Build your own floating, self-sustainable ecological makerspace!

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 Instructable you can learn how to make your own with lots of high-quality pictures and videos for each step!

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 boat only 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 instructable 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!

Much of this instructable is also available as a print-able book, available for free here:


Step 1: Background


This project was a integral part of a larger workshop program called "Waterspace." Waterspace was a series of collaborative education and design projects hosted by Andrew Quitmeyer as part of the ZERO1 / US State Department Arts Incubator, i 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.

The central idea was to unite Art and Technology to promote Environmental Health in the region.

After scouting many areas, we chose the Banilad beach site as our primary field site to study its ecological problems and potential community solutions.

Following a week-long participatory design workshop exploring technical skills and community issues, five main teams emerged to address different topics. All projects connect with a central artwork, the BOAT Lab.


Banilad Beach is our target site for these projects. It hosts a beautiful coral reef full of rare sea creatures. This environmental treasure, however, is on the brink of destruction.

Banilad is a small neighborhood (Barangay) south of Dumaguete in the Philippines. It generally consists of poorer fisherfolk who make a living catching, drying, and selling fish.

The government recently designated its reef a “Marine Protected Area” where guards (The “Bantay Dagat”) are supposed to be paid to prevent destructive fishing or pollution practices. Sadly, lack of funding, public interest, and financial incentives have left this protected area in disrepair. We partnered with the Marine Guards to take ownership of the BOAT Lab, using it as a platform for the community to learn to love and protect their reef.

Situating our projects in this area aims to increase awareness of this precious resource and also provide social and economic incentives to protect the sea.

I also created a full book of photography and other how-to articles you can check out for free!

This is absolutely awesome. I have been dreaming of building this for years. And it feels you are getting a lot of things right here. I developed this concept here : https://youtu.be/o3IS94Z2RZw<br>And we built the steel structure for it: https://flic.kr/p/6xJUQy<br>but half way through my health, the team, the money fell apart. <br>I really look forward to get back to that work in a few years and you are an example for me. Thank you for sharing your experience. Amazing job.
aww thanks for the really kind words! sorry yours fell apart, but yeah something coool to look forward to!
<p>Thanks for sharing such a worthwhile and well executed project. </p><p>I salute all those working to protect the environment in that part of the world. It's a tough job when the general community has little understanding of its importance and fragility. Education and community involvement can perhaps make all the difference, so well done!</p>
<p>I love to see so many people work together for a greater cause</p>
<p>Amazing project!!</p>
<p>good job</p>
Well that is simply stupendous blorgggg!!<br>Congratulations on a great Instructable and on the valuable work you are doing.
<p>Thank you for all this amazing free information on building a low-budget, sustainable lab! You should be dubbed Father Theresa of the Environment. : )</p>
<p>Amazing project! Also your awesome job looks awesome. All this technology and microelectronics combined with nature. Just amazing.</p>
<p>Beautiful!!! Very cool!</p>
<p>This is amazing! Good job it seems you did great and did it with the stuff you had.</p>
<p>Salamat po! This is rather epic. Glad to see the whole thing documented out like this. Hopefully this will inspire others to do similar.</p>
<p>You are super welcome!</p>
<p>and yeah, my biggest dream would be to have tons of these labs all over the world!</p>
Oh my god, YES! This is an incredible &amp; inspirational (srsly, ha) project. Well done. Good luck at your new job &amp; sharing your knowledge and beautiful sustainability ethos to others!!
<p>Thanks so much!</p>
This is amazing!
Thanks! It was the most fun, ambitious thing I have ever been a part of!

About This Instructable




Bio: I want computers to be wilder. https://twitter.com/HikingHack
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