Emerging technology is developing at an exponential rate and has a direct impact on design education. This boom in innovation has been dubbed the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). This economic initiative was framed at the 2015 World Economic Forum by Klaus Schwab and has been echoed since 2016 by South African politicians as a government and education policy transformation catalyst to South Africa’s struggling economy. Academic scholars are critical about these objectives against the face of high unemployment, poor education and developing foundational skills in South Africa. Educators are confronted with very little support to address this technological development, often leaving design educators with scepticism. Emerging technology can often fall in the realm of being ‘hype’ and having ‘unrealistic expectations’ that limit teaching and learning methods facilitated in studios and lecture halls.
Fabrication laboratories are emerging globally as growing sites of innovation and are hands-on creative spaces of production in art, science and engineering that offer exposure to solving real-life problems. In addition, they are being implemented in educational institutions from primary schools up to tertiary education and used to drive pedagogies of the future by teaching twenty-first century content skills and content in emerging technology. Emerging technology offers a wide range of opportunities to enhance education and prepare learners for industries of the future that form part of 4IR.
This paper argues that fabrication laboratories pose a practical and contemporary learning space in addition to the existing current design studios and lecturer halls to aid in the integration of technology into the design curriculum. The author established and currently coordinates a fabrication laboratory at the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture (FADA) at the University of Johannesburg. This paper will discuss the implementation and operations of this Fabrication Laboratory through qualitative data such as the author observations along with feedback from lecturers who are using the FabLab to understand the impact the FADA FabLab has made on design pedagogy. The frequency of use, the types of engagements from lecturers and learners, the average time the learner spent in the FabLab and the types of projects they worked on will be unpacked.