More than 120 volunteers have gathered together from October 19th to 21st for the Fabrikarium, a big event organized in Toulouse at the initiative of Airbus Group and My Human Kit.

The Fabrikarium was a great prototyping sprint that aimed to invent, improve, make and document technical assistance to disability and distribute plans, codes and instruction manuals to all the people and places involved.


Photo credit: Valérie Guichon for MHK – CC by SA / Our fabmanager Yo with Véronique Vives and Gael Naut (Airbus): MHK & Airbus at work.

This project of collaboration was born at the end of the last year thanks to the exchanges between Nicolas Huchet and people in charge of disability in Airbus Group – Annick and Laurence will recognize themselves. At that time, our association was looking for partners and met several industrial players, including some of them very motivated by a desire to involve their employees in the dynamic of MAKING, and ready to mobilize them in an experimental space and time and so accelerate the propagation of open source solutions for disabled persons.

Thus, over the exchanges, the Fabrikarium project has begun to take shape in June 2016. It wasn’t a walkover for its organizers! On one side, companies with thousands of employees work with their own internal rules, their own corporate cultures, and their methodological requirements and also with advanced tools. On the other side, a micro-association (we) is supported by its community, an improbable mosaic of volunteers of all ages, skills and backgrounds spread in many countries.


Photo credit: Gant Sonar’s team via Baptiste Gaultier – CC by SA / Developing prototype

From the outset, our intention was a tad ambitious: 9 projects to build and to document in three days, for more than 120 participants in 13 teams divided, including fifty recruited people by Airbus Group via its intranet from July 2016, but also other people from Saint-Gobain, Cap Gemini, Sogeti, Thales, Safran, BNP Paribas companies, and finally students from the Lycée Airbus. Beyond the organizational and managerial challenge, My Human Kit had to not only learn lessons from previous hackathon experience but also ensure certain conditions:

Mix motivated volunteers of all ages, disabled or not, in a collaborative dynamic (First condition)
in :

  • A space becoming a fablab and fully equipped to MAKE (Second condition)
    where we will
  • Build what we hope for (Third condition)
    and especially
  • Share the results through documentation and instruction manuals under open source license. (Fourth Condition)

    Photo credit: Gant Sonar’s team via Baptiste Gaultier – CC by SA / Romain is testing the Gant Sonar

    For the documentation we wanted to contact those who seemed us the best for accomplishing a feat; that means recruiting throughout France a documentation team able to shoot, interview, detail each project and archive each file to facilitate the reproduction of the prototypes, all distributed under open license format (CC-By-SA).

    Floss Manuals which is well known for its book sprints and whose work and team we really appreciate, gathered for the Fabrikarium a dozen experienced people – often historical members of free software communities – at the right opposite of the industrial world.


    As far we know Floss Manuals is one of the best and biggest documentation team ever mobilized on a hackathon in France.


    Photo crédit: Valérie Guichon pour MHK – CC by SA / Directive A 1057

    The organization of the event was really difficult, but provided us opportunities to forge strong links with Airbus team – with Laurence, Veronica, Gael and Yoann in particular: we had to learn many acronyms and unknown processes on either side. The Lycée Airbus (Airbus Toulouse High School) opened its doors to host the event, while My Human Kit has accelerated its investments and transported there about sixty people from France and Europe and a whole fablab in the hold of a bus…

    On D-day, 18th October 2016 volunteers converged on two floors and additional spaces, respecting a very accurate schedule planned to the nearest millimetre from the first to the last minute.

    team shiva

    Photo credit: Valérie Guichon for MHK – CC by SA / Shiva’s team: customization of upper limb prosthesis

    Then what? Would corporate professionals endure the unavoidable lack of technical means inherent to the Unknown and the Unpredictable: we really can’t foresee the material for what we don’t know we will invent? Would retired persons, artists, designers, orthotists, hackers, lovers of our community get on with people who have never known a rapid prototyping workspace like this? Would disabled people integrated into the Hackathon find a pivotal role working in teams? Would we avoid competition between teams and work together in a larger project than the sum of the projects?

    Well, yeah, it worked pretty well! It probably thanks to a number of factors gathered around this famous Fabrikarium event: a complex logistics but masterfully conducted (by Gael, Delphine and Yohann), amazing participants, all volunteers to experiment this kind of adventure, whatever their origin – we do amazing things when we do what we have chosen to do and not only what we have to do -, a very high motivation at all levels, a confidence in the catalyst of My Human Kit, and teams carefully formed with many skills and various profiles.

    Finally, the Fabrikarium led to forge beautiful meetings and lasting collaborations and most importantly it helped us to create functional prototypes. Documentation team is currently at work and the projects will be used by all before the end of the year (if you don’t believe us please watch the documentation of Braillerap).


    Photo credit: Valérie Guichon for MHK – CC by SA. In the heat of the moment – Trotti Wheel’steam: electrification of a manual wheelchair

    Now photos are pouring into our mailbox and realized prototypes will be exhibited in many events, and the best way to monitor what will happen next is really simple – as always:  follow us on this blog, on our Twitter account and on our Facebook page!

    The Fabrikarium opened a space between worlds, a space at once organizational and human, a sort of sandbox place producing value for all, through the sharing of our results.
    To all participants, who lent equipment (including the LabFab of Rennes and Bicéphale), who shared these 3 days with us, we send congratulations and sincere thanks, but already useless: what we lived together, none of us will never forget it!

    For the team