Makerspace Profile


The Learning Factory began in 1995 with the aim of bringing the real world into the classroom through practical, hands-on design projects. The Bernard M. Gordon Learning Factory facility was originally built as a prototyping space for capstone design students, and has expanded to serve as a makerspace resource for all Penn State engineering students. The facility is supported by the Penn State College of Engineering and gifts from corporate sponsors.


Penn State students working on class projects, research projects, or student organizations are welcome to use the Learning Factory, provided that they complete the safety training. The facility is open 8:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. during the academic year, and 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. during the summer. Weekend hours are added during the last month of each semester due to the high demand.

Tools, Materials and Resources

• 3D Printing

• Objet 260 Connex

• UPrint SE

• 2 Dimension 1200sst

• 2 MakerBots

• Next Engine 3D Laser Scanner

• Machining

• 3 axis Bridgeport CNC Machining Center (Torq-Cut V22)

• 4 Bridgeport Series II milling machines with digital readout (DRO)

• Bridgeport EZ-Trak CNC/Manual vertical mill

• 2 14" South Bend 1440 lathes with DRO

• 10" Clausing Colchester 15 lathe

• 8" South Bend lathe

• Omax Waterjet

• Wilton drill press

• Sheet Metal Forming

• 48" shear

• Brake

• Roller

• Stock Cutoff and Grinding

• Abrasive cutoff saw

• Vertical and horizontal band saws

• Wilton belt sander

• Pedestal grinder

• Bead blaster

• Welding



• Gas

• Assembly/Test

• Hardness tester

• Hydraulic press

• Arbor press 

Access & Usage Costs

Only the 3D printers and water jet cutter have a cost associated with their use. All other equipment is available to use free of charge. The 3D printers cost $8/cubic inch of material for undergraduate course projects and $16/cubic inch for other projects. The waterjet cutter costs $4 per minute for undergraduate course projects and $8/minute for other projects. Students must provide a university account number before using these equipment.


The Learning Factory staff consists of a faculty member serving as Director, two full time staff members serving as shop supervisors, a full time staff member serving as Program Administrator, and a team of about 12 students serving as teaching assistants. At any given time, the space is usually overseen by at least one shop supervisor and two teaching assistants.


Basic safety and power tool training is required for all users of the facility. Additional training in machining and welding is also available every semester for students.

Use and Activity

The everyday users are primarily capstone design students working on prototyping their designs. Students in other design project-based courses such as the junior-level design course in Mechanical Engineering frequently use the facility as well. In addition, student organizations such as the Penn State race team heavily use the facility in building their formula car each year. Other activities in the facility include design classes, and tours for industry representatives and campus visitors.

Culture and Community

The Learning Factory gives students an opportunity to build and implement what they design, which is an invaluable educational experience. In keeping with our name, the Learning Factory provides students the opportunity gain experience and confidence in using the equipment themselves. We strive to maintain a welcoming environment where students of all experience levels and backgrounds can feel comfortable working and learning.

Challenges and Lessons Learned

The space was originally viewed as a place for mechanical engineering students, and has since broadened its mission to welcome students from all engineering disciplines and those from outside engineering.

Advice to other Makerspaces

The staff needs to be fully on board with making safety and a welcoming environment the two most important concerns.