The Green Review

What's old is new again

Author: Marc Bragdon - Head of the Research Commons

Posted on Feb 10, 2022

Category: Programs and Updates , Opinion

Fix it Mondays at the Fabrication Lab 

Image of people fixing a laptop at the fab lab

 As new initiatives go, the Fabrication Lab on the third floor of the Harriet Irving Library, part of the Research Commons, is a throwback and a step ahead. The 3D imaging and printing technologies you’ll find here are heralds of a revolution in manufacturing and material learning whose implications are only beginning to reveal themselves. But some of the more traditional equipment on hand hints at an equally intriguing future. Drills, hammers, saws, wrenches, clamps, a soldering iron, even a sewing machine - these are the tools of a new breed of old school, devastatingly handy people, ready to reclaim a bit of agency in the everyday world. 

Used to be common for folks – the Baby Boomers, let’s say, and their ancestors - to maintain what they had, because it was harder to come by and there was a certain pride in making, maintaining, and sometimes improving your material lot in life. While my generation, “Generation X”, is often lumped in and identified with them – and denying this affinity is often decried as a “Boomer move” - this is one critical way we differ from our parents: we lost the knack for fixing that they took for granted. And you, my Millennial and Gen Z friends, are our heirs apparent. 

But don't blame me. Blame society. The rising tide of late twentieth century prosperity, propelled by cheap manufacturing, planned obsolescence, and conspicuous consumption, brought to the drowning and buoyant alike a shared context of disconnection from “our stuff”. And the tide keeps on rising.  My jack of all trades father stares uncomprehendingly at his glitchy tablet while I kick the broken snow blower, and we are one. Learned helplessness: the great unifier. 

There are indications, however, that the time might be right for a retooling of our hapless, helpless habits. Environmental degradation, social isolation, scarcity, and inflation may be all the rage at present, yet some of the responses to these trends, embodied in sustainable and various do it yourself initiatives, are rekindling a practical, dare I say hands-on sense of responsibility to oneself and to community that would have been unthinkable not long ago. 

The Fabrication Lab, in build and philosophy, is right there with’em. As a student-staffed makerspace offering a range of tools, onsite design and making expertise, and varied community-targeted programming, the Fab Lab is a friendly, open place to learn new skills and help others. This is a place to experiment without fear of failure – in fact, it’s encouraged: To make or to break, that is the question. And you are the answer. Because if I were to sum up what makes this Lab Fab, it is you. Empowerment is our business. The tools and the things you make, break, fix or improve, are its investments. 

In this spirit, we are starting, in consultation with and encouraged by our friends at UNB Sustainability, a DIY repair program called Fix it Mondays. The UNB community is therefore cordially invited to bring in any broken or faulty household items, accessories, apparel, or electronics in need of a little TLC on Mondays during open hours – but really any day of the week will work.  

A photo of Amir, Fix it Monday's key staff

Our Fabrication Lab staff, led by the irrepressible Amirhossain Matoufiazar (MTME 22), will do its best to guide you through a repair process sure to improve your relationship with your stuff, and maybe over time and even more grandly, reconnect our species to its technologies in a meaningful, abiding way. On top of it all, we kick everything off this Valentine’s Day, February 14, so what's not to love? 

We hope, too, to enlist community members with specialized knowledge in occasional programming that tackles topics of interest, be it garment repair, soldering, upcycling, and so many more. 

So if you have items in despair, or some particular skills to share, dare to repair! And if you’ve never been in, feel free to drop by and check us out. There has never been a better time learn a new trick or two. 

The Fabrication Lab is open Mon-Thurs 2-8pm, Fri-Sun 1-5pm.