Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab
Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab

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Jeff Ginger

Jeff Ginger

Director of the Community Fab Lab // Adjunct Faculty in the Illinois Informatics Institute // PhD, Graduate School of Library and Information Science 2015

Fab Lab 2015 Open House

The Fab Lab held a jam-packed Open House on February 6th that brought people together from the university and community in this unique learning and inventing space. More than 200 visitors were greeted by a bustling laboratory where things were being made all around them. There were about a dozen interactive demos in the four main rooms. Patches were embroidered, dozens of name tags were lasered, visitors’ heads were 3D scanned, 3D prints were painted (nail polish sticks great!) and countless stickers of visitors’ own designs were cut out.


 Alongside these creation-activities, visitors played with a number of unique inventions. Several “soft circuits,” including an educational tapestry with a zipper sensor and blinking lights, and two large musical touch-responsive embroideries, showed off the lab’s capacity to mix the disciplines of textiles and electronics. Devices made of old hard drives spilled the booming sounds of sine waves out of the electronics room as visitors spun the hard drive’s disk by hand and watched the changing signal on an oscilloscope.

These hands-on experiences invited guests to explore one room after another: the fabrication area, computer lab, textile room, electronics room, all the way back into the other side of the building. On this far side of the building we have an exciting new collaboration that has allowed us to move in more woodworking and CNC milling tools. The space for this new digital milling area has been recently shared with us by the School of Architecture to collaborate on larger scale projects, including landscape and architectural models. 

The shared woodworking room also showcased inventions and local collaborations. A giant robot arm, built at the Fab Lab last fall, moved a camera to take high resolution photos of insect collections, as it’s doing at entomology departments across the U.S. this spring. Many of its parts were made on the Shapeoko routers or the laser cutter, both of which visitors could see in operation. The Urbana Free Library presented on their Teen Open Lab, where the Fab Lab has established technology programming. Dean Rose, a local blacksmith, explained how he forged brass bells from 3D printed molds of historical bell designs. Steve Holt, another local artist, had on display laser etched acrylic model cars and light boxes he drew and designed.

All of these scientists, artists, and community groups not only make their designs into reality at the Fab Lab, each group is also integral to what makes the Fab Lab a community of makers who help each other design things they never would have thought to on their own.

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