Q: Please tell us about yourself, your educational background and the path that led you to FabLab Tanger.
Ouardouz: I am a mechanical design and manufacturing engineer graduate of the Superior National School of Mechanics and Electricity of Casablanca. I am also a professor at the Faculty of Sciences and Techniques of Tangier (FSTT, Morocco), in Mechanical Engineering department.
In addition, I am the founder of Fablab Tanger, which was created to meet a pressing need for young students to have a space where they can express their creativity and develop their ideas: “Nothing is more frustrating for young engineers than to running out of tools and opportunities to give life to their ingenious ideas and materialize them”. This is one of the main reasons behind the creation of FablabTanger.
Q: Tell us about FabLab Tanger: who created it, why, what programs does it offer and who does it serve?
Ouardouz: Fablab Tanger has been in existence now in the FSTT for the past two years. FablabTanger is a space created by a group of teachers and students to give a boost to our youth innovation activities. It has been a challenge for the whole team and a great surprise for some in the community: indeed, the FabLab concept is still new and much unknown by the scientific community. Actually, FablabTanger was the first of its kind in Morocco. We started with a dozen students, a stratoconception machine and a RepRap kit. Currently, we are over 120 members and own a rich variety of equipment (laser cutting and vinyl, 3d printing, CNC, electronic and etc.)."Empowering by innovation" is the motto chosen for our Fablab. It reflects our philosophy to make our young people more confident in their ability to produce a change in themselves and their environment. We started where other fablabs left off, by imitating, studying, analyzing, adapting, improving and innovating. We offer very close coaching through training; project monitoring and we encourage participation in various national and international competitions, in diverse fields (electronics, renewable energy ration, urban mobility, mechanical engineering, and etc.).
In 2014, 80% of patents filed by our university were developed in FablabTanger.
Q: Can please elaborate in your innovations projects: 3D printer, Quadricopter/Drones, Bench Thermoforming, Extruder Recycling, 3D pen, Methanisation and etc?
Ouardouz: Fablab Tanger has been involved in various projects. The classic initiative
of our FabLab community is our 3D printing. It was our first project set up with a RepRap kit and that is when we discovered this new technology. Seeing the raw parts being printed was for us a great amazement! A great feeling that only a maker can understand. The confidence gained in the assembly of this first RepRap pushed our young members to seek to develop their own completely homemade printer. After that, it has been an avalanche of more simple to more elaborate projects. Developing prototyping benches was the priority (thermoforming, plastic recycling, RepRap, thermobending, and etc.), and then later extending our projects to surrounding environments trying to develop solutions to make life easier for makers, artisans and artists.
This year a group of Ph.D. students joined the Fablab to develop even more complex projects and explore opportunities of creating greater values by developing social entrepreneurship initiatives based on the new prototyping technologies. One of the most important projects is the urban mobility based on electro-solar solutions.
Q: Tell us about your participation in Solar Orcar 2014.
Ouardouz: The Marrakech Solar race challenge was and still is an important event for our members, all mobilize to prepare for this long awaited event in Morocco. Note that the Institute for Research In Solar Energy and New Energies (IRESEN) organizes this race. It was created to bring R & D in applied sciences nationwide, develop innovation and encourage networking. Our 2014 participation was very noticeable: Indeed our developed prototype was distinguished by its futuristic design compared to other competitors. The project was 100% developed in our Fablab, it was a huge challenge due to its complexity and the stakes it represented for our young Fablab. Designing a solar car by controlling all its parameters: electric, electronic and energetic with a surface large enough to house the solar panels and be at same time sleeky and very aerodynamic, was a real challenge! In fact, it has been analogous to a year of work, as in the construction of an anthill, and many sleepless nights. Despite limited resources and lack of support, unfortunately frequent in our African countries, we were still within our time parameter. Personally, the 2014 race was a unique experience: such as managing the teams, trying to maintain a high spirit and above all play the mediator and sometimes simply be a member of the group; all these different roles where the differences between teachers and students can become very blurry.
Q: What challenges is FabLab Tanger Morocco currently facing?
Ouardouz: The fact that Fablab Tanger led the way for other various similar or complementary workspaces in Morocco makes us proud. This space plays and will continue to play a catalytic role of innovation for Moroccan youth and even for the rest of the African youth. We began this year a dialog via a series of meetings and visits to our colleagues to share our experience. Our hope is to see one day an African Maker fair gathering all our young makers.
The challenges we face are many and antagonistic: from the struggle to survive, maintaining living spaces and unhooking the national recognition of the makers movement and to make it a national priority, to seeking new opportunities with the socio-economic world in order to evolve from development to entrepreneurship.
Q: Finally, in your opinion what are the key steps to increase the STEM participation of girls, women and rural populations in Morocco?
Ouardouz: Our modest experience during these years at Fablab, fueled the belief that
psychological poverty is the worst handicap to the development of our society. Empowerment through innovation based on gender may be a way to emancipate our youth and pull the TRIGGER to produce change. I believe deeply that the duplication of these kinds of collaborative initiatives can contribute to awareness throughout our population that knowledge has to be built and that everyone must participate in this socio-cognitive pursuit and from time to time even to play the mediator role.