A Brave New World – Hack Your Life with Footscray Maker Lab

Creative industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in the country and Footscray (along with surrounding suburbs) is the location of choice for many new startups. With its proximity to the city, transport networks and mix of industrial spaces, over 3000 creative businesses including, designers, visual and performing artists, musicians, architects, publishers and software developers are bringing high levels of knowledge and innovation to the area.

Community led groups are also playing in this creative space, experimenting with new technologies that could change how we shop, work and collaborate. We spoke to the founder of the newly formed Footscray Maker Lab Dr Josè Ramos about 3D printers, empowering the disenfranchised and life hacking.

With a background in social innovation, Dr Josè Ramos saw an opportunity to link skilled up migrants and refugees with a network of more enfranchised creative types. A former lecturer of community development at Victoria University and a Footscray local, Dr Ramos gave in to “a voice in the back of my mind that annoyed me for years” and founded the Footscray Maker Lab.

“The idea is to connect those people in need in the western suburbs with the more enfranchised population,” said Dr Ramos. “They need a space where they can conceive of enterprises that will make money.”

Dr. Jose Ramos
Dr. Jose Ramos

Dr Ramos said the lab is embryonic now, being operated from a rented desk space at the Cotton Mills studios. Meetings are held each month at the studios with the group deciding which projects to play with. Membership is open to anyone interested in combining forces to make things that couldn’t be made in single discipline fields.

One of the projects the group is looking at is sourcing a 3D printer which would be shared among lab members. The printers work by reading a digital model then printing successive layers of material to make three dimensional solid objects. 3D printers have been breaking ground in medicine, recycling, robotics, art and jewellery making.

“I really like what’s happening with 3D printers,” said Dr Ramos. “I think they can really change the economic landscape if people are able to produce things they need from home, whether that’s coffee cups or spare parts for your refrigerator. I think there is a new landscape of self provisioning. And they are super cool.”

Dr Ramos explained that life hacking is an essential element of innovation. “Life hacking means playing around with life, through technology and through community,” said Dr Ramos. “Lentil as Anything is a great example of a hack. You take a restaurant and subvert some of the key elements, such as how you pay, how it’s funded and how people work.”

Dr Ramos believes Footscray is the perfect location for a maker lab with a focus on social enterprise. “There are a lot of people in the area who have technological expertise, and we’re close to the city,” he said. “But we also have the diverse ethnic communities and that creates an interesting mix.”

For the maker lab to advance beyond its embryonic status, Dr Ramos said the lab is looking for support. “We are looking for a sponsored space that can be community run and that we can get messy in,” said Dr Ramos. “And it would be good to have funding to kick our projects up a gear.”

Visit meetup.com/footscraymakerlab for more information about the group and upcoming meetings.