The Maker Culture at UCI stresses creative new and unique applications of advanced manufacturing technologies, programming, computer science, mechanical engineering, electronics, robotics, and encourages invention and prototyping. UCI has a strong focus on learning and applying practical skills to solve complex engineering challenges, through the creative use of the tools available.
The maker culture and UCI is ingrained in the students in the freshman year. The freshman students start with a two quarter long fabrication class where they learn the basics of fabrication, electronics and programming. There are multiple spaces on campus where the students “MAKE” including RapidTech, the KFF FABworks facility, the KFF Innovation Center, the Student 3D Printer Lab, and the student 3D printer club lab. These spaces are heavily utilized across the entire academic year. For example the student 3-D printer Lab is averaging 150 students per month while RapidTech routinely interacts with hundreds of students and community members passing through its doors monthly. By allowing the students to have access to advanced maker spaces we have seen the fidelity and complexity of senior design projects increase over the past three years.
Under the leadership of the Dean of Engineering UCI is shifting from a “know of” to a “know how” paradigm. Faculty members have been and will continue to implement project based and hands-on learning activities. For example the RapidTech Center, the National Science Foundation National Center for rapid technologies, has been assisting faculty members in developing project-based learning exercises throughout the engineering school. These project-based learning activities currently impact approximately 900 undergraduate students per academic year (2013 – 2014). With greater support for hands-on activities this year that number is expected to be well over 1500 undergraduate students (2014 – 2015). Our goal is to advance maker related activities by reaching 100% of the enrolled undergraduates.
Beyond the multitude of senior design classes across the engineering sciences (mechanical, aerospace, bio, civil, computer, etc) a number of programs have realized the value of integrating maker philosophy into their coursework. For example, classes on various manufacturing processes that encourage students to try their hand at building projects on a host of different technologies to large scale group projects with hundreds working together to create their own interactive music boxes, UCI students have many opportunities to get involved in the maker ways throughout their coursework. Furthermore, one of the most popular classes among freshmen engineers is a hands-on immersion course where students work in teams to create robots, hovercraft, UAV's and a number of other multi-disciplinary projects. When not in class, many students choose to join clubs and work on projects like human powered flight, design build fly, solar decathlon, and 3d printing among others.
Several upperclassmen developed the structure for a 3-D printing club at the UCI campus. This club currently has 125 paid members and an interest list of over 600 potential members. RapidTech currently houses the 3-D printer club lab within its facility, donating approximately 1000 ft.². During the 2014-2015 academic year, the leadership of RapidTech has been approached by students expressing interested in forming clubs for raspberry pi, Arduino, biomedical 3-D printing and robotics. It appears that the grassroot student groups would prefer to have specialized maker clubs within the University rather than generic maker clubs. It appears that these specialized maker clubs generally align with the student’s majors and attract people of like interest.
UCI offers over ten thousand square feet of space dedicated to doing, building, making things. The primary 5000+ square ft facility, known as RapidTech, the NSF National Center for Rapid Technologies, focuses largely on additive manufacturing. Additionally, it includes traditional manufacturing and secondary processes for good measure. The RapidTech facility provides access to dozens of 3D printers including inexpensive extrusion based machines, high resolution photopolymer machines for precision parts, wax based machines for casting, sintering machines for tough parts, full color ceramic machines for expressing full color ideas, silicone casting equipment for bringing flexible parts to life, laser cutters, hand tools and cnc machines that open the door to composites and metals manufacturing. While the community has guided access to this facility and the staff for help, those interested developing their own projects through a “DIY” model have access to a subdivision of RapidTech called FABWorks, FABWorks is a 1000 square ft facility centered around a do it yourself model. FABWorks gives the community access to some of the similar tools available at the RapidTech facility including CNC machines, inexpensive 3d printers, hand tools, laser cutting, electronics, and sewing machines for textile applications. A number of facilities on campus also include general shop tools and work space as well such as welding, metal fabrication and machine shops. With the multitude of resources and the caring staff on hand to help students, UCI students are learning the skills to become self-sufficient, creative problem solvers in order to build almost anything.
The University of California Irvine hosts the Orange County Meeting Makes Fair every year and provides public enrichment events throughout the year with such topics as 3-D printing, microcontrollers, and programming workshops. Faculty and staff routinely present on UCI's maker related activities at venues such as libraries, community centers and local K through 12 educational institutions. The University of California Irvine also hosts FABcamp, a series of action-packed summer camps for middle school students. This weeklong summer camp introduces students to 3-D printing, solid modeling, chemistry, aeronautics, fuel cells, programming, and electronics. Students at FABcamp taught to apply the math and science they are learning in school to real physical systems, while interacting and engaging with University faculty, professional engineers and college students from a variety of Engineering disciplines allowing them to explore career pathways in Engineering fields. Projects emphasize Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) concepts and are correlated with Common Core Standards and the Framework for Next Generation Science Standards. Activities emphasize ‘21 Century Skills’ such as critical thinking, communication and problem solving.
UC Irvine has relationships with the LA maker space, Inland Empire maker space (Vocademy), North County San Diego Open Source Maker Lab (OSML) and NASA AMES Space Shop.
The MAKER culture on the UCI campus has already taken hold and gaining traction across the campus. Students are exploring their creativity in the project-based education classes and in many cases spending countless hours to create a truly unique solutions to real world projects. In the MAE 195 3-D printing class several students are now incorporating microcontrollers, wireless communication and robotics into their 3-D printed final projects. As we continue to expand upon and encourage the maker initiative at UCI we see an ever increasing flow of student and community interest, a positive sign and key to success of the movement.
In the 3-D printing student lab students have developed a specialized medical device which has resulted in three invention disclosures. Several of the MAE 195 student projects have transitioned from class to the startup, based on the project-based learning outcomes. This has been accomplished through the UC Irvine ANTrepreneur Center a philanthropic endeavor sponsored by the Blackstone group. The 3-D student printing lab was also recently utilized to fabricate components for a successful Kick Starter campaign called “100 tiny hands” which was a result of the work of the undergraduates in Prof. Michelle Khine’s research group here at UCI.