The College of Engineering Protolab is a Makerspace that is designed to “Power the New Engineer”. In order to innovate and collaborate there is a need for a certain amount of easily accessible resources. That is why the Protolab is a Free to use and Free to print facility that allows any engineer to bring there ideas and creations to fruition.
Any enrolled engineer has access to the lab. There are very few restrictions on what can be printed but if it is a design you are working we will do our best to provide the tools to make an idea a reality.
If our lab does not have the manufacturing capability, we have built a network of facility and staff that can further assist students within the University. Our goal is to not let the ability to manufacture stop a student from taking a concept to a prototype.
The Protolab consist primarily of 3d Printing and is expanding its reach into other manufacturing processes. The current 3d printers are 8 makerbots and a custom designed Reprap style printers.
The Protolab is free to access and Free to print for all Engineering students and faculty.
Currently there are 2 part-time staff that manage the lab. They keep the machines up to date with the latest software, maintain the machines, and guide students in how to design to 3d. The staff also provides webpage maintenance and content to better assist students with there manufacturing endeavors. The 3D printing lab staff is also involved in events of design competitions where rapid prototyping is needed.
The vision of the Protolab is to empower the new engineer to “Just Make It”. Quite often, people come up with ideas and just talk about them or think about it for too long. At some point you need to “Just Make It” and see where it takes you. It may work out, it might not, But taking that first crucial first step is the only way to go from a vision to a reality.
We are a Prototyping lab that is available to all engineering students but we do work with several courses throughout the year that require 3d printing. In addition of being a free resource, the Protolab is actively seeking further ways to integrate into the engineering curriculum. We hold occasional workshops for events and will continue to work with campus and off campus Hack-a-thon events that could utilize our services.
Our Makerspace empowers engineering students to work on projects both in and out of the classroom. We have may resources available at the University of Florida and we feel that our role is to guide Makers to these resources.
In the beginning we had difficulty with the purchase of only one type of printer. They were all having issues at the same time and it was difficult to keep up with. After installing a more diverse array of 3d printers and working with the manufacture we were able to resolve this issue in time. My advice is that in this rapidly evolving 3d printing landscape the purchase of one style could lead to issues.
We believe that a Makerspace is intended to both inspire and provide the Student Maker Community with the resources necessary to MAKE. The space should be inviting and encouraging from the moment someone walks in. A Makespace should have a variety of equipment and staffed by individuals that are encouraging to people that may be hesitant to engage a new or difficult project.