A Tolocar is a converted van or truck that offers the possibilities of a mobile makerspace. Equipped with tools, digital production technologies, and consumables, and operated by a team of makers, Tolocars enhance the potential of digital and innovation ecosystems in Ukraine. Connected to the international maker community, mobile makerspaces enable the creation of on-demand, flexible, and temporary production systems for distributed manufacturing at various partner organization locations - a digitally amplified version of a traditional Toloka, through which almost anything can be made.

Mobile Makerspaces[edit | edit source]

A prerequisite to describing the Tolocar projects is a shared understanding of some key terms.

Mobile Makerspaces[edit | edit source]

The main goal of a mobile makerspace is to make hands-on learning and creative activities more accessible to a broader audience, especially those who may not have easy access to a stationary makerspace. This ultimately empowers communities and enables people to help themselves. With access to a wide range of innovative technologies, educational opportunities and creative activities, mobile makerspaces make use of community-based resources. By bringing tools, resources, and experts directly to communities, mobile makerspaces inspire innovation, promote STEAM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics), and drive economic development. They serve as hubs equipped with various tools, including 3D printers, laser cutters, robotics kits, as well as spaces to conduct workshops and events in collaboration with local community-based organizations. In conflict-affected areas, mobile makerspaces can play a pivotal role in promoting social cohesion, providing psychological relief, and addressing urgent needs.

ASKotec. One of the first and smallest mobile makerspaces.

The smallest unit of a mobile makerspace is a box or case filled with materials and tools. Such cases are curated and equipped for specific use cases, can be applied in a variety of settings, and transported on foot, by car or by bike. Larger mobile makerspaces are vehicles that can be driven by people with a regular driver's license. The largest units are buses, trucks and container trailers, for which a bus or truck driver's license is required.

“Equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, hand tools and other machines, makerspaces offer space for realization and networking. This is often accompanied by the desire for self-determination and the discovery and strengthening of one's own abilities. This is an approach that can give children and young people in particular support and perspective.” From the Fabmobil Handout

The spectrum of possible use cases for mobile makerspaces is very broad. In recent years, they have been employed especially in rural areas, either to extend the reach of interventions by local makerspaces, or as stand-alone mobile makerspaces that offer workshops for children and youth. While mobile makerspaces have not been extensively utilized in emergency response and development cooperation projects, they hold significant potential for generating impactful outcomes with relatively low funding. In ongoing conflict zones like Ukraine, the reach of mobile makerspaces may be limited to not directly affected areas. By concentrating efforts on relatively safe regions, mobile makerspaces can lay the foundation for post-conflict recovery and development, fostering a more resilient and innovative society in the whole country once peace is established.

As versatile entities, mobile makerspaces can serve different purposes, further enriching their impact on communities.

Skills development and education: Mobile makerspaces provide access to tools, technology, and resources that facilitate hands-on learning and skill development. This can enable individuals, especially youth and members of marginalized communities, to be better equipped to contribute to their community and country's social and economic development. They gain knowledge in fields like engineering, design, electronics, programming, and other subjects related to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Maths). The Fabmobil is one prime example of a mobile makerspace focused on this goal.

Problem-solving and innovation: Makerspaces - both mobile and stationary - encourage creative problem-solving and innovation. Individuals working in these spaces can develop solutions for local challenges and find ways to improve daily life in regions not actively engaged in warfare. Utilizing repositories and social media, these innovations could extend to conflict zones, benefiting the entire country in the long run. The #ASKotec suitcase developed by r0g_agency for open culture and critical transformation, for example, contains tools and materials for repairing technical equipment, flanked by customized repair instructions made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) on the Internet.

Community building and social cohesion: Makerspaces often serve as community hubs where people from diverse backgrounds come together to collaborate, share ideas, and learn from one another. In a (post-)conflict setting, mobile makerspaces promote social cohesion and unity, which can be vital for healing and rebuilding trust among different communities.

Psychological impact: Engaging in creative activities and having access to mobile makerspaces can have a positive psychological impact on individuals who may be experiencing stress and trauma due to war. It helps to refocus on and engage in constructive activities, increasing self-efficacy and hope.

Humanitarian assistance: Mobile makerspaces can also serve as a means of providing humanitarian assistance. They can be utilized to create and repair essential items, offer technical training to aid workers, or even produce prosthetics and other medical devices to support people and communities affected by conflict or natural disasters.

Cultural preservation: Makerspaces can help preserve and promote traditional crafts and cultural practices that might be at risk during times of conflict. By encouraging the continuation of these practices and using mobile makerspaces as vehicles for their promotion, cultural heritage of communities and countries can be safeguarded.

Economic development: By fostering innovation and entrepreneurship, mobile makerspaces can create opportunities for local businesses and startups. This can lead to job creation and increased economic activity, even if conflicts have limited overall economic growth. Supporting local and displaced businesses can help in building decentralized production capacities and ultimately resilience. Distributed design and manufacturing play an instrumental role here. Embracing concepts of the circular economy, such as re- and upcycling, further bolster sustainability and resource efficiency.

Examples of Mobile Makerspaces[edit | edit source]

(This list does not intend to be exhaustive. Please add to it!)

Mobile makerspaces have been increasingly used in recent years, both in "hub and spoke" models to extend the reach of stationary makerspaces, and as stand-alone mobile makerspaces that offer workshops, often for children and young people at and with schools.

Boxes, Cases, Kits[edit | edit source]

The smallest unit of mobile makerspaces are boxes or cases filled with materials and tools. They are curated and equipped for specific use cases and be applied in a variety of settings, sometimes on loan to partner organizations.

  • Communities in Cameroon, Uganda, and South Sudan use the #ASKotec developed by r0g_agency for open culture and cultural transformation to empower individuals, especially youth and marginalized communities, with access to skills and knowledge. The case contains tools and materials for repairing technical equipment, flanked by customized repair instructions made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) on the Internet.
  • Libraries who are members of the State Library Center of Rhineland-Palatine / Germany can borrow different sets to host workshops. A similar service is offered in Schleswig-Holstein by the state's library center.
  • Technical University Berlin / Germany used their workbench-sized mobile makerspace to teach students and researchers.
  • Montag Stiftung für Jugend und Gesellschaft und Codingschule junior classroom provided a box with a classroom set of hardware to schools in Northrhine-Westphalia / Germany in a project supporting STEAM education.
  • Dr. Brad Gustafson and a team of teachers use a Mobile MakerSpace fleet and supplies in their elementary school since 2015. The goal was to create an ethos of innovation and design-thinking, and to offer students the the opportunity to create, build, tinker, fail, and think critically from any classroom or hallway.

Bikes, Vans, Cars[edit | edit source]

Larger units are vehicles that can be driven by people with a regular driver's license.

  • Hubertus, the mobile makerspace of FabLab Oberland e.V. offers customized educational courses, and provides the trainers a vehicle and to reach educational institutions, with all the necessary materials and tools for their implementation at hand.

Buses, Trucks, Trailers[edit | edit source]

The largest units are buses, trucks and container trailers, for which a bus or truck driver's license is required.

  • The aim of the Fabmobil is to bring creative technologies such as 3D printing, virtual reality, robotics and programming to rural areas in Saxony / Germany. With various formats, Fabmobil contributes to the vitalisation and activation of existing offers and to the development of new, digital and contemporary cultural and experience formats, especially for youth.
  • The Labmobile is used by Platform Africa and its partners to conduct workshops in northern Uganda. The same truck - but with different equipment - was used in 2017 by Communitere Greece to provide on-site support to refugees in building beds and other furniture, privacy screens, cooking facilities, and playground equipment.
  • The OpenLab Mobile gets people and companies in the Hamburg metropolitan region / Germany excited about digital production technology, and supports them in further training and skills development.
  • The Makerbus is Canada's first mobile makerspace and digital humanities classroom - they share a lot of their experiences in their publications
  • The mobile makerspace of Bergen Makerspace can be booked to visit schools in the New York City tri-state area / USA .
  • STE(A)M Truck is an education nonprofit organization based in Atlanta / USA, that immerses youth, educators, and community members in hands-on, high tech and low-tech STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) experiences that unleash their creativity and enable them to design the lives and future communities of their dreams.
  • The Mobile Makerspace of the Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub is designed to bring hands-on STEAM learning to communities and individuals that are not able to visit the Innovation Hub due to cost or distance. The mobile unit brings a makerspace into Arkansas classrooms and communities to provide hands-on education utilizing a variety of state-of-the-art tools.
  • Caldwell Public Library in Idaho / USA turned a tiny house into a mobile makerspace.
  • Mercedes-Benz used a truck as the mobile version of its Lab1886 to support the development of innovative business ideas. Lab1886 became part of 1886Ventures in 2020.
  • With the SparkTruck, students of Stanford d.school drove across the USA in the summers of 2012 and 2013, spreading the fun of hands-on learning and encouraging kids to find their inner maker. https://makezine.com/article/education/sparktruck-an-encore-maker-journey/
  • The Solar Airstream Fab Lab is a 1960’s Airstream converted by artists Paul Higham and Coral Lambert into a digital sculpture lab and research studio, harnessing solar energy via 2 x 22ft panels on the roof it is primarily a mobile studio for small scale production of art on the road.
FA info icon.svgAngle down icon.svgPage data
Authors Victoria Wenzelmann
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Language English (en)
Translations Russian
Related 1 subpages, 29 pages link here
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Created November 9, 2023 by Victoria Wenzelmann
Modified January 19, 2024 by Emilio Velis
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