The Maker Lab was originally created to help students get involved with making and creating. There are many labs available to students at Santa Clara University but the majority are only open to the students in particular departments during classes and are not used for personal projects. That’s why, after obtaining support from the School of Engineering and the Kern Family Foundation, the Robotics Systems Lab has forged the way for future students to have a chance to make no matter what year or major. It has been actively running for more than 2 years. It is located within the Engineering in Bannan Engineering Labs and is available to all on campus.
The Maker Lab is available to all students, staff and faculty at Santa Clara University. In order to use the Lab, they must first complete a short safety training. We have trained volunteer students and course TAs to be supervisors in the lab and hold open hours. Lab hours vary week to week based on supervisor availability and user requests, though we do have some supervisors that have set hours every week throughout the quarter.
We have three categories of equipment. Basic tools includes general hand tools (screw drivers, wrenches, hand saws, etc.), power hand drills, hot wire cutter, injection molder, plastic bender, sewing machine, Silhouette vinyl plotter, soldering iron, vacuum forming machine, and a photo booth. Power tools includes sander, Dremel rotary tool, drill press, orbital jig saw, reciprocating saw, and trim saw. Specialty tools include CarveWright table router, compound miter saw, Epilog laser cutter, MakerBot 2X rapid prototyping machines, OtherMill milling machine, ProJet 1500 rapid prototyping machine, Sherline CNC milling machine, and Shopbot table router.
The tools and equipment in the Lab is free to users. They are responsible for bringing in their own materials with the exception of 3D printer filament. For some of the class projects that use the lab, funding from the course goes towards providing materials for the students.
Professor Christopher Kitts manages the lab on behalf of the School of Engineering. There is a dedicated graduate TA position to run the lab. Volunteer students are trained as supervisors to hold general open hours for anyone who has gone through basic training to use the Maker Lab. Course TAs are also trained to hold open hours for classes that are using the lab.
Before using the lab, basic training must first be completed which covers general safety, operation of the lab, and the basic equipment. Users can then sign up for additional training for power and/or specialty equipment. We provide resources (equipment manuals, tool overviews, charts/requirement tables, etc.) in the lab that students can refer to for help with equipment. We also created safety training videos demonstrating how to operate a variety of the equipment in the lab. The supervisors are also available to help answer questions and give guidance on projects.
The lab is used for all matter of events- from meetings to course work. When it was originally funded its main purpose was to get tools in the hands of those in need. Since then it has fostered a variety of different uses including training sessions, class sessions, open hours, class work shop times, tours and demonstrations.
It was designed to do this originally-- its purpose was to help students get in and make. We supply the equipment along with the knowledge and ability to work on their projects from teaching them how to use the equipment to brainstorming different tools and methods for completing tasks. Students who use the space are interested in what others are working on when in the Maker Lab. Having this space has also allowed for a Maker Club to form on campus for students to work on projects together.
The hardest thing that we have had to overcome is management. Our Maker Lab is mostly volunteer run and that makes it difficult for accountability and stable hours available to those who need it. We are still relatively new and still figuring out the best way to run the lab to reach the most students. There is also a large move into a larger space soon.
The biggest piece of advice that I could have is to make sure you have a dedicated team willing to assemble and run the space. It is important for this team to be responsible and be trained on how to use the tools safely and correctly since safety is a big concern with a lot of the equipment.
I would also advise touring other local maker spaces to see what equipment they have available and how they run their space to get an idea of what may or may not work for your space before you even get started.