Cedric Bleimling, fab lab director at the Permian Basin Fab Lab at Odessa College, has been busy getting the facility’s name out.
He recently took a group of students from George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa and Odessa College to the education segment of South by Southwest, abbreviated as SXSW EDU, in Austin last month. Bleimling said they attended last year, as well.
Total attendance at the expo was 15,212. The first day they had about 3,000 visitors and the second a little more than 7,000, he said. Bleimling said they event got a visit from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
There were about 40 countries represented, 7,000 attendees at the expos, 1,172 speakers, 449 sessions and 144 media members, he said.
“We were invited both years by Chevron to be manning their booth and presenting their involvement in STEM, so we were most of the booth. Last year, we were the entire booth. This year they added a VR (virtual reality) exhibit, as well,” Bleimling said.
The booth also included video presentations, three-dimensional printing and scanning, activities linked to fab lab technologies and many other features.
Bleimling said they bought electronics, a miniature greenhouse and a weather station, both of which they are working on. He said the mobile unit has the same equipment as the stationary fab lab, but some components are smaller. They can also bring fab lab components into classrooms.
While at South by Southwest, Blemling added that they made contact with local universities and people from around the world interested in the fab lab and questions from people who wanted to set up their own labs.
The fab lab at OC that lets people fabricate whatever they can think of was created by OC, Chevron and the Fab Lab Foundation. Bleimling said Chevron has funded 10 labs nationwide at a cost of about $12.5 million.
While in Austin, Bleimling said they took a tour of the Capitol and got to see the apartment of the speaker of the House.
At home, Bleimling said he the fab lab is committed to visiting 12 schools this calendar year and he is looking for sponsorships to help lower the cost to schools. The lab can travel anywhere in the OC service area.
On a separate note, Bleimling said he is trying to build a community of people who like to build things and try scientific endeavors.
He added that when people come to the fab lab, they’re not using the machinery constantly. They all take time to chat.
“We went from zero members a little over a year ago to about 80 now, but we never have more than 30, 40 at the same time on those evenings (when the lab is open to the public). We need to get those numbers up. It is a good number, but from experience but I believe that we need more,” Bleimling said.