“We’re moving the maker movement back into engineering and engineering schools,” says one of the members of the Makers Club at Georgia Tech’s Invention Studio at the end of the video below.
The Invention Studio is a campus-wide makerspace open 24 hours to any faculty, student, or staff member and project, not just those in classes. The Invention Studio has $500,000 of equipment in 3,000-square feet. There are over 500 users per month now. Seventy students are members of the makers club, which provides support and training for the community of users.
“We keep the space open and the machines running,” said one student.
I visited the makerspace last year and was impressed not by the tools, but by the level of student engagement. (I met and later hired a former president of the Makers Club, Eric Weinhoffer, after he graduated. He now works on product development in Maker Shed.)
Here’s a two-minute overview of the Georgia Tech Invention Studio:
Dr. Craig Forest, Assistant Professor of Bioengineering, has been the faculty sponsor for the Invention Studio. The makerspace is equipped with 3D printers, laser cutters, a waterjet cutter, an injection molder, a thermoformer, various milling devices, a meeting space, a lounge, and more. Dr. Forest writes that “these facilities, infrastructure, and cultural transformation are demonstrating the value and sustainability of hands-on design/build to stimulate innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship in engineering undergraduates.” Over 30 companies have donated to build and support the Invention Studio.
He originally saw the makerspace as a high-end prototyping facility for students working on Capstone Design Expo projects. But it’s becoming much more than that. Students don’t just show up to work on class projects. They also work on their own personal projects. They also enjoy hanging out in the space. What’s really unique about the Georgia Tech model is that the students aren’t just users of the space. They manage and maintain it. It has become their space, not just a space owned and operated by the school. It’s a huge difference that translates into students spending more time in the space and getting to know new people at the school. It’s a model that other universities should study and replicate.
The Makers Club is currently sponsoring a grant program, offering $250 for student projects. What’s especially good about the program is that it is open to any student project in any major. “We love multidisciplinary projects,” says the Maker Grant promotion.
I love that kind of thinking. The Invention Studio as a makerspace and maker club just might democratize the practice of engineering.