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PHotonics enhanced fAB LABS supporting the next revolution in digitalization

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PHABLABS 4.0 (PHotonics enhanced fAB LABS supporting the next revolution in digitalization )

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-05-31

PHABLABS 4.0 combines two major trends into one powerful and ambitious innovation pathway for digitization of European industry: on the one hand the growing awareness of photonics as an important innovation driver and a key enabling technology towards a better society, and on the other hand the exploding network of vibrant Fab Labs where next-generation practical skills-based learning using KETs is core but where photonics is currently lacking.
PHABLABS 4.0 initiated and realized the integration of photonics in European Fab Labs and achieved a lasting and positive impact on the way photonics is implemented in the Fab Labs. Combining forces of the experts in photonics and the Fab Lab stakeholders, PHABLABS 4.0 developed “33 Photonics Workshops”, “11 Photonics Challenger Projects” and “Toolkits for Photonics Enhanced Fab Labs” that stimulate hands-on design, fabrication, experiments, and building of innovative systems. In that sense the Fab Labs are equipped to really engage, excite and educate young minds (age 10-14), students (age 15-18) and young professionals (age 18+) about the fascination of working and innovating with light and increase the trained workforce with 21st Century skills. All developed activities have been successfully tested by the consortium partners in collaboration with the pilot fab labs and showed an enormous impact on the 3 target groups. The roll-out of these activities have already been initiated and picked up by several external Fab Labs.
Furthermore, the consortium of PHABLABS 4.0 have compiled a booklet with a gender-balanced approach for Fab Lab organizers. By taking this approach, the workshops for young minds have positively contributed to a more gender-balanced approach resulting in an increase of self-confidence of girls in science & technology and getting rid of the stereotypes about gender roles. The booklet is online available for all Fab Labs Europewide.
The Photonics Workshops, the Challenger Projects, the Photonics Toolkits and the booklet with gender-balanced approach are online available ( and ready for massive roll-out.
The PHABLABS 4.0 project consisted of 3 phases: The development phase, the test phase and the roll-out test phase.
In the 1st phase the “Photonics Workshops” and the “Photonics Challenger Projects” for fab labs have been developed, as well as the “Photonics Toolkits” up to a level where they are ready for testing. In a second phase the developed material has been tested by the 14 pilot Fab Labs and in the roll-out phase the developed material was cross-tested by the consortium, by external Fab Labs and, not anticipated, also by schools.
1) More specifically “Photonics Workshops” for Fab Labs tailored for 3 different target groups to discover, to understand and to master the enabling character of photonics and its many applications by making in a very short time a fascinating component, system or piece of art based on the unique properties of light have been developed, tested and updated. The “Photonics Workshops” introduce several important fundamental photonics principles to these target groups to ensure that each of them, at their own level, are able to harness photonics properly.
For each of the target group 11 different topics of photonics are covered by the “Photonics Workshops”. The development of the “Photonics Workshops” is done by the photonics research partners of the consortium, in collaboration with the local pilot Fab Labs.
As a result 33 appealing “Photonics Workshops” have been developed, tested, updated and are now available online to be used by European Fab Labs.
2) Next to the ‘Photonics Workshops’, “Photonics Challenger Projects” for the Fab Labs as an eye-opener to discover the wide range of applications with photonics technology and cross-KET applications, to trigger the creativity of the students and to stimulate innovation with young professionals have been developed, tested and updated.
Within the PHABLABS 4.0 project we defined and tested 11 different inspiring and thought-provoking “Photonics Challenger projects”, covering different aspects of photonics with a link to cross-KET technologies. In the framework of the “Photonics Challenger Projects”, the participants use their own creativity to design, build and test a system that will meet the goals of this activity. They also elaborate and test new ideas and concepts in the cross-KET domain. A particular emphasis is put on stimulating the participants to develop their ability for thinking “outside-the-box”.
3) Furthermore low-cost “Toolkits for Photonics-Enhanced Fab Labs” to stimulate and inspire innovation with photonics technology and components have been developed and tested. The PHABLABS 4.0 project has composed photonics toolkits for the Fab Labs to facilitate the use of photonics components in these innovation hubs. The toolkits are modular and are composed of photonics components and/or photonics tools to stimulate innovation in the Fab Labs. EYESTvzw has made all photonics components, needed to perform all Photonics workshops, available in their web shop. In addition 3 complete toolkits (photonics + other parts) identified as ideal STEM projects by teachers targeting the needs of schools are made available commercially by EYESTvzw.
4) The booklet 'a gender-balanced approach' is made available in an online and downloadable version on the project website. A hardcopy of the booklet will be included in every purchase of a Photonics Toolkit.
The impact PHABLABS 4.0 aimed to achieve a larger and better skilled photonics workforce with superior innovation capacity in photonics.
During the PHABLABS 4.0 project, the programme of activities had a direct impact on the 14 pilot Fab Labs and on the more than 3.000 participants of the photonics-directed activities in those pilot Fab Labs. Thanks to the large spread and number of pilot Fab Labs in the project, this impact will be Europe-wide.
Moreover, within the projects all measures have been taken to roll-out the activities developed during PHABLABS 4.0 to a larger number of European Fab Labs right across this ecosystem of innovation hubs.

The impact of this project have been measured in two types of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Within the first type of KPIs we have measured impact related to numbers, e.g. the number of “Photonics Workshops” given in the Fab Labs, the number of participants, the number of “Photonics Challenger Projects”, the number of “Photonics Toolkits” distributed, the number of press articles, website visits and events where the PHABLABS 4.0 activities are represented. Secondly, we also looked to measure the more intangible, but in many ways more telling, impact of the gain in acquired knowledge and skills of the participants in the photonics-enhanced Fab Labs. Therefore, the participants of the “Photonics Workshops” (at least 3000 in the Pilot Fab Labs) and the “Photonics Challenger Projects” (at least 330 in the Pilot Fab Labs) have been asked to complete a survey in which they could indicate their level of knowledge about the topics addressed in the Workshop or Challenger Project both before and after these respective activities including also some questions related to the attainment of the different 21st Century Skills.
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