discussion / Community Base  / 16 August 2018

Home for a New Field Station Fab Lab

Hi. I'm Andy Quitmeyer, a researcher exploring how we can combine DIY interactive technology with the practice of field biologists. I am currently a tenure-trackprofessor at the National University of Singapore, but I am giving it all up in order to focus more on actually getting good work, research and teaching done between DIY electronics, design, art, and field biology. I could rant about the weirdness of feeling the need to leave the academic system in order to do more research and teaching, but that's a whole conversation for another time :) . For right now I am looking for advice on places that would be good to start my own art-science field station fab lab.

Me and my wife, Kitty (a librarian and sci-art yarn crafter who is down with running this with me), will be leaving Singapore after this semester (in december), and we need to figure out a good new home! We have some leads on potential cool places already (panama looks like it is winning so far), but maybe you can help us too? There are lots of places that would be great to live, but have their own difficulties (visas, housing, etc...). Ideally it would be a place with neat accessible nature right outside, directly next to a scientific community of field biologists, but not also so remote that It is difficult for me to keep up my international work. 

Maybe you know of cool places that meet our requirements. Maybe you know of a thriving scientific community that could benefit from having a high-precision scientific prototyping station right next to it in the field. Maybe you are a secret billionaire who just wants to fund someone making a kick-ass new facility?

I have been itching to put my energy into a long-term project providing resources for field biologists to connect with interaction designers and artists. The Digital Naturalism Conference [www.dinacon.org] was a great beta test of this idea, and its success makes me want to do it full time. The basic idea would be to provide a space for people interested in exploring wild nature to work on crafting interactive tools. I would probably get by doing consulting work for nearby scientists. I will also probably keep doing workshops around the world too, so having a new homebase be easily accessible internationally will be key.

So far the main places on our minds seem to be Gamboa Panama, Vancouver, and Thailand, but the world is REALLY big and there are lots of cool communities all over we don't know anything about!



Our new home - The Digital Naturalism Field Station Fab Lab [DINALAB - working title]

- A place where me and kitty can live cheaply (we saved up some money to put a downpayment on a property but not a huge amount, and are happy to live minimally and humbly).

-A place we can live independently (housing or visa not tied to a particular job - We both have USA passports)

-nearby access to neat ecosystems

-nearby access to field biologists (probably my main clients)

- Room to set up a public fab lab

-Room to rent out / have artist, scientists, and hacker residencies

-Internationally accessible (Airport ~1 hour away)

-Nice people nearby, can bike to friends

-Opportunity to convert the facilities to sustainable power (Solar, grey water, gardens)




So an example of something that might meet these requirements would be like getting a big multi-apartment house in Gamboa panama (like my dream house here: https://www.panamarealtor.com/property/6533 -which has unfortunately already sold! ) . There we would have access to an awesome scientific community, be 1 hour from the airport, have agoutis and howler monkeys in our backyard, and lots of space to build an awesome fab lab. I already know lots of folks down there whom i would love to work with more as well and feel that the whole community could benefit from some high precision rapid prototyping tools! Panama is also an easy place for us (with USA passports) to permanently stay and get residency. Downsides are that gamboa is a bit more expensive for houses than other options (like thailand).