Sci-Bono is a magical place. Packed to the rafters with everything science, technology and engineering in a mix of museum and interactive activity for visitors. Focusing on showing kids the fun that can be had in STEM fields,  Sci-Bono is a none profit company that is affiliated with the Gauteng Department of Education.

Filled to the brim with educators and learners today during National Science Week, we snuck in after hours to see the unveiling of the “Festo Mechatronics Lab”.

Festo is a family-run company that makes everything from simple factory machines to flying animatronic birds, and it partnered with Sci-Bono to create the lab.

David Kramer, Sci-Bono’s CEO, told us that while anyone can visit the lab, it was made primarily to serve the 495 disadvantaged schools that the the organisation works with – giving them access to resources they would not be able to access otherwise, and that he hopes it will put schooling on par with industry.

One of the robots in the lab
One of the robots in the lab

Also at the event was Festo’s Southern Africa Didactic Manager, who has his own hopes for the lab.

“We’re struggling to find workers right now, and we need a way to feed learners into these fields,” he said, “Nt only at a tertiary level but at [high] school as well. This lab takes industrial tech and makes it interesting and usable. We want to add discovery [to the learner’s] curriculum.”

We were given the chance to browse the lab at our leisure, as long as we didn’t break anything we couldn’t fix. Mixed in with the industrial CNC machines and robotic arms, there were Makerbots and hand-operated pneumatic experiments.

Showing of one of Festo’s lines of work, there were scaled-down versions of factory assembly lines. Seeing these on such a small scale really puts the entire process into perspective and makes it far less nebulous. We’ve been around the block with all manner of technology before, but these showed us something we’ve never seen and, as the lab is intended to do, we learnt something new.

One of the tiny facotries
One of the tiny factories

We can’t tell you of everything we saw, it will spoil the surprise of going along yourself, which we highly recommend.