In Tübingen, near Stuttgart, the fablab open in 2014 concerns itself with social integration, recycling computers for migrants and takes part in the Freifunk project for free access to the Internet. Guided tour.
Tübingen, special report (text and photos)
“Gemeinsam selbermachen!”—Do it with Others. This is the moto of the Tübingen Neckar-Alb fablab. Located 40 km from the very serious Stuttgart, this German town of 88,000 inhabitants is full of charm: disordered half-timbered houses, small boutiques and colonies of students on bicycles give it a nice alternative and environmentally-friendly atmosphere… So not really surprising to find there a community of smart cookies: a makerspace, that also offers a Repair Café, and a fablab that we visited.
South of the city, within a stone’s throw of the Landestheater, on a hill, the fablab “was born a year and a half ago”, explains Janina Hirdler, active member of the fablab and PhD student in chemistry. “We are still relatively young.” It counts today fifty members, “but sadly… only three women”, she adds half amused, half disappointed. On Thursday and Friday evenings (from 6.30 to 10 pm), the place turns into a very friendly club, where artists develop metal sculptures and move forward with their video projects. While beginners, amongst whom unemployed and migrants, come to train and take a special test that will allow them to use the machines. Some courses are in English, for migrants, and their number is constantly increasing.
Landestheater, In a cheerful mood, Janine Hirdler guides us round the fablab, composed of three spaces. On the ground floor is the slightly “dirty” room where one works on materials. This is where the CNC machine that they finished building two months ago is used.
On the first basement, you can find a large working table in the middle, and loads of equipment, a soldering station, nice DIY printed circuit lamps hung on the walls. This is where we meet Florian Aldehoff and Justin Humm, who are working together on the Freifunk Stuttgart network. The Freifunk project is a VPN network system relayed by antennas abroad (German law forbids you from sharing your connection) that allow you to gain access to free WiFi, leaving no tracks…Set up today in 24 cities in Germany, it is also developing in Switzerland and in Luxemburg, and allows inhabitants of rural areas and refugees to access Internet.
On the second basement, a work group is busy on a large table. We are introduced to the laser cutter, to work on wood and Plexiglas, and the pieces made from it.
The fablab established strong links with the community of migrants having arrived in Tübingen. Piklu Gupta is a German teacher in a language school where he teaches refugees and one of the coordinators at the fablab of the Reboot. An initiative that consists in gathering old IT equipment and repairing it. They install Linux and free software by inserting a multilingual interface (German, English, French and Arabic). 25 machines have already been distributed to families or new grade-schoolers…One way of helping out migrants from Syria, Afghanistan, Iran or Irak.
Discover the fablab Neckar-Alb
Follow the development of Freifunk