The Escola Politècnica Superior d’Enginyeria de Manresa (EPSEM) of the UPC has been disseminating science and technology for many years, but it has recently expanded activities in this area through the TechLab Manresa. A new project that was born with the objective of making the University’s task known and bringing it closer to citizens, democratizing innovation and promoting the knowledge society and, incidentally, promoting technical vocations in childhood and adolescence.

Until this year, TechLab programming was carried out mostly in the laboratories of the polytechnic school. Even so, it was already a rich and very potential project: last year, around fifty activities were organized with more than 800 participants. But since last October and until it moves to the Fàbrica Nova, l’EPSEM has new facilities at the TechLab Manresa that have already begun to welcome the first users, mainly schools, institutes and families. The purpose of this project is to establish new forms of relationship between the University and citizens based on collaboration and the principle of learning by doing.

The TechLab Manresa, located in the courtyard of the polytechnic school, has 150 square meters in a large space with fixed work areas on the sides with work benches and cutting-edge technology open to the public. They are resources that offer a new range of possibilities to users of the equipment. As explained by the deputy director of Strategic Projects at EPSEM, Sebastià Vila, the school had been promoting scientific and technological dissemination for a long time, but the space had become somewhat limited by the volume of activities that are being programmed. “Now possibilities have opened up to welcome all the ideas that arise,” says Vila. At the moment, activities have been held for Science Week, the biweekly meetings of the Arduino User Group, where all those interested in the “maker” world can attend, or the “minerals with the senses” workshop, which is organized in collaboration with the Valentí Masachs Museum of Geology for families who want to discover six minerals from the senses of the human body and learn why they are necessary, what applications they can have and what benefits they bring us.

The teacher from the polytechnic school, Nor Sidki Rius, is in charge of promoting this workshop with boys and girls between 6 and 12 years old. She collaborates voluntarily as a curator at the Museum, and as a disseminator at the TechLab. She likes to explain mining and she is very grateful to be able to comment on the meaning of the discipline to which she dedicates herself. “Curious boys and girls come and want to learn,” explains Sidki Rius. Although a good part of the activity takes place in the Museum, within the framework of this workshop they have been able to visit the TechLab Manresa facilities and experience the usefulness of the equipment, with electronic, mechanical and chemical technology, and more general technological equipment. Without going any further, those attending the mineral workshop have been able to take a sample of six minerals that have been worked on in a small wooden box that have been made in these facilities. In fact, this is precisely one of the aspects that the nine-year-old Siena family, one of those who participated in the workshop, liked most. Her mother, Anna Comas, explains that it has been “a good way” to see the process to which they normally do not have access. For this family, who already knew the Museum through other activities, the TechLab allows establishing “new forms of relationship between the university and the citizens of Manresa.”

Robotics and remote-controlled cars, the next workshops

TechLab Manresa has a challenge: to open the facilities to those people who are fond of technology or “makers” so that they can use the space to make their own prototypes and projects. Montserrat Méndez, director of the EPSEM library and TechLab Manresa, explains that the desire is to “bring it closer to whoever wants.” After the opening last October, they have already had requests from individuals who want to go experience it on their own.

Sebastián Vila recognizes that for people who love technology, in addition to having more professional equipment than domestic equipment, at the TechLab they also have the opportunity to meet “with people with the same interests.” In this sense, the TechLab is also aimed at students and young people with a “maker” interest, workers with this same profile and also secondary school teachers, but other doors are not closed to choose all types of profiles. The objective, as always, is to bring cutting-edge science and technology as far as possible and, in this case, making available the machinery and tools necessary to develop innovative ideas and products.