The Fab-lab problem solving program at Flinders University, was designed to encourage a Creative Thinking/Discovery Learning approach amongst non-designers, by encouraging a spirit of experimentation. By developing problem solving skills, this learning approach can be applied to future problems that are neither clearly defined nor constrained. Increased public access to disruptive and emerging technologies typically found in Fab-labs, assists participants in fostering a culture of innovation and experimentation. Creating a problem that was both challenging and achievable with a group of non-designers whose background and abilities were unknown, is in itself a huge challenge. Other challenges included the cost of the activity, overall complexity, time, and available technology that could be used with little or no formal training. The problem which was tackled was: firstly, build a bridge over a predetermined span (1m) using the minimal number of structural pieces (weight was measured at the end of the exercise, to emphasise efficient bridge design) using only the supplied materials; secondly, program a small robot which could follow a prescribed path across the bridge; and thirdly, integrate the bridge design with an enhanced robot design. It was stressed throughout the activity that the goal was not solely about successfully completing the challenge. Rather, participants needed to be able to explain the methods they used to approach the problem. Initiatives that enhance creativity and non-linear thinking, are critical for enhancing our ability to meet future challenges.
Associate Professor, College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, South Australia, Australia
Fab-Lab, Problem Solving, Creative Thinking, Non-Designers, Experimentation