Day in the Lab

XVIII.5 September + October 2011
Page: 86
Digital Citation

The Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab


Authors:
Gary Watson

How do you describe your lab to visitors?

The Champaign-Urbana Community (CUC) Fab Lab is an open source community of people who like to design and make things. Our principal focus is to provide a safe and fun learning environment so that students of all ages can master modern design and fabrication technology. The Fab Lab features tools and workspaces for teachers, students, technical hobbyists, artisans, and others. We celebrate entrepreneurial initiative. Our Fab Lab makes many resources available to the community, including skilled volunteers, computers, computer-controlled (CNC) machines, and electronics assembly tools. These high-tech tools make it possible for people of all ages and skill levels to build virtually anything imaginable. The CUC Fab Lab is part of a global network of Fab Labs, enabling many connections with like-minded people around the world.

How many people are in the lab, and what is the mix of backgrounds and roles?

We are a diverse group consisting of retirees, homemakers, blacksmiths, engineers, academics, artists, university faculty, students, clubs, K-12 teachers, researchers, and inventors. The CUC Fab Lab’s primary target is middle school and high school students. The number of people in the lab varies, but we have had several hundred different users since our grand opening in November 2010. We have a core group of individuals who come in regularly as volunteers.

How would you describe a day in the life of your lab?

Activities vary, but lately lab days have started with the global Fab Academy offering advanced instruction in fabrication by Neil Gershenfeld in the morning hours. It links groups of students and instructors in Fab Labs worldwide through online video collaboration and lectures, combined with hands-on experience locally. The public hours start in the afternoon; you can find engineering and art students working on projects separately or together, elementary-school students with their parents, general users paired with volunteers, inventors with academics, or even hobbyists creating a replica of the Star Trek warp reactor. Recently, we were pleased to see a young couple making their wedding invitations on our laser cutter.

What is one feature of your lab you could not do without?

Our volunteers.

What is one feature of your lab that you want and don’t have?

A Shop Bot and a 3-D printer.

How would you describe how people interact in your lab?

We have become a community of people who are lifelong learners sharing a common interest in the arts, innovation, and invention.

What is the one thing you see as most important about what you do here?

Making the resources of the Fab Lab available to people who would not ordinarily have access to our level of technology.

Author

Gary Watson | http://cucfablab.org/

©2011 ACM  1072-5220/11/0900  $10.00

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