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who are you?

My name is Amy Beaulisch. I’m from Belgium, but lived in several places like Iceland and Paraguay. I have a professional bachelor degree in Industrial Product Development but work as a product developer and STEAM educational trainer in a Makerspace in Drongen. In my free time I enjoy reading fantasy novels, listening and going to metal and hard rock festivals, build and restore boats and learn more new interesting stuff.

where are you located?

I live in Aartrijke. It’s a small town about 20 minutes south of the historical city of Bruges, Belgium. For work I drive to Drongen everyday. It’s located next to the also historical city of Ghent and takes me about 45 minutes by car to get there.

what is your day job?

Where to start. I work at “De Creatieve STEM’ (The creative STEM), which is a non-profit organisation that has the educational objective of promoting the development of the individual with all her / his talents, the organization wants to create a framework within which children, young people and adults develop their talents in technology, science and languages.

Officially my job title is “product developer and STEAM educational trainer”. But people never get what we mean by this. So I mostly divide my job in 2 kinds of days: The ‘office days’ or ‘labdays’ and the workshop days.

On officedays I mostly spend time in the MakerSpace itself doing paperwork, answering emails, meetings, developing workshops, preparing workshops (laser cut or 3D print things we need, take a look at the presentations), planning new projects and activities. On workshop days I’m mostly not in the lab itself. We’re known for and specialized in giving workshops locally in schools and libraries. That means that we have to get over there, and all of Flanders is our workfield, so being on the road, early and late hours are a part of the job.

In practice I’m responsible for maintaining contact with the worldwide FabLab network through contacts that I made over the past years. Within The Creative STEM I’m responsible for the follow-up of, among others, projects of Flanders Make and Digital Skills Fund Belgium and the Global Children’s Designathon Works designathon. In addition, I’m deployed in workshops with disadvantaged groups because of my experience gained in other FabLabs and countries.

what makerspace/hackerspace/fablab do you attend if any?

I’m happy that the question isn’t what makerspaces/hackerspace/fablab have I attended.” As the list would be far too long. (see further)

At the moment you can ofcourse find me in the Ingegno Makerspace in Drongen, which is connected to my dayjob.

Next to that you can also find me in the former eco-fab-lab in Bruges (currently named: het lab). Several years ago I started this one with some friends but by now we are hosted by the youth service of Bruges.

Apart from those two frequently visited labs, I try to visit FabLab Leuven and FabLab Vestmannaeyjar (IS) every time that I’m nearby.

What kinds of stuff do you make?

This is a hard one actually. A bit of everything I’d say. At work we’re always developing or changing a workshop or project, so I got a lot of time working on that. At home I mostly 3D print things, as I can easily do this at home. Both for myself or for work. During my years in school I mostly made assignments for school. Now that I have graduated I like to expand my horizons with more random skills.

My latest interests are restoring and builidng boats, e-textiles (thanks to the development of the Giant Breadboard) and – you may laugh now – but pendants. I found some seaglass on the beaches in Lyme Regis during my stay there and decided to make pendants out of them. It’s a project with a heart and soul as Lyme Regis is a special place for me. I’ve never been much of a typical girl, more one-of the boys, so even my friends are asking if I’m feeling alright by showing interest in such a subject.

How did you get started making stuff?

The seed of going abroad was planted by my parents but took root around my 11-12th birthday while reading some books. It was only when AFS came to my school to give information about exchange programs that it all got started. I decided to go to Iceland for a year as an exchange student and ended up in Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland. Around christmas time 2011 my host dad told me that he found an interesting place for me that would be perfectly to my liking: the local fablab. We visited and I wasn’t impressed. I didn’t have a feeling with the machines or the teenagers sitting and working there. They tried to push me into the FabLab classes that were thought in the local secondary school but I tried to find my way out of it by asking for wood or metalwork classes – I always wanted to learn that anyway as I never studied a hands-on career in secondary school. The wood and metalwork classes couldn’t offer me a place and so I was placed into the FabLab course. And to be honest, I didn’t like it at first. I didn’t understand a thing of inkscape or the machines and was always running behind at least 2 weeks with my assignments. But as it was still wintertime in Iceland, I had long evenings to practice my FabLab skills and in the end decided to exchange my finals* in May for a volunteering project within the FabLab. By the time I entered the volunteering project, I had grown a liking to the FabLab and got the responsibility over the lab while the manager, Frosti was outside in town managing the rest of the project.

Good stories come to an end though, and soon after the volunteering project it was time to go back home to Belgium. Not for long though. By the end of january I was back in Vestmannaeyjar. This time as a FabAcademy student. Even after all this time, I’m still not sure why exactly it was that I got the grand, but I like to believe that Frosti saw skills in me that could be developed or that I expressed my wish to stay connected to FabLabs. I spend my FabAcademy in Vestmannaeyjar, but never had a chance to graduate from the 2013 cycle. I was too much of a novice. It was however the start of my new life.

Spending time in the FabLab network gave me access to some interesting labs though. One of them was the FabLab in Leuven. After a short chat, they asked me if I wanted to join them during the FabLab children’s camp of july 2013. I said yes, and that would become the start of several awesome summers. Over the years I stayed longer and longer in the lab. Starting with a week, a month, whereas at the end of my ‘student job’ period, I’d run the lab for 2 full months during summer time. Taking care of the FabLab camps and the daily operation during the summer months. It often meant that the lab didn’t have to close down for some time in the summer and could stay accessible for everyone.

Back in Belgium I did feel the need for a FabLab, to express my newly learned skills and out my creativity. The closest labs at that time were about one and a half hour away from where I lived and I could just not make it that far. So around December 2013 I went online and found some people that were of similar idea in Bruges. It would be the kickstart of the eco-fab-lab in Bruges. For several years I would advise the board on decisions and teach all my knowledge to members of the lab. Until today, this is still one of the labs that I visit the most.

In the meantime, I studied New Media and Communication Technologies (NMCT) at HoWest, and failed miserably. Instead of giving up I decided to re-orientate to Industrial Product Design (IPD). Something that I considered my roots after my whole Iceland adventure (before that, I studied human sciences). For 3 years I gave all I had to graduate from IPD, spending lots of time in FabLabs to finish up my projects.

During my second year, we needed to find a place where we could do our internship. Is I was – duh – very FabLab oriented, I wanted to do my internship in a FabLab. The lab in Bruges wasn’t equipped enough back then, and the lab in Leuven was too far away. I went asking around and one of my lectors set me up with Ingegno. The rest is basically history. I could do my internship at Ingegno and later in the academic year write my bachelor’s thesis there. The latter resulted in our ‘MakerUnit’. A workbench made for children that is being used in our lab.

I didn’t feel ready to start the adult life of a full time job, paying bills and taxes, so I left Belgium for 6 months to volunteer in Paraguay. I found my place within the Benjamin Franklin Science Corner in Asuncion. They taught me how to deal with teaching children from all layers in society. One day we’d have kids over from the private french school, having to teaching French rather than Spanish or English. The other day we’d have children over from the slums, barely having any shoes on their feet.

*I didn’t have to take the finals from the Icelandic school system as I already graduated in the Belgian school system from my secondary school. I was in school to integrate in the culture, but school grades came second.

What is something you’ve made that really stands out, that you’re proud of?

I’m mostly happy with small projects that people asked me to help them with. It’s more of a pleasure for me to see them happy and have solved their problem than to make something big.

Kitchenroll dispenser.

I remember the project because it was one of my first projects that I really got on point. We could pick a half fabricate and then 3D print the rest of the parts that we needed. The design cycle that I went through for this project was one with a lot of ups and downs and even almost giving up. But in the end, this project was showcased at school for about 2 years.

Makerunit

I already mentioned the MakerUnit quickly before, it are basically our work tables that we use daily with the children. By now a lot of interested persons that have visited our lab have seen the units and they are starting to show up in several other labs. It’s nice to see the project grow and change. During the FabAcademy I also had the time to make a CNC milled version of it, which I hadn’t during my thesis.

Giant breadboard

I always wanted to finish up my FabAcademy and Cristina found it an interesting investment for our lab. So in january 2019 we settled on developing the Giant (educational) breadboard. The only recommendation for Cristina was that it needed to be flexible/transportable. I also wanted it to be producible in most places around the world. When developing the small boards for children I mainly kept my colleagues in Paraguay in my head. What materials can they get there? What is the cost of it for them? Can they afford it? Do they need credit cards? Do they need to buy it online (amazon, ebay) or can they find it in local stores?

Full documentation on the breadboard can be found here.

What do you have on your horizon?

I’ve always had a love for boats. And after spending time in Paraguay, away from water, I realised that it had a bigger place in my life than expected. So I bought a fixer upper woorden boat and started restoring it. Pretty soon I realised that I didn’t have enough knowledge about it and that there are a lot of ways to handle a wooden boat. So I decided to apply for some of the courses at the Boat Building Academy in Lyme Regis last summer. In the meantime, I also applied for a grant from the Belgian state to become an apprentice in wooden boatbuilding at a shipyard here in Belgium to preserve immaterial trades. We got it and I’m starting my training next january.

Where we’re doing very well in my dayjob, I hope to someday let the boatbuilding hobby run out of hand, just like with the FabLabs, and make my job out of it.

Links:

https://www.boatbuildingacademy.com/ (where I learned about boats last summer)

https://www.c23.be/ (the guy/wharf where I’ll be an apprentice the next years)

what is something you’d like to work with but haven’t yet?

I had an introduction in both tools during my time in Design school, but I’d like to master the wood lathe and copper casting. Both projects can be interesting and used for the building and renovation of boats. But next to that also sparked my imagination on things that can be made with it. I remember my mom and grandmother taking me to an expo about the casting of bronze indian and himalayan statues, sparking my interest in lost wax casting and other casting techniques.

My interest in the wood lathe sparked during design school. I started looking differently to how things were made and this one just speaks to my imagination.

Any advice for people reading this?

Never give up, take your time. Don’t wait for chances to happen, create them!

Sometimes you know where you want to get – sometimes you don’t. Just take your time to get there, even if it may take years, and trial and error.

My own story of one of ups and downs, following a not common path and often not knowing where I’m going myself. But everything always seemed turn out right. The only thing I always did was staying true to myself. Doing the thing I want, appreciate advice from people around me, but still make my own decision, even if everyone was against it. Work hard, develop your talents and shine! Shine!