The Mobile Maker Lab Express was a project that evolved from the Finding Rural studio incubator program that was developed to aid in exploring design opportunities for economic development in rural communities. The program worked with communities in southern New Mexico where mining has been a driving economic force for years. The cyclical nature of mining had brought hardship and economic prosperity in the historical evolution of the region. The studio research suggested in developing new opportunities for new economic development that centered around creative commerce. The studio envisioned a mobile maker hub that could expose kids to new methodologies of creation and inspire them to engage new professions in STE[A]M (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art/Architecture & Mathematics) related professions. New Mexico ranks 48th nationally in K-12 education and the studio was invested in provided resources and expertise to inspire kids, teachers and community members to invest in the national maker movement to potentially kick-start new opportunities for the future.
The opportunity to present the work of the Finding Rural program at a state legislative technology summit created a collaborative opportunity to work with New Mexico Technology University in collaboration with the Air Force Research Lab Technology Engagement office. The priority of the Air Force Research Lab was to create STE[A]M engagement outside of the Albuquerque metropolitan area. The discussion with the leadership was to develop a mobile lab that could bring STE[A]M resources to rural communities in the region.
The opportunity to develop a new mobile lab that was unique to the region was a task that formulated a new design build collaborative with multiple institutions throughout the state. Exploring expertise in digital fabrication and design, the Lab Team designed and fabricated the mobile trailer throughout the academic year of 2018/19. The trailer donated by New Mexico Tech University was gutted and reconfigured to house a series of digital fabrication tools. The tools included a laser cutter, 3D Printer, CNC router and vinyl cutter. The design inspiration was centered around aeronautics precedent and aerodynamics.
The final design was an intricate fluid form that expressed each tool as representation of creative design methodology that was captured in a film documentary to inspire the youth to engage in new creative fields to drive new opportunities for economic development for the future of the state of New Mexico.