Kids learning design thinking with 3d printing.

One of many workshops offered by the Illinois MakerLab over this summer was Project City X, an international education workshop taught by Ron Duncan from University of Illinois Extension, who manages the southern Illinois operations of the Illinois Marketplace and Maker Literacy project (https://immlp.illinois.edu/). The workshop was geared toward students ages 8 to 13 and taught problem solving using the design thinking process and created solutions using 3D printing.  

The workshop was based around the story of a group of travelers from Earth in the not-so-distant future who have been sent to a remote planet to build a settlement called City X.  However, soon the travelers encounter challenges and social problems that affect not only themselves but everyone in City X. That’s where the students attending the workshop came in, solving the problems in groups of two or three through a five-step design process.


The first of these steps was Empathy. The students discussed how the travelers must be feeling based on their individual problems, which gave them a better understanding of the challenge at hand. The next was defining the difference between social and personal issues including which major world issue aligned with their challenge. The third was Ideation or brainstorming with only two constraints. The students’ inventions could not have been something that already exists and the ideas must have come from the students themselves.


After the students had their ideas they created prototypes using markers and paper, and then discussed them with peers and teaches in order to help them improve and revise their creations.

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The final step allowed the students to use a simple 3D modeling software called Tinkercad to create 3D models of their inventions. They could then print their designs using one of the many 3D printers in the lab.


At the end of the workshop each group presented their creations to the staff and their parents, explaining the problem, a bit about their design process, and finally the solution. Upon their departure the students were rewarded with a certificate of completion from the Illinois Makerlab,  in recognition of their newfound skills in designing with 3D modeling and printing.



Fostering entrepreneurship and interdisciplinary team work

Nora Benson - undergraduate student who used the MakerLab.
Nora Benson - undergraduate student who used the MakerLab.

The MakerLab is featured as the cover story of this semester's Postmarks publication. Postmarks is an official publication of the University of Illinois News Bureau and is mailed to 65,000 parents of current and prospective undergraduate students. This story features our two for-credit courses (Digital Making, taught by Vishal Sachdev & Making Things, taught by Aric Rindfleisch) and alums from these courses, Cameron Alberg and Nora Benson (featured in the photo above).

Both classes will be offered in Spring 2016. If you are an Illinois undergraduate student and interested in taking either class, please send your resume to the instructors (Aric AT Illinois DOT edu or Vishal AT illinois DOT edu) , with a short note explaining your interest in the course and any skills/passions in making that you bring to the courses.

If the classes don't fit your schedule, or you are not able to get in, we do offer workshops every semester, so check out our schedule and sign up to Learn, Make and Share!

Serving Makers Across Campus

Although the MakerLab resides in the College of Business, we are proud to serve our entire campus. Our Lab provides a unique space for majors from across campus to come Learn, Make, and Share. The graphic below provides a visual portrayal of our cross-campus impact. This graphic, which is based on an analysis of our usage data over the past year, reveals that our makers come from all corners of our campus and that our Lab's impact is far and wide. Click on any one of the circles to see more details. Find out more about our Makers in our "Meet the Maker" Series.

Looking Back and Moving Forward

2013 was a busy year in the World’s First Business School 3D Printing Lab and the New Year promises to be even busier. Here are some highlights of what we’ve done thus far and the new initiatives on our agenda:

2013 Highlights

  • In February, the MakerLab opened with six 3D printers in a 300 square foot space in the Surveying Building. In September, the Lab moved to its new location in the Business Instructional Facility. Our new Lab is over 500 square feet and is equipped with twelve 3D printers, six computers, three 3D scanners, and a 70 inch monitor. We are grateful to Dean Larry DeBrock for his support of our lab and for providing us this great new space.
  • During 2013, our lab hosted over 1,000 users (walk-ins and at special events), who printed over 100 pounds of thermoplastic. This is equivalent to 2,500 iPhone cases! During this time we put over 5000 hours on our printers.
  • Our Lab was selected as one of four destinations on campus to host key donors during the recent U of I Foundation Weekend.
  • We received a $6,900 Innovation Grant from Procter & Gamble and a $1,000 donation from an alum who works for JP Morgan.
  • We offered a series of free workshops on such topics as How to Create 3D Designs, How to Scan Objects with your iPhone and How to Create your Own Electronics.
  • We formed an Advisory Board. Our first two board members are Erwin Cruz (Director of Innovation for Grainger) and Zach Kaplan (Founder and CEO of Inventables).
  • We received a significant amount Media Coverage.
  • Finally, we also made several interesting things and featured some Makers as well.

2014 Initiatives

  • We will be giving presentations about our Lab at key alumni events in Phoenix & Tucson, Arizona and Naples, Florida.
  • We will open a MakerLab Store, which will sell objects printed in our lab.
  • We plan to hold a 3D printing conference on campus in either late April or early May.
  • We will be teaching an innovative new course ("Making Things"). This course will be taught in our lab and will ask teams of students from business, engineering and design to conceptualize, design, prototype, manufacture, and market a new object.

We are thankful for the support that we have received from faculty, students, alumni, and friends. We are happy that we have been able to make an important impact during our first year as the World’s First 3D Printing Lab and look forward to what the new year will bring!

The Digitizer Arrives!

Earlier this week, the MakerLab received one of the first shipments of MakerBot's new Digitizer 3D Scanner! This revolutionary new device converts physical objects into digital files. In essence, it is a 3D copy machine! The Digitizer was extremely easy to set up and  the scanning software is very user friendly. Within a few minutes after unpacking, we were ready for our first scan: a gnome that was 3D printed on an early MakerBot Cupcake 3D printer. photo-59

The process took around 10 minutes and involved a laser scanning of the gnome, which slowly rotated clockwise on the Digitizer's turntable. We then sliced the file using MakerWare, saved it on an SD card, and printed the digitized gnome using one of our MakerBot Replicator 3D printers.


The photo below shows both the original 3D printed gnome (in white) next to its scanned copy (in yellow). The scan is quite similar to the original 3D printed object and captures many of its details. Overall, we are quite pleased with the Digitizer and are proud to add it to our arsenal. This new device allows our lab to turn physical objects into digital files that can be easily modified and/or physically printed. If you are interested in taking the Digitizer for a "spin," just stop by our lab.



Meet the Maker : Fish Yu

Meet Fish Yu, an architecture student, who is passionate about creating complex structures, using his favorite software, Rhino. He recently created a beautiful structure, shown below. Fish YuModel under development

According to Fish,  "the UI MakerLab is such a great resource for not only business and engineering students on campus, but also just anyone who has an interest in creating 3D objects. I'm really excited that the MakerLab made it possible, and I'm looking forward to share my experience and knowledge with others from different colleges! There are so many more opportunities with these 3D printers, and hopefully we can soon start working with students with different backgrounds and come up with something exciting! "

We will be featuring other Makers as well, so come by and make something.