Interview with Matthieu Laverne
Founder of Fablab Sant Cugat
Fablab Sant Cougat is the brainchild of Matthieu Laverne. An engineer by education and entrepreneur by passion. When Matthieu relocated to Barcelona from his home country of France, he decided to make his dream come through and opened a fablab. Fablab Sant Cougat caters to a large local community and people with different interest and backgrounds.
1. How is Fablab Sant Cougat different from other fablabs?
Fablab Sant Cougat was established two years ago, and we are open to a large local community. It is hosted on a campus of a business school and we can cater to the needs of businesses and entrepreneurs.
2. How did you end up teaching?
When I was at university, I had the idea of creating a lab, but I felt that this was just a dream. I was an entrepreneur, and when we moved to Spain as a family – after three unsuccessful starts, I decided to go for something that I cared about, and I was very passionate about. While earlier I took classes in woodworking, I thought that I could create a school where people can do crafts and electronics. I went on the internet, looking for ideas and came across the concept of a fablab. I applied to a course called Fabacademy, and I got hooked on the idea. It was a very intensive program; it confirmed my plan and gave me a frame on how to move forward. I've learned to work with the tools, machines, and how to create an environment for the fablab.
3. Who are your creators and what type of projects they bring to the lab?
We have creators, artists, engineers etc. We aim to help them with their business ideas, and we have business-minded people who can help them to take their invention a bit further. We want to be a point of encounter for various talents, and we try to empower everyone and help people to grow in the fablabs. We have team experts both in the fields of creating, making, designing and engineering and also in the field of business, finance, marketing, communication, and sales. We are in direct collaboration with the business school, and they can help when there is a need for more expertise than what we have onboard. We just cross to the next building and see if a professor or a PhD. student can come and help on the project. They can offer, sell their time or take some stakes in the project.
4. Do you specialize in one field?
We are too young to specialize; we haven't started with a focus on getting into a niche in specializing. The Fablab concept is relatively new here, and we are still looking for a niche market. Right now, there is no particular focus. We are a growing team of a biologist, architect, designer, two engineers and business expert. It is interesting to have a variety because we can understand projects from different perspectives.
We also offer various classes for kids. Parents feel that our programs are suitable after-school activities, and some of the kids are talented with fantastic ideas. Even if they don't become inventors, they learn the steps on how to place a product on the market, and they can take that knowledge with them for the future. We want to support entrepreneurship from a young age; I feel that it is the answer to the future of work.
5. What age range do you target and focus on?
Our big motto is empowering. We want to empower adults and kids. Kids have an advantage because they are more moldable, and they have an open mind. We try to get people into a "yes I can do it spirit", especially adults – who have to unlearn what they can or cannot do. In the Fablabs, we try to make people realize that they can do things, and we empower them to have the courage to start their projects and try new things.
Fabkids program for primary school is from 7 up to 10-11 years old. Fabteens is for children age 12 and onwards. The program includes electronic laser cutters and 3D printing project-based learning. We make shorter projects (2-3 weeks) for smaller kids and teens the projects are longer, up to a whole year.
For 17-18 years old, we have a unique program where we support the students to produce their end-of-study high school projects. Some kids write their thesis about something they feel strongly about, and we accompany their thesis with a physical item. We help them to do this; we show them how it should be done so they can do it by themselves.
6. Can you share one of the recent projects that have been worked on?
One of the last projects this year was done by one of our students. She will present her project this winter. Her inspiration came from the fact that she wanted someone to accompany her on an instrument during her music performance at school. However, nobody played the piano or any other instrument in her family. She didn't know anything about electronics, but when we recommended her to build a robot, she was open to the idea. In two weeks, she made a moving finger, and the finger was able to press piano keys. This positive experience encouraged her to do more.
Her project was featured at the local Maker's Fair, and she was very proud of herself. She started not knowing anything about electronics, but she was keen on learning something entirely new and created a functional and successful object. She created a robot with 32 fingers, and it played the piano awesomely. She has also coded four different songs by herself. She now works with a teacher helping her to find resources to collect coded songs off the internet.
Adults are a work in progress – our members are coming in, creating their projects, we do a lot of workshops that are for the community from winemaking to 3D printing and product creations. The idea is to develop and maintain a community, get people to come, share their knowledge, ideas, or skills, and engage with one another.
7. What is your recommendation for creators?
One of the key ingredients is to love your product and idea. You have to enjoy what you do. The second crucial ingredient to entrepreneurship is resilience because anything that can go wrong, most probably will. You will likely have to put in long hours and need to be strong in mind to follow through.
Be flexible and follow the idea where it takes you. If you have an idea, go for that and move forward with it. Don't wait until it is all perfect because more often you have the beginning of the plan, but you don't have it clearly planned out – it is more important to get started and go with the flow. Don't just look at it but start digging and work until you get to the end of it. Your idea is something which got the life of its own. Maybe when you looked back on your concept and compared to the finished product, the two will be very different. If you believe in something and it makes you happy, that helps you to make it a success.
Matthieu is an expert in 3D design, industrial design, engineering, product creation and education.