Invention Studio Continues Expansion
Though summer semester tends to be associated with a quieter campus, that is not the case for visitors of the Invention Studio. If you find yourself walking along west campus in need of some design inspiration, head into the Manufacturing Related Disciplines Complex, or MRDC, where you’ll be greeted by the sights, sounds and products of engineers hard at work.
Every surface is filled with equipment or creations from the studio’s participants — miniature Yoda heads crafted on 3D printers, cardboard gears etched from a laser cutter and assembled by hand, even a miniature wooden bulldozer that would light up the eyes of any toddler. The room is essentially a playground for anyone who never really outgrew a love for LEGOs and building models.
Managed by the Makers Club, the Georgia Tech Invention Studio has been around since 2008, when an old mailroom was transformed into a small machine room. Almost four years later, the “studio” is comprised of three separate rooms containing several high-end pieces of equipment, including a water jet and a hot injection mold machine. The studio recently obtained two additional laser cutters to meet growing student demand. One student expanded the functionality of these cutters by writing a code that enables the machine to cut patterns that can then be assembled into 3-D creations.
Though originally established to provide mechanical engineering capstone students with a workspace to foster collaboration and efficiency, the Invention Studio welcomes students of all disciplines.
Eric Weinhoffer, a fifth-year mechanical engineering student and outgoing president of the Makers Club, emphasizes the importance of applying theory learned in the classroom. “By leveraging the equipment in the Invention Studio, graduates are more desirable job candidates because of their abilities and skills,” Weinhoffer says.
Approximately 50 undergraduate laboratory instructors, or ULIs, staff the lab each week and are available to teach visitors how to use the space’s equipment and resources. Workshop facilitators also volunteer in the studio, teaching techniques and skills in woodworking, knitting, rocketry and other specialized areas. After experimenting with machines and attending workshops, students are eligible to apply to become a volunteer ULI or workshop facilitator, and also become a member of the Makers Club.
“The cutting-edge tools we have are due to very generous support from the Institute’s student technology fee and from corporate sponsorship,” said Craig Forest, mechanical engineering professor and faculty advisor for the Invention Studio. “We want to send forward inventors and engineers into society by providing a home for design-build education and culture. The studio is a small step in the right direction.” Hands-on education is also a fundamental aspect of the Institute’s Strategic Plan.
“Knowing how things are designed makes you a better engineer,” added Chris Quintero, a recent alumnus and staff member in the studio.
Perhaps the most unusual characteristic is the student ownership of the space. “I left one weekend and returned to find our new sitting blocks had been vinyl-printed with the studio logo,” Quintero said. ULIs are present in the studio at all hours, hosting holiday events, working on academic projects or designing in their free time.
“It’s hard not to get inspired to build something if you hang around there long enough,” said Weinhoffer. Last year, Weinhoffer spearheaded the creation of the Atlanta Mini Makers Faire, a celebration of do-it-yourself projects. This year’s event is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, October 6, on Tech Walk.
Georgia Tech student Jamison Go gives a tour of the Invention Studio at Georgia Tech.
Students interested in learning more about the Invention Studio are encouraged to visit the website or drop in to meet the ULIs and experiment with the equipment.