Citizen Scientists

[Originally published October 2015.]

The Floating Fab Lab is an ambitious project that aims to address local Amazon community needs in a fully sustainable fashion. The project has achieved childhood, a stage it will zip through on its way to adolescence next year.

Throughout the autumn, the Floating Fab Lab team has striven to transition from the planning and administrative stage to the exciting application stage. Everyone has their role. Beno Juarez (Peru), founder and dreamer extraordinaire, has been traveling from Iquitos to Boston, accepting awards from the UN and hosting international interest meetings. More on that in a few days.

Slow down; a bit on the project in its infantile, conceptual stage: In 2008 Michael Leymarie (France) received funding to visit the Peruvian Amazon, where he met Beno and a team of architects. He proposed a floating Amazon town, sustainable in its operation and highly mobile due to detachable modular units. Easily to replicate, the river could support many floating towns. Michael described it as “living transport.” Spaceships for the Amazon River.

Michael has also developed a prototype for a detachable platform that can store turbines for generating hydro-power. The turbines will contribute to making the pilot boat fully sustainable in terms of its own operation, and will generate and store enough power to distribute to riverside villages. The platform is essentially a generator that can detach from the mothership of the Floating Fab Lab, to bob over to villages that need electricity that was sourced from the very river they live against.

One of the biggest practical challenges is once the Floating Fab Lab floats off down the river into the sunset, will villagers be in the dark again? There’s a plant that the University of Engineering and Technology of Peru turned into a light bulb, so the answer is: Probably not for long. The Floating Fab Lab intends to be a center for research into nature’s energy solutions, in the planet’s most ecologically bountiful region.

About fifteen people will live on board the pilot floating Lab, with another fifteen as support at fixed Labs in Nauta and Iquitos. I recently learned that everyone involved in this exciting project–about fifty people from eighteen countries–is a volunteer. Isn’t that a nice conclusion?

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