About The Lab

The Lab is a growing network of technology clubs for 10 to 16 year-old young people diagnosed with High Functioning Autism who enjoy working with computers. The Lab offers mentoring by technology professionals in areas such as programming, 3D, digital design and gaming.

The Lab’s approach is unstructured and does not have expectations of specific education or technology outcomes. By pairing young people who have High Functioning Autism with tutors who have technical expertise in areas of mutual interest, The Lab seeks to improve the wellbeing and life prospects of young people who are often highly skilled but whose condition can lead them to fall through gaps in the mainstream education system.

OCTOBER 2017: Three new Labs opening in Sth Australia at Mt Gambier, Tonsley and Salisbury. Register your interest in joining at these locations on the Join a Lab page.

At each weekly two-hour Lab session, two or more computer programmers and designers work individually with between 12 and 20 young people to develop their social and technology skills. We provide an environment where participants can share their interests in a wide variety of things such as gaming together, video creation and sharing, graphic design, programming and game development. During Lab sessions, mentors are available to help with any questions or issues, or to work with participants on projects of interest to them.

We’ve found that some of the most useful things first learned by participants during Lab sessions are social and personal skills. This includes learning about how to work with others, how to make friends and how to interact socially, as well as simply feeling accepted and valued by peers with common interests. The Lab is about technology skills too, but typically the programming and design skills come a little later once participants have settled in. This can take a little time and one of the essential aspects of The Lab is that kids find their own place in their own time.

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We take an unstructured approach so every session can be different. We want participants to undertake activities because it interests them, not because they have to. This approach is deliberately unlike school, and is based on our experience with hundreds of young people. The Lab is designed to be a cool and accepting place to visit, hang out and learn while having fun.

At the Lab, we are committed to ensuring the safety of children attending Lab sessions. We put this into practice via a range of policies and protocols, including screening of those working with children, training programs and complaints procedures. All Labs have protocols for child safety and these are rigorously followed.
For more information on child protection please see http://www.aihw.gov.au/child-protection/#report

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The Lab started with a 2009-2010 VicHealth funded research project, Connected Lives, that looked into the possibilities of using technology to improve the wellbeing of young people living with multiple forms of disadvantage. This project was awarded the national B/HERT Award for Community Engagement in 2010. Project leaders Dale Linegar, a software developer, and Dr Stefan Schutt, a community technology researcher and educator,  found that one-on-one technology tuition worked particularly well with young people with Asperger’s Syndrome. At the same time, Linegar’s consultancy Oztron needed a space to run its expanding number of specialist technology projects. The team also sought advice from the young people they had previously worked with, parents and youth organisations.

A space was found in the Trocadero artist studio space in the inner-western suburb of Footscray. Oztron’s developers worked on software projects during the day, then with Lab participants after school.
The inspiration for this dual-purpose space came from writer and social activist Dave Eggers’ 826 Valencia Project,(http://826valencia.org/), which began by renting a cheap shopfront in a (then) poor San Francisco district and co-locating Eggers’ McSweeney’s literary magazine with an after-school literacy drop in centre. The Lab’s formation was also influenced by constructivist theories of technology-enhanced learning such as Greg Kearsley and Ben Shneiderman’s Engagement Theory, Axel Bruns’ Produsage, Greg Ulmer’s Electracy, Mitch Resnick’s Constructionism and the work of Professor Henry Jenkins. These theories focus on the importance of focused, meaningful activities that deploy digital technology to build on the interests of young people.

The Lab became known quickly and soon found itself with a long waiting list, even after expanding its number of weekly sessions. Others became interested in running their own Lab sites using the proven model, which was externally evaluated in 2013. (Click here to view the 2013 evaluation.) With the help of the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre, this led to the formation of a national network of Labs, currently sitting at 15 sites around Australia delivering over 240 sessions every school term. After helping to run the Lab, then set up the Lab’s not for profit company and board, Lab co-founders Linegar and Schutt handed over the baton to other experienced Lab Network board members in 2015.

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ABC News 12 Nov 2016

Gandel Philanthropy is proud to be a major partner of The Lab Network
Gandel Philanthropy has funded the creation of major projects that are essential to support the growing network of Labs around Australia. Projects include the creation of a custom built online administration and management system, provision of an online tutorial library covering a wide range of digital media activities and expanded administrative support for the Lab Network.

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The Lab is grateful for the ongoing support offered by the following organisations

The Bega Lab is grateful for the support of the following organisations:

  • Bega Valley Shire Library: The Bega Valley Shire Library supports the local community through its four libraries at Bermagui, Tura Beach, Bega and Eden. The Library provided invaluable support during the Bega Lab’s start-up process.
  • Club Sapphire Merimbula, Merimbula RSL and Club Bega supported the Bega Lab through the NSW Club Grants Scheme in 2016
  • The Mumbulla Foundation was pleased to be able to support the Bega Valley Autism Lab in 2016 with a grant of $7,500 to purchase five laptops for use in the Lab. In 2016 the Foundation provided a total of $75000 to some 29 different community organisations with the grant for the Lab being the largest provided. More information on the Foundation and its activities is available at mumbulla.org.au.
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The Footscray Lab is grateful for the support of Carers Victoria

Carers Victoria has provided financial support to families attending The Lab since 2014. This has subsidised participants attendance and allowed many children to attend the Lab who would have otherwise been unable to attend. The Lab and its participants are extremely grateful for the support offered by Carers Victoria.

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The Lab Gold Coast is grateful for the support received from the following organisations:

Stronger Communities Programme
An application for funding under the Stronger Communities Programme grants scheme, 2017 has been successful. The grant, just over $3,000, matches 1:1 the same amount being provided by Just Better Care Gold Coast owner Bram Baker. This will provide laptop computers, software and board games to support Lab sessions.

We would like to acknowledge the support from the Federal Member for McPherson, Karen Andrews, for recommending our application for the funding, and acknowledge Bram Bakers continued generous contribution to The Lab Gold Coast.

We would like to recognise the support provided by the Gold Coast Benji for generously funding computer hardware used by The Lab. https://goldcoastbenji.com.au

The Lab Gold Coast would also like to acknowledge the generous support received from Mary K (Beauty Consultants) who are giving The Lab 10% of their sales revenue, for a period of three months.

The Lab Hornsby is grateful for the support offered by the following organisations:

The Hornsby RSL Club, High Street Hornsby, have generously supported The Lab with provision of a venue, internet services and their ongoing encouragement.

Just Better Care, Hills District, Hornsby, supply and maintain all admin support for The Lab Hornsby, as well as supporting parents with NDIS and community services support.

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