No. 5...Be Prepared to Make Fab Lab Your Life
You probably already know this.  Starting a Fab Lab will become a second job.  Annually, get ready to spend 1000-2500 hours per year...that's 4-8 hours per night.

No. 4...Raise FRIENDS before FUNDS (but don't be afraid to ask for money)
Investors and donors aren't only giving support to Fab Lab, they're contributing because they believe in your team.  If they don't have a chance to see an operating Fab Lab then they're giving you money as an act of faith.  Don't let them down.  Fab Lab Tulsa spent over a year forming community partnerships before we ever raised a penny.

No. 3...You Can't Make Anyone Want it More Than You Want it
No one is going to do the work for you.  If you want a Fab Lab then you'll have to do it.  Be fearless.  Go anywhere, at anytime to talk to anyone about Fab Lab.

No. 2...Be Prepared for NO.
Fab Lab Tulsa almost died three times.  First, when our original preference for a location was rejected by the site owners.  Second, when our initial corporate sponsor backed out.  Third, when we left our first non-profit sponsoring organization and formed an independent non-profit.

No. 1...Be Prepared for YES.
Build your plan.  What are your start-up costs for equipment?  Facility?  Staff?  What are your three year projections for revenue?  Expenses?  Usage?  What are your customers?  What community problem does your Fab Lab help solve?

These were lessons hard learned.  Feel free to contact Fab Lab Tulsa at our website if you'd like more information.

Good Luck!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

USFLN Symposium Rocks!

Fab Lab Tulsa, if you didn't see our website, is hosting the annual US Fab Lab Network Symposium this week.

If I may be so bold...our Tulsa planning team rocks!  They've put on a great event and I'm so proud of them and grateful for their hard work.

Tuesday we hosted Dale Doughtery, of Make Magazine.  He's a global trend setter in the Make movement, and has his pulse on the future of fabrication.

Wednesday we had a wonderful line-up of speakers on topics ranging from running your Shopbot or laser cutter to founding your own non-profit, organizing a board of directors, speaking with foundations and raising money.  John Fitzpatrick from US Highland also spoke about its new and wonderful relationship with Fab Lab Tulsa.  All of it great.

Oh, I forgot to mention Fabfi, made possible through the ingenuity of Amy Sun and hard work at Fab Lab Jalabad (Afghanistan).  Amy had a wonderful talk on the story of this amazing Fab Lab development.

Thursday was our education day with presentations from Project TIES (Caroline McEnnis), David Isenbart from the Fab Lab at Will Rogers Middle School in Claremore, OK; and also a presentation from Dr. Paulo Blikstein from Stanford University.  The afternoon included Camp Shopbot by Sally Coyle and crew.

Autodesk also gave an insightful presentation on the state of networking in the Maker community, and how their site Instructables can play a growing role.  Fab Lab Tulsa looks forward to a new relationship with Autodesk and Instructables.

Overall, the conference was informative and enriching, with valuable insights from the US Fab Lab community.  Personally, I had a great time and made some great new friends.

Visit Fab Lab Tulsa and make something today!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wanna build a chariot?!

I've finally started building things in the lab.  Check out the My Projects page so that you can see the pictures and download the design files.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Calling all engineers & manufacturers...

Every engineer and every manufacturer in northeast Oklahoma should support Fab Lab Tulsa, at least in my humble opinion.

I support the Philbrook Museum of Art by getting an annual membership.  It's not expensive at all, but I do it; not because I'm an artist but because I believe in their mission.

I support the Tulsa Zoo as a Zoo Friend, not because I'm a pet owner but because I believe in their mission.

Does someone who donates to the Red Cross need to have received blood or emergency relief services?  No.  You just have to believe in their mission to support their cause.

The same holds true for Fab Lab Tulsa.  Engineers and manufacturers rarely find a philanthropic venture which is so taylor-made for their, education, workforce development, research and entrepreneurship.
  • Are you a manufacturer or do you work for one?  Consider supporting Fab Lab Tulsa because you believe in our mission.
  • Are you an engineer or do you know one or work with one?  Consider supporting Fab Lab Tulsa.


Thursday, March 1, 2012

Have you registered yet?!

The US Fab Lab Symposium is coming up soon.  We have a great event planned.  Sign-up today!

I promise you'll have a great time.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Another Fab Lab Tulsa news story!

This clip from KTUL Channel 8 in Tulsa.  I'm pretty proud of this one because it's the first time our new executive director, Nathan Pritchett, spoke on TV on our behalf.  Great job Nathan!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Awesome Youtube clip!

Kudos to Stevie and his team with Explore Tulsa TV!  They came into the lab on Tuesday and shot a great short piece which has now been added to the website.  It's probably the best video piece we've seen of Fab Lab Tulsa EVER.  Thank you!