What is the second oldest building on campus? The answer is Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab! It was a special, interesting and exciting learning process to have the first-hand experience in utilizing various tools, materials and software to complete from complex prototyping to a simple art design. I wish I could know this amazing lab earlier because I would explore project ideas, prototype different models or collaborate with talented specialists on projects. Fab Lab provides very comprehensive open resources as well as cool DIY equipment for designers, engineers and anyone who is interested in making something. Because of the variety and flexibility, the lab encourages the public to engage the entire design process and inspires interest and innovation in many fields. However, Fab Lab for me is not only an advanced workshop space for rapid prototyping and computer-based design, but also is a tutorial resource to help me solve issues and refine project ideas.
We were firstly separated into two groups to take a quick tour of the building during the workshop. I followed Jeff, operations lead and adjunct faculty in Informatics, to visit different working stations, including electronic cutters, textiles and fabrics, electronics resources, and graphic design and art. Then, there were seven people, including myself, assigned to electronics resources with instructor Colton. Several microprocessors and mircocontrollers are available in the small working area, allowing us to manipulate. Through the session, we used Arduino to control LED light bulb frequency, switch the frequency and degree of a motor, and a touch sensor that is able to convert physical pressure to measured numbers on a small piece of electronics kit. Someone even took further steps to write codes that were able to control those add-in materials to work together.
Writing codes and assembling pieces of electronic material are not my strengths, but I would like to engage in the learning process and try new things. Thanks for the help from classmates and Colten, I did make those small board work. Furthermore, this is a good time to confirm some conceptual ideas with experts in the lab. I got some feedbacks about my “multi-functional cup holder” project, which they are helpful for me to modify designs. Colten came up with a concern about the efficiency of energy output in my design, as well as cooling down the product when converting heat to electricity. In the future, I really would like to share Fab Lab to my friend and related classes. It is a great workshop for any independent academic purpose learnings or research. Fab Lab is operating as a small company who is looking for innovations and inspiring people to make community become better.