Joining the Fabmobil for one week

An illustrated trip from re:publica Berlin to the East German countryside on a rolling Fab Lab

Daniel Stolle
6 min readMay 18, 2018

My name is Daniel Stolle. I have been working for over ten years in illustration. My clients are publications like The New York Times, The Guardian, DIE ZEIT, Der Spiegel and many more.

On Wednesday the May 2nd of 2018, I joined art and media collective The Constitute for one week to document their project Fabmobil in drawings. The Fabmobil is a bus converted into a rolling Fab Lab — a maker space with various tools, that allows you to make ‘almost anything’. There are computers, 3D-printers, laser cutters, 3D-scanners and -glasses and, not least, a traditional workshop. The bus’ purpose is to visit schools in the rural area of Eastern Saxony to give courses to pupils there, to bring technologies to their door, that normally are not available in these areas.

All the drawings below, with one exception, were created live on location.

Wednesday May 2nd, 2018 morning
The bus is parked at the re:publica conference in Berlin. Two years ago Christian Zöllner (on the left) presented the idea of a mobile Fab Lab at the re:publica. Now he and Sebastian Piatza, the other member of The Constitute (on the right) are back to present the finished bus.

Later in the morning more and more visitors are coming. Sebastian is busy on the roof of the bus. Christian is giving a talk to visitors. Members of she*fix — a feminist youtube channel for tech tutorials, have set up shop on the left.

The upstairs of the bus. Students of Christian, who is a professor at art university Burg Giebichenstein Halle, assemble a X-Y plotter, that will later be used to draw graphics onto the windows of the bus. At the same time there is the she*fix session going on in the background.

Thursday May 3rd and Friday May 4th, 2018
There are two bigger projects going on at the Fabmobil during re:publica. This one is called the “Robotic Nail Art Studio”. A robotic arm was programmed to paint finger nails. Its one-size-fits-all approach causes rather mixed results.

The second project is modding the indicator lights of the classic East German Schwalbe motorcycle. Measurements are taken of the original lights and after some brainstorming the shape of a modern version is decided, modeled in 3D and printed.

There is some serious background to this. Owning, fixing and maintaining a means of transportation has become even more important to teenagers in rural areas like Eastern Saxony. The region is aging and public transportation has been reduced. The classic motorcycles of East Germany, like the Schwalbe and the S51, often 40 years or older, are prized possessions.

Thursday May 3rd, 2018
Christian (left) and Sebastian (right) on the lower floor of the bus.
This was actually drawn during one of their presentations to a packed lower floor of the bus. For some reason I omitted the audience from the picture. Maybe I wanted a calmer image of the two, as this was one of the few moments they sat still during the three days of re:publica. They were introducing the concept, financing, making and activities of the Fabmobil. Here is a radio feature, in German, that gives an insight.

Sebastian and two other guys, Julius Plüschke and Lennart Schierling, are driving the bus from school to school, to give the actual workshops. An important part of the project is, that they visit the same set of schools every two weeks over the course of a complete school-year. Showing the kids the ‘toys’ once and moving on, would be a frustrating experience. They rather do long term projects to develop and execute ideas over several weeks.

This is one drawing I started on location, but only finished afterwards. In the upper image on the left side you can (almost) see the last important member of the Fabmobil team. Jens Beyer is spending many hours of the hot re:publica days in the trunk of the bus to fix the electricity to get the air conditioning going.

Monday May 7th, 2018
The Fabmobil is visiting the Sorbische Gymnasium in Bautzen. Now we are finally seeing the bus where it is supposed to be — at a school in Eastern Saxony. During the morning kids from the school are dropping in during breaks for quick chats with Sebastian.

Later in the day a group of seven eight graders come in for a two hour course. Some of them work in groups of two, others are determined to do something alone. This is in no way ‘frontal education’ — Sebastian helps them each individually to find ideas for projects and is troubleshooting the actual making. He is jumping within the timespan of ten minutes from 3D software, to basics of design (‘You need to draw it. You don’t need to draw well. I just need to see how you think.’), to helping cut off the neck of a glass bottle, to explaining the pitfalls of digital creation (‘Have you saved the file?’). Surprisingly at the end of two hours almost everybody has something to show for.
I realized later, that I drew six of the seven students — it would have not been too hard to make this a proper group picture and have the seventh member in too. Sorry for that.

In the evening the Fabmobil is visiting the youth center Steinhaus Bautzen. Not only young people are visiting, also older folks, one frequent visitor is well over 70 years old.

Tuesday May 8th, 2018 in the morning
Sebastian is driving the bus from Bautzen to Löbau, in the windscreen you can see the Löbauer Berg, which is quite impressive. Lennart has joined the bus.

The Fabmobil is visiting a happening of the company ULT at Messepark Löbau. Sebastian is giving a talk about the project to a ‘grown-up’ audience …

… and Lennart is giving a workshop upstairs in the bus to the kids. This time there are for each from ninth, tenth and eleventh grade of a local Gymnasium. I only listened with half an ear, but it seemed like that at least some of the kids had already some solid knowledge in programming — quite impressive. The workshop went on for another day and the results were presented at the happening of ULT.

Unfortunately I had to leave already on the first day, so this marks the end of the reportage — thirteen drawings in five working days. There would be a lot of ideas I still had, of what to show. More details of the work, that is actually done, a collection of ‘artifacts’, that are produced by the kids and many more. But this project might not be at an end yet there may be follow-ups.

Thank you for reading.

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Daniel Stolle

Il faut confronter les idées vagues avec les images claires.