Photo du lab

MIT-FabLab Norway is first and foremost a community center, a sandbox and melting pot where people and researchers from around the world can meet. Knowledge can be shared, creativity will be inspired by the nature and good ideas are guaranteed to emerge in a purpose-built research environment.

Access conditions
Free to use & open to all
Lab's address
MIT-FabLab Norway
Ørnes 9060
Lyngseidet (Norway)
Workshop network

Hosting Capacity
54 people maximum
  • Lab's size: 324m²
  • Opened in October 2002
  • Non-profit foundation

MIT-Fablab Norway

Community center & sandbox

Explored by MakerTour on 26.03.2016 icone facebook icone LinkedIn icone Twitter icone Contact

MIT-Fablab Norway in details

All you need to know about the workshop before getting there

Opening hours horaire de MIT-Fablab Norway Map and accessibility
Open the map in a new tab
  • Car / parking
  • public transport
  • People with reduced mobility
Publics & users Machines & tools
  • Laser cutter
  • Vinyl plotter
  • 3D printer
  • 3D scanner
  • Large-framed CNC milling machine
  • Desk-framed CNC milling machine
  • Plasma cutter
  • Wood and steel machines
  • Electronic equipments
  • Workbench tools
  • Kitchen
Services provided Nearby workshops
  • Fellesverkstedet
  • FabLab NTNU
  • Verket Fablab

A guided tour of MIT-Fablab Norway

Interview of Haakon Karlsen Jr and immersion into the workshop

MakerTour's 6 topics

Understand in depth the mecanisms and practices of this workshop

To document and share with you all the fablabs and workshops we explore, MakerTour has developed its own documentation model. Find the topics we address along with the questions we ask when in a workshop on

The mission

MIT-Fablab Norway’s story started twenty years ago, when people, technology and sheeps met. Haakon Karlsen Jr., his family and the community around Lyngen (northern Norway) made several projects to improve their sheep keeping activity in the mountains: a broadcasting system with long-range antennes to locate them, a breeding system with mobile phones and heat sensors texting farmers for them to know when female are ready for insemination!

“It was not about the machines, but the community and shared knowledge!” The impressive results and project news were spread. Meanwhile in 1999, MIT came to Scandinavia to discover “real projects from people in real need”. Haakon’s community-built “sheep phone” was elected for the projects presentation in Oslo. He told everyone this very story, which convinced the MIT to cooperate with them.

After a two-year partnership, a question stayed: how can we collaborate further? Neil Gershenfeld thought about prototyping, and building small laboratories where people live and see what they would make. Rapid prototyping laboratories! But the name was too long and complex. And the name “fablab” came up! The “Fab Contrat” was signed within the international group of people gathered in Lyngen. MIT-Fablab Norway was fablab n°2 in 2002 (the first outside of Boston and the only one with MIT in its name), Ghana (n°3) and India (n°4) followed.

The main house construction took some time, the great opening happened in August 2005, gathering 1.200 people. “And since, the door is open everyday, we don’t charge people and everyone is welcomed!”

The uses

But who’s really coming to a fablab located in the Arctic Circle, lost in the middle of the fjords? “Today, it’s Easter, people are in the mountains! Some people come here to say hello, to eat something with us, kids from the kindergarden come to play, all sorts of people come here everyday. From 92 to 5 years old.” MIT-Fablab Norway is an interesting melting pot of locals, tourists, curious people and scientists/researchers.

And how do they find out about such a remote place? “I don’t know, it can come from many ways. People talk about us, all around here and beyond. We were the first fablab outside Boston.” And they come back, often for the locals with the many events and meetings, several times a year for bootcamps for the others.

“Everyone is coming back, everyone is part of the community. How could they come and not be involved?”

“It’s a community center, and that’s what people look for when coming here.” And while it’s not an everyday busy making place, many projects happened thanks to the fablab. Every object in the fablab has its own story and Haakon enjoys taking your time to tell them all over: the artemisia plant, the Chinese doctor and the malaria in Kenya; the Saako boardgame with the four-side dice and the King pawn found in Scotland; the mountains-shaped chairs; the chocolate dried cod fish; or even the flat doghouse!

The pedagogy and animation

Even if MIT-Fablab Norway is often introduced as Haakon’s solo initiative, “it’s not a one-man show, it’s all of us.” Including his wife, his children, the neighbours, the locals from Lyngen, MIT people.

When coming here for the first time, “you sit down at the table, grab a cup of coffee and talk with me or the others. People coming through the doors have to feel welcomed, it’s not just about saying it. If you do something, you really have to mean it! People already into projects come here to tell me more about the evolutions, when they need help, or a good connection to keep on going.”

Many events and meetings rythm the fablab’s life. The most famous are the bootcamps, which started in 2005. “It was a huge success, people came from all over the world. They tried to do it through videoconference once, but it failed. People need to come together, to chat, to fish, to sit around together. The subject changes everytime.” Coming there, you’ll also discover many events like food parties, the national Science Week and even fish or music festivals!

The documentation

When asked whether there are traces kept about what’s being made at MIT-Fablab Norway, Haakon answered: “No. Just a little bit, but not that much. I think we document everything on the website and the wiki. It’s a problem in the whole fabworld, there’s no place with the whole documentation.”

“As I said, my job is not to follow everything. There’s no IP here. People come here to tell me more about their projects. It’s often super hard to document everything, take pictures all the time, especially with inventors, with their own individual chaos. Fablab attracts inventors, and have just a few entrepreneurs. And that’s all on labs.”

For now, the users do it for themselves and Haakon for his own projects. “Everything is open here. If you have the same machines, you can reproduce it as many times you want!”

The business model

Starting MIT-Fablab Norway and building up the different houses cost 2.1 million euros, which was almost 100% covered by Haakon (a successful entrepreneur!). With the help of 3 builders, the construction work took a year. Most of the things were made there and Haakon bought the rest. But the fablab machines were paid by the MIT through their partnership.

Today, Haakon and his family take care of the place everyday, helped by the community. Up to 7.000 people come here every year, powering the accommodation activity (beds & food). It is their main income source thanks to tourists and trekkers, along with talks and conferences Haakon does abroad. The fablab is a non-profit foundation, while the farm complex is a company. Yearly budget? 200.000 euros. To sum it up, it is both a touristic cottage AND a community lab collaborating with MIT.

What about its future? “I never have a plan. That’s true. I follow the stream. Let us make today a little bit better than yesterday.” Haakon’s main indicator of the fablab good health is to see the community creating the future of the fablab everyday. “All locals here know the fablab, what we have, what we do and come here on a daily basis.”

The specificity

“I don’t think I have the answer on what makes MIT-Fablab Norway unique compared to the other fablabs in the world. I think we try to keep the soil, to be a fablab where people really feel welcomed when coming here.”

MIT-Fablab Norway is quite unique though. Located in Lyngen majestic surroundings, connected to the local people and history. The farm scenery and the wooden main house add some cachet to the world second fablab. Its vision is unordinary too, focusing on being a community center over a simple workshop, “ we want to be a community center, and try to be. We give back to the people what they give us.”

We then talked about how can a fablab located in the fjords can be environment-friendly. “Everything but acrilyc comes from around here, from local companies. The wood comes from the forest. The wastes are sorted, reused and put in a good fire outside sometimes. But I have to admit I don’t know how much pollution brings a fire compared to traditional garbage systems.. We also use LED lights instead of traditional lights. Save the nature, use as little plastic as possible, zero garbage, produce electricity locally. It’s super important to take care of the globe.”

The great practices of MIT-Fablab Norway

The good initiatives of this workshop which should inspire everyone

Yearly bootcamps with/for the international community

What is it?
Since 2005, several times a year (summer mostly), MIT-Fablab Norway host bootcamps in the fablab, welcoming people from all over the world.

In concrete terms?
The June 2010 bootcamp has been documented on MIT-Fablab Norway’s website: dates, daily schedule, subjects and technologies addressed, gurus running the workshops from the international fablab community. It is a two-week event to learn, make and share during which people stay at the farm and live together.

Why it’s interesting?
MIT-Fablab Norway bootcamps are a one or two-week long workshops. They bring in new people, community life, projects and business. What else can a fablab ask for?

Tourism-based business model to be an open & free fablab

What is it?
MIT-Fablab Norway business model is based on a touristic accommodation activity, powering the fablab within the main house, made open to all & free to use!

In concrete terms?
MIT-Fablab Norway is both a fablab and a unique tourist complex made out of several wooden chalets. Haakon, its founder, sees fablabs as community centers that should be open to everyone and free to use. He then built the business model elsewhere, on touristic activities, taking advantage of the unique surroundings of the fjords and Arctic mountains. Many people come there for beds, food and environment, not knowing what a fablab is. And it creates enough income so the fablab can stay open and free.

Why it’s interesting?
MIT-Fablab Norway illustrates perfectly the fact that a fablab business model can be based on something else than charging machine use and membership. Touristic hosting, restaurant/pub, services agency, you can choose an existing business model and use it to power your fablab project like Haakon!

Tomorrow's challenges

The future development and projects of the workshop

Make today a little bit better than yesterday

As Haakon said, “I never have a plan, I follow the stream. All the locals here know the fablab, what we have here, what we do here, they come here. Let us make today a little bit better than yesterday.” Sounds like a good plan for the future!

The Arctic Alps project

In a few words, the Arctic Alps project is a glasshouse on top of Lyngen Alps and a tunnel through the mountains. It is a collaboration with the world-known architect Vicente Guallart involved with IaaC and Fablab Barcelona. He has developed a master piece architectural eco-hub destination, that could be the tallest hotel complex the world has seen, with the highest top being 3500m above the ground. Here’s a video showing their crazy vision!

Wait, there's more to read!

A few links and ressources about the workshop

At last, MakerTour's team would like to thank MIT-Fablab Norway's team and community
for their warm welcome and the time they dedicated to the initiative!

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