Floating, Bamboo Makerspace

Build your own floating, self-sustainable ecological makerspace! Work to help nature, surrounded by nature!

Similar projects worth following
A key part of environmental conservation is increasing the public's awareness and contact with nature. The challenge though is how to get people in contact with these natural environments in a safe, engaging way. This is why we made the BOAT Lab! In this how-to you can learn how to make your own with lots of high-quality pictures and videos for each step! (It's also surprisingly cheap, this structure was only $1640 materials and labor)

It's all open-source, you are not only free, but encouraged to duplicate every part of this and share all our photos, videos, and designs. My goal would be to have lots of floating hackerspaces around the world motivating communities to explore and protect their natural resources.

This quick video gives a great overview of the whole thing!


The BOAT Lab stands for TheBuilding Open Art and Technology Laboratory. It’s also a boat!

It serves as an interactive, community science-center. This floating raft is decked out with tools and equipment to not only explore art and technology, but connect people’s inventiveness directly to the natural areas surrounding it.

The lab primarily monitors an endangered coral reef. It’s a floating makerspace to bring artists, engineers, tourists, and fisherfolk together to understand, explore, and preserve the nearby precious resources hidden under the waves. It’s a key figure in the larger Waterspace program created with community members here in Dumaguete. All the teams contribute different We have teams rigging together arrays of Philippine-specific water-quality sensors, performing eco-oriented plays with e-textile costumes, melting collected ocean plastic into new tools, and creating beautiful light-up public artwork on the ocean.

The BOAT Lab itself functions as a central platform for these community projects. It’s solar powered, traditionally crafted, modular mobile makerspace floating in the ocean. It has submarine drones, sensors, LED and water-projection systems, and tools to build and repair everything. It’s a literal platform providing a rare chance to experience, and empathize, with the hidden undersea environment. (It's even been visited recently by a BLUE WHALE!) Most importantly, it’s built and owned by the community, which grants them the agency to direct maintain this project and attack issues most important to them and their precious reef.

This awesome boat can support at least 10 people at a time and run for 24 hours a day! It's the site of several on-going workshops, performances, and art exhibitions happening in the Philippines as we speak! It's also mobile and modular in design so it can be easily floated or carried to new sites.


The BOAT Lab was primarily built in just 9 days. It is mostly composed of reclaimed bamboo wood (Kawayan Tinik - salvaged from previous boats), recycled barrels, and nylon string. It was constructed with workers from the local community (fishermen skilled in boat-building), and built using traditional methods. Beams are connected via tensioned knots and special nails carved out of bamboo themselves.

Perhaps best of all, we managed to build this whole structure for very little money! The full budget is laid out in other steps, but the whole 8x6 meter boatonly cost us $1640 to put together! For a lab the size of an apartment, it cost less to build than many people's monthly rent!

It has already been a great success in the Banilad community. Thus, (as with all fun and helpful things) I wanted to openly share how you can build your own! I will cover

  • how to build your own huge boat lab
  • traditional filipino boat making techniques
  • its power infrastructure
  • key design features of the lab
  • Weatherproofing and Security
  • citizen science and electronics projects
  • sustaining a lab
  • safety protocols


  • ways to engage with local communities and environments

Check out the full how-to article and hopefully build your own mobile, floating laboratory! I imagine a world full of inexpensive, self-sustaining laboratories, moving to interesting places all over the world!



This project was a integral part of a larger workshop program called "Waterspace." Waterspace was a series of collaborative education and design projects led by Andrew Quitmeyer as part of the ZERO1 American Arts Incubator, in partnership with the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

It consists of a program to develop community skills in art and technology to promote environmental health.

The Waterspace program was designed from November 2015 - March 2016. The actual projects were carried out in only three weeks during April 2016 on location in Dumaguete, Philippines. ...

Read more »

  • Next Steps

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 03:04 0 comments

    We hope that this new public facility will have a long life in Dumaguete. It has already been revitalizing the Banilad beach neighborhood, and serve as a symbol for the magnificence under the sea. It will also be a hub for community creators of art, science, and technology. We hope it can be facility that empowers the locals to understand their environment and draw eco-tourists to explore the amazing natural areas in this region.

    Picture of Future Steps

    Currently there are several projects already underway:

    • Leading more floating electronics workshops
    • Building a glowing floating protective barrier around the reef
    • extensive water quality sensing projects in multiple sites
    • a touring performance series discussing the importance of conservation

    And finally, in my own career (I'm starting as a new professor in Singapore!), I hope to more extensively research the creation of mobile laboratories for exploring nature in situ.

  • Work with the Community

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 03:03 0 comments


    Picture of Work with the Community

    Bayanihan is a great word I learned from my filipino friends during this project. It somewhat means "community spirit directed towards a goal." It more concretely refers to an old tradition of getting a community together and literally carrying a community member's house to a new place when they needed to move.

    My friends pointed out that when we got the whole community together to move the boat into the ocean, we revived this old tradition quite literally. The image of us rounding up the neighborhood to all help carry this huge boat into the water made them all recall the ancient island traditions, and the sense of community spirit it invokes. More info and pictures about Bayanihan are available here:

    Community Spirit


    Keeping any large-scale project alive ultimately relies on the community taking ownership of it. As an outsider, I did not just want to bulldoze my own values over those of the community. Instead dedicate time and resources to connecting with the neighborhood with whom you will work and listen to what the important issues and challenges they face are.

    Build Pride

    Chances are, your large outsider project might seem strange to the people living there. Thus you are faced with the challenges of both explaining what the projects are, but how they can help and why the community should have pride in them.


    Simple things like branding equipment and making t-shirts helps establish both respect for the tools and ownership within the community of these tools. You should also host lots of public events where people of different social classes can come together. Also make sure to provide plenty of incentives for people to come; in the philippines, this meant FOOD :)


  • Mobility and Modularity

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 02:58 0 comments

    Since it is a modular system, the whole lab can be installed on new sites with (relative) ease!

    Picture of Mobility and Modularity

    While floating, the whole raft can be towed or pushed to new locations by only a couple of people.

    The modules can also be detached from each other, and function independently as smaller rafts! As mentioned earlier, the only downside to independently floating rafts, is that they wiggle more when larger waves hit, and can cause sea-sickness while soldering.

    The modules can be carried over land by a group of 10-14 people (they are HEAVY). They can be loaded onto cars and moved wherever they need to go next! If moving the raft from one environment to the other, be careful about checking to see if you might be introducing invasive lifeforms to the new place.

  • Physical Data Visualization

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 02:56 0 comments

    Data isn't much use if you can't connect it back to the people that it matters to. This is why we had a whole team coming up with artistic ways of sharing this work back to the public through visualizations.

    They had two primary visualization systems they implemented: Waterfall Projection + LED Strips

    Waterfall Projection

    The team made an amazing video-display screen where footage from the submarine or other videos can be displayed directly on a sheet of FALLING WATER. It's SO COOL! They even built their own homebrew system


    They also hooked up a system to visualize less visual data. They have 4 strips of addressable LED strips that they use to display weather and water quality data.


  • Ecological Projects: Bantay Basura

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 02:54 0 comments

    Bantay Basura (Garbage Guard)

    Keeping the reef healthy starts with stopping the trash from going into it. I hired a group of awesome little neighborhood kids to become the official "Bantay Basura" or "Garbage Guard."


    They have been doing an excellent job keeping the site clean from the ground up!

  • Ecological Projects: Plastic Recycling

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 02:51 0 comments

    Foundation University Precious Plastics Program

    One group is building a philippine version of the Precious Plastic program:

    They help build some of these open-source tools for taking plastic garbage from the sea, and reusing it as useful items. For instance they already have made lots of simple devices for shredding plastic bottles into string which we can tie bamboo together.

  • Ecological Projects: Sea Sense Team

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 02:49 0 comments

    Sea Sense


    The Sea Sense group develops an automated multi-sensor technology to monitor seawater quality parameters (pH, temperature, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity).

    A pumping machine is utilized to extract seawater sample between 5ft to 10ft depth. The data gathered can be translated into meaningful information for the fishermen to monitor the fish productivity in Banilad Marine Sanctuary.

  • Cultural and Community Engagement Projects

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 02:48 0 comments

    We also got to work with a performing arts crew. Their goal is to inject a message of environmentalism and good uses of technology to the public by hosting a series of theatrical plays in Banilad and the surrounding community.

    They could use the BOAT Lab as a performance space to draw attention to the lab, and the important environment in which it floats.

    The performance group worked with all the other teams to get to know the site and technology. They even turned lots of items from our work into props (such as the net I cut off the reef).

    The Play

    Their play is about how many large evil companies are going around the philippines, tricking poor people into working for them to destroy the only resources in their land and moving on. In the play the poor villagers accidentally help create a "GARBAGE MONSTER" who starts uncontrollably killing the natural areas that are the key to their livelihoods.

    This is based off of current events happening on their Island of Negros, where companies, (like the big Power Company) are chopping down whole forests of old-growth jungle and then greenwashing these misdeeds through seemingly flimsy environmental efforts. They performed this play in our Banilad community, and are touring around the Island of Negros now!

  • Exploration Projects: Submarine!

    blorgggg06/07/2016 at 02:45 0 comments

    The boat lab is going great! For each project log, i am going to add a highlight to some of the amazing projects we have going on! First up the submarine!

    We want the sea to be open to all! Some people don't have the physical abilities to actually go snorkeling or scuba diving.

    For this reason and important feature of our boat lab was an accessible submarine. This can be piloted around the reef nearby from up on the boat lab. It can visually monitor the health of the reef and give people a first encounter with robotics. It also has built in lights so it can explore the reef even during the night when it is harder for humans to go down there themselves.

    We were lucky to have won this submarine (which we dubbed "Sabmarino" in the local dialect) from a previous instructable contest. It is an OpenROV 2.7 kit. Building the submarine from the kit was a valuable workshop in itself.

View all 9 project logs

  • 1
    Step 1


    The lab is designed for modularity. The current incarnation consists of four re-configurable 3x4 meter platforms. If one is damaged, it can be taken out and repaired while the remaining lab continues to function. These modules can also function independently as an array of mini-BOAT Labs in different locations.

    The lab is self-sustaining and currently powered by a 250w solar panel connected to a solar charger, a 100ah non-spillable battery, and 1000watt inverter. It has 4 anchors which lock it in place.


    The idea started with several drawing. Then we iterated with virtual 3D models. We also built physical model prototypes to test ideas, and better share the concept with locals.

    The final design ended up quite similar to what we had planned!


    The basic form consists of multiple floating raft platforms with protective roof coverings. Each raft is a bamboo frame holding sealed plastic drums in place. This provides a super sturdy platform, and each independent module can safely hold 800lbs! To protect against the sun and rain, the modules also have roof sections. The roofs are basically another bamboo frame with thin plastic sheeting for waterproofing. Each of these modules can be used independently or connected to make an even stronger, larger laboratory. Ours includes 2 modules with roofs connected to 2 modules. Your BOAT Lab could easily accommodate many more modules for a massive island!

  • 2
    Step 2

    Materials and Budget

    We built a WHOLE LABORATORY out there, so there are tons of different materials. In terms of building the main structure, though, we put it all together with just a few simple ingredients:

    • Bamboo (Kawayan Tinik)
      • We got our bamboo mostly from salvaged parts of other boats that had been decommissioned around Dumaguete. They had a really big floating schoolhouse that had been destroyed by a storm which we managed to salvage lots of materials from.
    • Plastic Drums
      • This provides the main floating abilities of the lab. We also manage to salvage these from other rafts that had crashed in the nearby area.
    • Nylon string
      • We used basically really thick fishing line. It's what all the locals use to build their own boats. Specifically we used 100 gauge nylon string. Other builders sometimes use long strings of rubber that are recycled from the insides of tractor-trailer tires. They call this rubber string "conveyer." The rubber supposedly lasts longer, but we couldn't source large enough quantities of it at the time. You can also make your suprisingly strong own plastic string by shredding plastic bottles (more in a later step!)


    The main tools you need are gloves and a saw. The saw lets you cut the bamboo to size, and the gloves let you tie the wood together tightly! You can make 90% of this boatlab with just gloves and a saw.

    Other tools that will help include some basics like:

    • Drill
    • Machete
    • Metal Nails
    • Measuring Tape
    • Tarps for shade
    • Water
    • Food


    A big solar panel powered everything on board, and these were very easy to find in the Philippines.

    The rest of the electronics we found locally, or brought from the US.

    In terms of our electronics prototyping equipment, we bought much of our own, but were lucky to recieve lots of materials and tools from Sparkfun's Education Department!

    They are an incredible organization, and we are so thankful to be able to make good use of the equipment they gave us! Thanks!


    Now this seems like it would be a huge undertaking to build your whole own floating laboratory. Making something this big must be prohibitively expensive right? Nope! In fact I included an interactive budget here so you can explore exactly how the entire Waterspace program's money was spent!.

    This budget includes $1000 of equipment from Sparkfun, $10,000 from ZERO1+US State Department, and about $1500 of my own money for a total of $12,500. And boy, did we make it go far!

    INTERACTIVE BUDGET (Hackday's site won't let me embed it here):

    For instance, if you look at our graph, building the BOAT Lab only took about 1/8 of the budget ($1600), and stocking it with furniture, solar panels, and electronics was only another $2,000. The rest of our budget went towards individual projects and sustainability grants to keep people working and using the BOAT Lab.

  • 3
    Step 3

    Traditional Bamboo Boat-making

    Before building our own BOAT Lab, I went around and interviewed the locals and studied how they built their own boats from the materials nearby. You can see lots of photos of different ways people traditionally build their own boats here in the Philippines.

    The basics of boat making in this region consists of tying together lengths of bamboo with string or rubber. Using this basic method people build boats, houses, and even furniture with bamboo.

    Type of Bamboo

    There are two types of bamboo we had available in the Philippines, "Kawyan Tinik" which has a diameter of about 4-5 inches, and "Butong" which is huge and has a diameter of 8+inches. The Butong is harder to find, and not really necessary for our boat's structure.

View all 18 instructions

Enjoy this project?



Lee Wilkins wrote 02/13/2019 at 17:11 point

Wow! This is awesome. I learned so much reading this. 

  Are you sure? yes | no

markgeo wrote 03/05/2017 at 00:54 point

I have done some bamboo construction in Thailand. Powder post beetles turn it to dust in a year or two unless the bamboo is treated to prevent it. I did not see mention of any bamboo treatment, or perhaps I missed it. Are bamboo-eating pests not an issue there?

  Are you sure? yes | no

EK wrote 10/31/2016 at 03:58 point

Wow! It was great to see the community come together to lift the lab into the water - bringing Bayanihan into a future version of sorts. Curious to hear how the project is going now! Have people brought it out further into the water so they can do more research or inspired art by the reefs? What workshops have been held? Has it been adopted as a community space?

Congrats on such a cool project :)

  Are you sure? yes | no

Similar Projects

Does this project spark your interest?

Become a member to follow this project and never miss any updates