Become A Maker With CUC Fab Lab

This article was created by a Technology Services student employee. Our student employees attend, engage, and report on campus events that feature technology. Students provide a unique perspective on how innovations in technology affect campus life.

By Sara Abdeljalil, Economics '18

Last week, the Teaching with Technology Seminar Series hosted a presentation by members of Champaign Urbana Community Fab Lab (CUC Fab Lab). Fab Labs, which have been popping up around the country and the globe, describe themselves as “digital fabrication laboratories" that are "set up to inspire people and entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into new products and prototypes by giving them access to a range of advanced digital manufacturing technology.” The whole idea behind Fab Lab is that everyone is an inventor in the making. We just need the right tools, a place to learn and practice, and a community of collaborators with whom to share ideas.

CUC Fab Lab aims to provide the C-U community with these crucial things. They offer a slew of resources ranging from 3D printers to teaching classes on how to replace an iPad screen.

One of the classes that they offer is called the Makerspace Studio and Lecture Informatics. It’s a full-semester elective course that is taken by undergraduate juniors and seniors. It’s a hands-on class that teaches students how to use the different tools at the Fab Lab.

But just because these courses attract advanced students does not mean that perfection is expected. Making is what's important. As Suzanne Lindor, Curriculum Development and Education Research Specialist at the FabLab, said, “The process is more important than the product.” The point of this class is not to create something necessarily amazing, but to teach students how to do the making.

Making is not a solitary job.

“You don’t do it yourself, you do it with others,” said Jeff Ginger, Director and adjunct faculty in the Illinois Informatics Institute. Ginger and Lindor teach the informatics class, a three-credit-hour class offered by the University under Info 490. You must be a student to take the class, but it’s open to any Illinois student. Their class, as well as other Fab Lab-oriented classes, emphasize the social aspect of making things.

But you don’t have to be a student to get involved with the Fab Lab. Another way is to volunteer to work on some of the many projects spearheaded by Dorothy Silverman, inventor and Science Education Specialist at the FabLab. From fungi product design, to mobile microscopy and histology, to soft robotics, there are a ton of projects to take part in. Email Dorothy at dorothy3@illinois.edu about your interest.

All in all, the FabLab is a great place for those looking to get more hands-on experience with technology. You can visit their website here to get more information about Fab Lab, available projects, and the classes and services they offer.