The Invention Studio is student-run design-build-play space open to all Georgia Tech students. It is staffed by the Undergraduate Lab Instructors, student volunteers who are always on hand to train you and help with your projects. Use of the studio is free, and all majors and years are welcome.
The Invention Studio is unique in that students are encouraged to “own” the space. ULI’s (undergraduate lab instructors) lead other students in the use and maintenance of the lab, ensuring that the resources remain available to those who wish to use them. To promote and reward creativity, there are few strict rules in the Invention Studio. Rather, we promote an ethic of responsibility, safety, and community ownership. In this way, students can explore and develop unconventional ideas in a supporting environment.
The image below is the Invention Studio’s current layout:
Students in Capstone Design, who have some manufacturing experience, are gathered to run the facility and train others in exchange for 24 hr access. Approximately 10 volunteers, all seniors in Capstone Design, operate the studio about 20 hours/week.
With increased funding the studio expands to MRDC room 2011, right across from John Grahm’s Shop. The room is used to house 3-D printers and some various mills/lathes. Total space is approximately 1600 ft^2. The volunteer Capstone students are re-branded as “Undergraduate Lab Instructors,” or “ULI’s” and enrollment is no longer limited to Capstone students. This is wildly successful and students not enrolled in Capstone Design start to permeate the ULI ranks. The concept of a building dedicated to the Invention Studio’s purpose is also born, the “Burdell Center for Design Education.”
The idea of a student club comprising all years and all majors to own and operate the studio is born. Students volunteer for it in unexpectedly large numbers. The studio begins to serve the needs of
courses besides Capstone Design, such as the sophomore design course, ME 2110. The Burdell Center concept takes shape as a College of Engineering building to foster creativity, design, and fabrication. The Center would be focused on student innovation and entrepreneurship.
The “Maker’s Club” is officially chartered. The studio expands in to MRDC room 2012, unofficially named “the laser lounge.” The club has 50 active ULI’s and a leadership team–all current students. The invention studio is open at least 50 hours/wk. Club programming includes Maker’s Mondays, tours, safety training, evening classes, holiday activities, parties. Evening classes are open to all. The 3D printers are moved into this room.
The three rooms totaling 2500 ft^2 reach maximum capacity with the influx of students and machines. Hundreds of users per semester including Capstone Design students from other majors (e.g, EE) start using Studio resources and participate in Maker’s Mondays. A new “prototyping lab” is setup in the Mill/Lathe room in lace of the 3D printers which have been moved to the Laser Lounge. The Prototyping room has resources for Foam shaping and hot injection molding. The Maker’s Club and Invention Studio supports at least half a dozen ME undergraduate courses including dynamics, system dynamics and control, ME 2110: creative decisions and design, MEMS, and mechatronics. Word spreads across campus about the accessibilty and resources of the Invention Studio.
The Invention Studio is used by 15 Georgia Tech courses and over 500 students, staff, and faculty per semester use the for their classes, research projects, or personal DIY projects. The Maker’s Club has 300 members and 50 undergraduate lab instructors (ULI’s).
A fourth room is added to keep up with the needs of the expanding studio. This room now serves as the home base for the studio with comfortable chairs and an array of 3-D printers/electrical benches. The 2nd floor lobby of the MRDC is renovated to better support assembly and testing with wooden tables, rolling chairs, electrical drops, and couches.
A 5th room is added with high-end CAD/CAM/FEA workstations and design/build/assembly/test workbenches. The invention studio has grown to become one of the largest design/build university spaces in the US and is the only one run entirely by volunteer undergraduates who maintain a culture of safety and responsibility balanced with creativity and freedom.