UR Makers: Building things for the fun of it
Chris Smith has been taking things apart and putting them back together again since he was eight years old.
“For Christmas I got an air compressor. Most kids get an Xbox,” he joked.
“It’s always been hands on for me.”
Now the freshman in Mechanical Engineering is sharing his skills with fellow UR students as a member of – and mentor for -- a new club on campus.
The goal of UR Makers is to bring together engineering, arts, and sciences students who like to design and build things – and want to learn how to use a variety of tools as they do so.
Not for a class. Not for credit. Just for the fun of it.
Their playground: The fabrication lab in Rettner Hall, with its state-of-the-art 3D printers, brand new Smithy 3 in 1 drill/mill/lathe machines, and plenty of space to spread out in, accessible 24/7.
“We think there’s a real opportunity here to fill a niche that’s not currently filled,” said club leader Sarah Harari, a junior in Computer Science and Digital Media Studies. “There’s no other space on campus where students of different majors can really work together to build whatever comes to mind.”
The club, still in its first year, has already sponsored:
- a “retro tear down” event, during which members took apart an aging computer monitor and other obsolete equipment donated by the University.
- a mouse trap car race night
- tech talks on a variety of topics.
- Lego Robotics Night
- an Arduino Workshop
- 3D Modeling and Printing Workshops
Currently, club members are finishing up a cabinet with shelves and a plexiglass sign with the club’s name, illuminated with LED lighting. They will be displayed in the space UR Makers has been assigned in a corner of the lab. It is part of the club’s effort “to get our name out there,” Harari explained.
“We want to have multiple projects going on, that students can work on during the week (the club currently meets 4-6 p.m. each Sunday),” Harari added. “We want them to feel this is a space where they can come in and bounce ideas off other students and meet with people who have different skill sets.”
During a recent Sunday meeting, everyone got a chance to use various tools.
For example, Lia Klein, a sophomore in Computer Science, wielded a dremel tool (shown above) to etch the outline of the club’s name in the plexiglass sign. She had never used a dremel before she joined the club and received a 45-minute introduction to basic tools and safety with Jim Alkins, Rettner Hall’s Senior Laboratory Engineer who formerly headed a machine shop, as part of Research and Development at Kodak.
“I didn’t really even know we had something at the school where you could use all the power tools for free and come in whenever you wanted,” Klein said. “And I feel like they’re really treating us like adults, which I appreciate.”
She hopes that, after working on a few projects with UR Makers, “I might gain the confidence and ability to do some projects on my own, and build stuff for my dorm room.”
In a nearby room, Steven Broida joyfully exchanged high fives with Caulin Nelson as the freshmen in Mechanical Engineering successfully cut notches in the cabinet, then fit shelves into them.
This was Broida’s first experience using a power saw.
“I’m learning as I use it,” he said proudly.