Since its founding in 2009, the Invention Studio has constantly grown as more and more students, faculty, and staff use the space. As it has expanded, it has always followed its basic principles of student-ownership, freedom, and safety.
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 per week.
With increased funding the studio expands to MRDC room 2011, right across from John Graham’s Shop. The room is used to house 3D 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 2102, 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 per week. 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 place 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 accessibility 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). The White House heralds the Invention Studio as a leader in the “maker” movement.
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 3D 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. Make Magazine calls the Invention Studio a “Model for Higher Education.”
The Invention Studio purchases a new Maxiem 1515 waterjet to replace the older, smaller Omax waterjet. Students can use this waterjet to cut large parts, and parts with three-dimensional features. TechCrunch Makers tours the studio, and a paper on the Invention Studio culture is published by the American Society for Engineering Education. Paper
The first Ladies’ Night, a wildly successful workshop event, is held. Over 200 female students attend this event, leading to a substantial increase in the number of regular female users and female ULIs. The Invention Studio has a featured article in Georgia Tech News.
The wood room is moved to MRDC 2317, a much larger space with a built-in dust collection system. This expansion allows the studio to create the metal room, a dedicated metalworking space, in its place. The metal room is stocked with metalworking tools such as a sheet metal brake, English wheel, kiln, and more. The Invention Studio’s student volunteers rename themselves as “Prototyping Instructors,” or PIs, a more accurate description of what the volunteers do. The volunteers are a diverse mix of undergraduate and graduate students, prompting the name change.
Rolling recruitment begins, and students can become Prototyping Instructors at any time during the semester instead of at the beginning of the next semester. This leads to an increase in the number of Prototyping Instructors. The Invention Studio is featured in a primetime documentary, Dreams to Dollars, by WSB-TV. Host Clark Howard visits the Invention Studio and explores how students are able to prototype their ideas and create their own careers.
The Invention Studio at Georgia Tech becomes a chartered student organization with SGA in Tier III. The constitution is finalized. The Montgomery Machining Mall, a state-of-the-art machine shop facility, opens in March 2016. The Invention Studio’s mill and lathe room tools are moved into the Machining Mall, though the Invention Studio retains ownership of the equipment.
By a unanimous vote of the SGA Joint Finance Committee, Undergraduate House of Representatives, and Graduate Student Senate, the Invention Studio is reclassified as a Tier II student organization. Invention Studio student leaders speak at the new student convocation event at the beginning of the semester. Thousands of new students learn about what the Invention Studio has to offer, and many of them join the studio as Prototyping Instructors. The studio has nearly 80 Prototyping Instructors running the space. Numerous events and workshops attract diverse users to the studio, representing a variety of hobbies such as robotics, sailing, toymaking, music, painting, and more. The Invention Studio receives a new Flow waterjet to handle high demand on the Maxiem waterjet. Two papers by the Invention Studio are accepted by and presented at the International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces. Paper 1 Paper 2