If we had to summarize it in one sentence, we could say that the Fab Lab is a space for exchange and group work for technology and innovation enthusiasts. We met Yovan Fowdar, who tells us all his secrets and invites initiates and non-initiates to join him in this adventure!
Hi Yovan! Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself first?
Hi! I’m a technology freak, a geek ! Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to know how my toys worked and, armed with a screwdriver, I took them apart.
I was also lucky enough to get my first computer in 1987, which plugged into the TV. As I had quickly completed the few games I had, I wanted to take full control of the computer, so I started to learn BASIC programming. In a few months, I mastered this language. I then took my joystick off the computer and used the various contacts on the doors in my room to create a smart alarm; this is where my passion for electronics was born. I used to buy the magazine ‘Électronique Pratique’ almost every month and I made small electronic circuits.
During my high school years, I also took a professional training from the Association Of Computer Professional. After high school, I did my degree in telecommunication electronics. Soon after I got a job in a big IT company, then I worked for Mauritius Telecom for 5 years and I was very happy, because it allowed me to really be at the heart of innovation. I took on a lot of responsibilities and I lived through historic moments such as the setting up of the international ISDN routing, telemedicine, videoconferencing, the setting up of the Internet in Mauritius, the setting up of high speed networks. At the same time, being very technology savvy and having already been exposed to Unix during my first job, I became an early adopter of Linux.
I then joined BNP Paribas in Mauritius where I was responsible for the IT Department. It has been a great adventure to work in the banking world.
I was then poached by a start-up, which became a multinational. I had a lot of responsibilities in this company, especially as Technical & R&D Director, IT Department Director, Project Manager, Software Development Director. I also travelled a lot to different countries.
After 12 years in this company, I wanted to live my passion fully and I created my Startup Generation Plus from which was born the MakerSpace 3 years later.
And this Fab Lab, how would you present it to the uninitiated?
A space for exchange and group work for technology and innovation enthusiasts.
What are your objectives in creating this Fab Lab?
1) Empowering people to be at the heart of technology by providing access to tools to create, manufacture and innovate. Also a place to meet, discuss and learn.
2) To allow members to carry out their projects thanks to exchange and work spaces.
3) To be an incubator for solutions that address local and even global issues.
Basically, I would like this MakerSpace to be the ‘Hangout spot’ for technology and innovation where great ideas and solutions will be born.
Courses will be offered to members. Why don’t you tell us more?
There will be plenty of training, beginner level, which will be free for members and more advanced ones. These courses will be taught mainly by senior members of the Mauritius Maker Community.
We have been working on a list (below) of some workshops; as soon as we have finalized the dates, we will put a post on the MakerSpace Facebook page and also on the Mauritius Maker Community website: https: //www.facebook.com/groups/mauritiusmakers/
It is also important to know that the courses are mainly practical work:
- Basic bread board electronics, making your very first circuit
- What is a CNC
- Micro controllers, what can you do with them, including the Auduino IDE, the ESP 8266, the UNO, the Mega
- The 3D printer, making your first object.
- What is an SBC/ Understanding Linux and how to install LAMP/ Some projects on the Raspberry Pi
How did the financing of your project go? What were the biggest difficulties encountered?
The project was completely financed by our own funds. I should also mention that I got a big hand from some Makers. The tables are completely homemade and the painting of the building was done with a lot of help from Eric Durant, who welded the metal supports and also sanded the walls. For the decoration and the choice of colors, it is a big contribution of Nisha Appanah . Sylvie, a French Maker who was in Mauritius, also advised us on the final placement of the stickers on the wall. I did all the electrical and computer work myself and the sticker cutting was done in-house on a CNC that I designed myself. It’s really a space completely made by Makers for Makers.
Will this Fab Lab also be open to external people to share expertise?
Yes, it is! People who want to share their experiences, knowledge, or who have a specific need for the facilities of the Fab Lab are welcome.
What about projects and prototypes? Is there a structure for incubating projects in order to develop and market them?
I think that with my experience as an entrepreneur and in the field I would be able to guide and direct members with high potential projects to the appropriate structures and organizations.
What is your vision for the future of 3D printing in Mauritius?
Yovan: 3D printing is a great technological advance that opens up a lot of possibilities. Prototyping and even the realization of finished products. Designing, modifying and improving your robotic project, creating your own CNC, validating mechanical designs in real life before mass production, making spare parts for old appliances, vintage cars, etc. It’s now within everyone’s reach. Before, there was Lego and Meccano games, it was a fascinating universe to make things with a certain limit, but now with the 3D printer there is almost no limit. I will say that the limit is that your imagination!!! So I will say that there is a bright future for 3D printing in Mauritius; it will be necessary to put the means so that the little Mauritians from primary school are exposed to this technology.