Something in the Making: An Intro to the Fab Lab


This week we made the trek all the way past the South Quad to the Champaign Urbana Community Fab Lab. The Fab Lab, despite being home to lots of top of the line making equipment is housed in Art Annex 2, the second oldest building on campus. However, this is seen as a bonus in our eyes as it allows creativity to flow nicely in the highly customized space.

After a quick tour of the space including laser engravers, 3d Printers, electronic cutters, milling machines, textile and fabric machines and so much more, it was time to split the class into groups to begin our rotations. I was put in the electronics group this week, and Duncan and Andrea helped us through our project. We spent the day soldering together LED’s to an Arduino as part of the “blinky boxes” project. Soldering is an important skills in making if you are going to incorporate electronics, so it was good to get practice with it. The “blinky boxes” have a light sensor on them that responds to light intensity. The darker it gets, the faster the LED’s will flash. With the help of Duncan and Andrea as well as a schematic, we were able to finish the electronics phase. We did not program the Arduino ourselves, but it is a skill we will be learning later. Now that I am familiar with how we can incorporate electronics into our project, it has given me a better prospective as to how we can come up with a product design. I know that I want to practice soldering to get better at it and start learning how to set up the board by myself.


This Instructables article is a beginners guide to soldering. I think it is a really good resource to start familiarizing yourself with the equipment you will be using, as well as proper techniques to hopefully make the process a little easier for yourself. This Makeuseof article gives an introduction to Arduino’s. The article gives some background, describes capabilities, details the many parts found on or that can be used with Arduino’s, and stimulates creativity by showing what is possible with this small piece of technology. It also offers a tutorial on programming an Arduino, so after class I started going through this article in hopes of boosting my creativity for my project brainstorming.

Above all else, walking around the Fab Lab was an excellent way to stimulate our creative processes. The Maker Community is more than willing to help us with our projects and they are all very passionate with what they are working on for their personal projects. As you walk around the many rooms, you will find projects of all different types covering the tables, walls, and shelves. Certainly you can figure out a way to combine several different components of making into a unique project for yourself. Happy Making!


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About Brian Kobiernicki

Brian is a junior studying Information Systems & Information Technology and Business Process Management. On campus, Brian is President of the Association for Information Systems. Last summer, he interned with W.W. Grainger, Inc. as a Business Systems Analyst and will be returning again for Summer 2017.

4 thoughts on “Something in the Making: An Intro to the Fab Lab

  1. Hey Brian,

    Really loved reading your blog post. I totally agree that creativity is a huge component to the Fab Lab. I also think your Instructables guide to soldering is super helpful. Thank you for sharing – hopefully, it’ll help me out when we rotate into each other’s position. When you get to the wood cutting workshop be sure to pay attention because the software can get kind of tricky. It is also is a ton quicker than 3D printing so you don’t have to worry so much about the wait time.

    p.s. be sure to stay by the machine while it’s cutting your box because it’s a fire hazard to leave the wood being cut by itself!

  2. Hi Brian,

    I agree that getting to actually go to the Fab Lab was much more exciting in terms of stimulating creativity. It seemed to me that these first 4-5 weeks were difficult to get inspiration on ideas, and now I have an entirely new reference point on how we can develop solutions. Furthermore I thought there discussion on the “internet of things” was compelling to see how digital / IT technology will integrate with things that we make from 3D printers. Looking forward to see what kind of take aways we will see from the class, in terms of use of the Arduino!

  3. Brian,
    I really enjoyed reading your reflection and I especially agree that the FabLab is a great space for launching creativity in a specialized building. I am excited to be able to learn how to incorporate the electronics into our project and learn how the solder the LED to the arduinos. Because I had already seen the final creation of the box with the light sensors I am intrigued to learn how the process works.

  4. Brian,
    I found your reflection to be spot on as we were in the same electronics group together. The vibes from the Maker Community was very inviting and refreshing and I think their personality shines through to their projects. The articles that you used are also very stimulating as I had never soldered before and to have that knowledge prior could’ve been helpful. I also found a great website with lots of personal project ideas too!


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