Partnership with Impact Hub Accra

After a year of running #lowdesign #lowhightech #lofab *style prototyping workshops out of the Impact Hub Accra, and building on a year plus of geeking out at the former Hub Accra, AMP can now share a cool new partnership starting this month to build a demo makerspace with Impact Hub Accra and Siemens Stiftung(*Grassroots maker tech trend, e.g. Afri_Design_X: Ashesi Sessions)

Last Import - 5 of 24Last Import - 1 of 24

Building an innovation engine

Hundreds of thousands of young people enter Ghanas job market each yearill-prepared to create their ownwhile hundreds of thousands of artisans and crafts(wo)menfrom welders to carvers, carpenters, masons, electricians and electronics repairers, tailors, seamstresses, weavers, cobblers and sign painters to tinsmiths,copper-smiths , blacksmiths and ironmongersare already active country-wide. If we can leverage this massive belt of grassroots (micro-)manufacturing know-how, how might we retool the emerging conversation around African makersto better design products and environments together?

Most people who want to make things, dont know how; others dont know how to scale what they make. The challenge is finding what you needknowledge, expertise, blueprints, materials, toolsto make what you want, the best way you can.

Last Import - 4 of 24composite

Our story starts at Agbogbloshie—an informal sector scrapyard, market, slum and park in Accra, Ghana (actually located in the Old Fadama neighborhood) that is mischaracterized by media globally as the worlds largest e-waste dump” (compare to Adam Minter’s saner piece on Smithsonian.com). In response, 1500+ youth from Ghana, Africa, Europe and the US750+ scrap dealers and 750+ students and recent graduates across a spectrum of STEAM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics)have participated since 2014 to co-design the Agbogbloshie Makerspace Platform (AMP): a participatory design project in interclass innovation—bringing youth from different backgrounds, cultures and countries to network Agbogbloshies nodes and modes of making with new tools and technologies of digital design and fabrication.

We developed a first prototype of a mobile plug-in makerspace (we call it a spacecraft) and mobile app: a trading platform for makersto share what you need, what you have and what you makethat powers a community of plug-in spacecraft. Today we are gearing up to launch spacecraft at Agbogbloshie and at Impact Hub Accra, together with the digital network (AMP app) that links recycling with digital fabrication and distributed manufacturing. In tandem, this hybrid digital-physical platform approach operates to amplify makerspotentialto make more, betterby making together.

What is a Makerspace?
A makerspace is a 21st-century digitally-connected community workshop and lab open to entrepreneurs and anyone interested in learning, designing and making together in a collaborative environment. Typical equipment ranges from low- to high-tech, but spans 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines (e.g. routers, mills, lathes), sewing machines, soldering irons and electronics tool kits. Makerspaces help people gain new skills through learning-by-doing: using CAD/CAM software to apply 3D modeling, 3D printing, coding, robotics, carpentry, metalwork and other tools for rapid prototyping of physical objects and hardware. Makerspace complements Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) fields to drive innovation and support entrepreneurship through new product development.

Makerspace@Impact Hub Accra

Today we are excited to announce the next phase of partnership between AMP and the Impact Hub Accra, Ghanas pioneering co-working space and incubator for active early stage entrepreneurs: we are installing a pilot makerspace for digital design and fabrication at the Impact Hub Accra.

Initiated in 2005 with a single location, Impact Hub is the worlds leading network of entrepreneurial communities and collaborative spaces committed to generating positive impact. From Amsterdam to Accra, Singapore to São Paulo, Impact Hub supports the work of more than 12,000 members each year. The global Impact Hub community founds over 1,250 startups annually, creates more than 4,600 new full-time jobs, and serves over 2.2 million customers and beneficiaries in more than 50 countries around the world.

Impact Hub Accra, part of the first cohort of eight Impact Hubs in Africa, has a growing membership of over 100 and a broader community of nearly 7,000. Since 2015 Impact Hub Accra has hosted Africas biggest hackathon, Hack for Big Choices (supported by Facebook and WordPress), startup pitch events (most recently with The Case Foundation, for a $25,000 prize), an accelerator for top social entrepreneurs in Ghana (taking the Unreasonable Institutes Unreasonable Labsglobal), and developed Ghanas first digital design and innovation lab (in partnership with the US governments Broadcasting Board of Governors).

Building a makerspace at Impact Hub Accra will integrate existing maker and entrepreneur communities to create products that solve local problems, engage real markets and have potential to scale their impact on peoples lives. Here is what we are adding to make that happen:

Last Import - 17 of 24 (1)

Equipment & Space

  • Space: Renovate existing community workshop at the Impact Hub Accra, where we have run a dozen maker events with 200+ participants over the past year.

  • Toolboxes: Install a set of maker-themed toolboxes that can be stowed, checked-out and used anywhere at Impact Hub Accra.

  • Equipment: Provide a range of tools for digital design and fabrication, including shop tools, sewing machine, 3D printers, laser cutter, CNC mill/router and electronics workbench.

Programing & Activities

  • Access: Equipment/space rental for rapid prototyping available to makers and members of Impact Hub Accra (fee-based).

  • Community: Informal maker meet-ups organized around themed projects (free and open to the public).

  • Training: Scheduled sessions to help makers gain and improve their skills in digital design and fabrication (paid).

  • Competitions: Periodic design challenges to help teams move from ideas to concepts to prototypes for testing in the market.

  • Incubation: In-house support for select new product development ventures, including space, access to tools and mentoring in design, prototyping and entrepreneurship.

  • Design-build: Digital design and fabrication as a service, to be offered to startups and existing businesses (future).

Scaling the impact

Over the past year, AMP and the Impact Hub Accra have in partnership run dozens of maker events on-site with 200+ participants, including: a hybrid participatory design plus lean startup-style Makers and Developmentapproach to the AMP mobile app for Android; concept prototyping workshop with winners of Innovate Ghanas Design Challenge on themes of waste and sanitation; and an interdisciplinary collaboration between students via Ashesi Universitys Design Lab, design entrepreneurs in the Impact Hub Accra community, informal sector scrap dealers from Agbogbloshie, engineering students from the University of Ghana-Legon, students from l’École Spéciale d’Architecture in Paris and Princeton University’s PACE Center for Civic Engagement.

Now, starting in October 2016, we are launching the pilot Makerspace @Impact Hub Accra over a period of ten (10) months, with both the goal of upgrading our facilities and target of training 100 new makers, supporting development of 10 new product concepts to prototype stage, and incubating 2-4 ventures for a six-month period post. Our target budget for this pilot project is 120,000 USD for the makerspace equipment and build-out, running costs and a series of maker workshops, training sessions, Design Challenge and follow-up incubation.

Deeply grateful to Siemens Stiftung for offering support and collaboration toward not only the project budget to launch Makerspace @Impact Hub Accra, but also feasibility studies and seed funding for three (3) other Impact Hubs in Africa to roll-out makerspaces in their own local innovation ecosystems and grow the network.

We are scaling fast and always looking for partners, mentors, supporters, leads on sourcing used equipment and donors to help with match funding.

Click the link below to help share this story with your friends via our Thunderclap* campaign. More vim!

thunder-35

*This is NOT a commitment to donate money, and Thunderclap will NOT “spam” your friends on Facebook/Twitter. Thunderclap is a cool online tool that lets a group of people all share a one-time message with their friends on social media, on a particular date. The goal is to alert as many people as possible to your message—all at once.

Clicking on the “SUPPORT” button just means that you will help share us this story on 26 September, 2016. It’s like a RT on Twitter or a “share” on Facebook…in advance. Can you spare 30 seconds to help change the lives of Ghana makers?

Innovate Ghana prototyping workshop

Finalists from Innovate Ghana‘s 2015 Design Challenge around problem areas of Water & Sanitation participated in a prototype design workshop at the Makerspace @Impact Hub Accra (December 19, 2015):

Last Import - 11 of 24Last Import - 12 of 24Last Import - 13 of 24

Then @kabsseidu & @afrocyberpunk showed up from Nubian VR and prototyped a VR camera rig:

Last Import - 22 of 24Last Import - 23 of 24Last Import - 24 of 24

Log of AMP activities

DCIM100GOPRO
#spacecrafting

The AMP makers collective has run over 35 workshops to date around the theme of transforming the Agbogbloshie scrap and recycling ecosystem into a network for distributed manufacturing and digital fabrication.

Here is a list of the main events held as part of the AMP series of informal maker workshops to build the future of Agbogbloshie:

#ampqamp14 – Weeek 1

First weeek =) of#ampqamp14 started at Hub Accra by a discussion of AMP’s objectives for the three coming weeeks: to co-design and build with AMP makers (comprising of STEAM students and graduates and eventually e-waste workers) a module of the spacecraft–AMP’s  makerspace–and share its progress with the community in Agbogbloshie.

Participants started discussing the design of the spacecraft, its frame and interior frame comprising of an octet truss system, prefab panels, soft and roof systems. We then developed a critical path for each system so to know what to do at each step of the way until we build the spacecraft. The brainstorming sessions were very intensive, with some of the participants sketching/drawing the various concepts related to the spacecraft.

 

IMG_20140702_130036

Participants designing the critical path
Participants designing the critical path

By the second day we enthusiastically produced fully developed critical paths,  identified and quantified in terms of duration and dependency of the various tasks

Critical path for AMPQAMP
Critical path for AMPQAMP

We also prepared for the first workshop ahead, the plastic workshop to be carried out at the Rex Cinema in collaboration with Brad Marley and Efya  from the POLY Bank GH organization. In preparation for the workshop, we conducted background research on the physical properties, melting methods and stewing methods. We sourced the plastic–shredded-PET (polyethylene therephatlate) old plastic bottles and stewed shredded-PP (polypropylene)–and a number of molds from Agbogbloshie. This was also a good occasion to share our process with the Agbogbloshie community. This is a picture of the tools we brought to the Rex Cinema to conduct our experiments.

Tools bought from Agbogbloshie for the experiment
Tools bought from Agbogbloshie for the experiment

The Rex is an open-air cinema, a wonderful space to experiment within. There, young Ghana makers were busy melting, stewing and molding different types of plastics and exploring the production of architectural parts, panels, brick or tiles, made of recycled plastic. Sam and Idrissou, Agbogbloshie community agents, helped with burning the charcoal.. They were far more skilled than us!

DSC_0302photo 4

Below are some of the observations from the experiment:

  • We observed that the PET melting process was very slow and began really late, also at temperatures slightly higher than 260◦c, which is the theoretical melting point value. PET began to char and thus underwent incomplete carbonation and changing color from a transparent blue color a marble brown colored plastic. PP however, started melting at a lower temperature and rather melted over a larger temperature range and also produced a smooth finish.

    DSC_0712
    Marble brown colored tile made from PET
  • We may have over heated the PET plastics, which led to the formation of a brittle-porous tile.
  • Contributing factors to such brittleness of the plastic panel are associated to the cooling rate and media and this caused cracks.
  • DSC_0879
    Cracked tile made from PET
  • Also, the temperature of the charcoal flame could not be controlled and hence over heating ensued.
  • It was also observed that stewing of PET did not work. This is probably due to the fact that it has a high melting temperature and the oil doing not facilitate that phenomenon.
  • PP plastics however work well with stewing in oil. From the experiment, we formed a very strong mold which can be used for wall panels, table tops and many others.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Brick made by stewing PP plastics

 

Find here the Lab report.

We were honored to host Prof. Kwadjo Osseo-Asare (AMP co-PI) and Dr. Victor Oteng-Atiemo (retired from MD of DOW chemical Ghana) who gave us advices on how to proceed and continue our experiments.

DSC_0289DSC_0004

Here is the link to Flickr photo set.

Innovation Prize for Africa

The African Innovation Foundation held a round-table discussion on the theme “A Path to Building Industrial Nation Skillsets in Africa” ahead of the 2014 Innovation Prize for Africa awards ceremony in Abuja, Nigeria. Thanks to invitation via Emeka Okafor, I participated on the first panel, where we explored the question “Africa’s Innovation Spaces: How do they unleash African ingenuity and are they enough?”

Other panelists were Karim SY (founder of Jokko Labs); McLean Sibanda (CEO of Innovation Hub in Pretoria); Kamau Gachigi (Founder Fablab University of Nairobi, Chairman and Coordinator of UoN Science and Technology Park); and Hauwa Yabani (Director of Abuja Technology Village).

Emeka Okafor — who in addition to AIF advisor is also curator of Maker Faire Africa, superblogger and director of TED Global in Arusha, Tanzania — mediated the panel and set up the conversation as follows:

“Unstructured interdisciplinary avenues ranging from hubs to fablabs promise to kickstart innovation across Africa in a multitude of ways. There is the further prospect of vastly more dynamic output from laboratories and inventors shops, adoption of non-traditional educational methods; quicker design for manufacturing techniques amongst other things.

“Expanding the focus of these ‘spaces’ from their existing concentration in software over to agri-industry, manufacturing, research, medical equipment etc. could provide an accelerated alternate paths into industrialization.

“Leading practitioners at the IPA 2014 roundtable will examine the existing landscape and formulate potential paths and in doing so provide a foretaste of what to expect in the near future.”

Left Abuja inspired by the incredible innovations that the other panelists and IPA finalists are driving across the continent, and appreciative of the opportunity to present AMP — a design experiment in interclass innovation that is both related to but distinct from typical “makerspace” projects, in that the tools and technologies we are co-developing are tailored specifically for the Agbogbloshie e-waste ecosystem. Our work to build e-learning content and micro-factories that can assist youth with remaking 3E-materials (Electrical and Electronic Equipment) is an effort to transcend the narrative of “e-waste” not as an end in itself, but as a vehicle to amplify at the grassroots indigenous innovation linked to youth-led entrepreneurship.

While I believe that universities have a role to play in nurturing maker culture, I see makerspaces as something separate, if not symbiotic. At the same time, we need to move beyond the idea that maker tech means making little Arduino-powered gadgets only. To truly innovate, African makerspaces need not only to 3D-print, solder and code, but also to sequence, grow, etch, mill, cast and forge.