Fab Lab is short for Fabrication Laboratory. We are a specific kind of Makerspace.
Physically, our Fab Lab is an advanced workshop space for rapid prototyping and computer-based design. It is also comprised of a network of a number of smaller mini or mobile fab lab spaces.
The on-campus location has an impressive suite of fabrication machines, including laser engravers, CNC routers, 3D printers and 3D scanners, electronic cutters, digital textile machines, small board electronics, robotics, vacuum formers, graphic drawing tablets, advanced CAD software and more. Classes for up to 50 participants can be held at the main campus location. The lab is consistently collaborating on grant projects with community partners locally to provide similar tools and—more importantly—programming for hundreds of patrons spread across a variety of other locations, including several public libraries and after-school centers.
Culturally, the CUC Fab Lab is driven by a community of practice, people often referred to as Makers.
Open-Source Movement Makers like us are united by the desire to share knowledge, collaborate and to “make almost anything.” Our lab is open to the public, employs both staff and volunteers and greatly values both diversity and play, as we believe these are necessary for innovation. Our network and patrons include people of all kinds: students, teens, families, entrepreneurs, artists, hobbyists, gamers, hackers, engineers, scientists, teachers, librarians, activists and more. We welcome those interested to join the conversation and discover more about who we are!
Functionally, Fab Labs encourage people to become makers by exploring the entire design process.
They do this by providing tools, human assistance and inspiration that enable people to go from (1) concepts and questions to (2) digital designs and models to (3) physical prototypes and redesigns to (4) a final product they can share, which may in turn help others begin the cycle. This process is rather unique because it is possible for people with little technological expertise to engage in design thinking to develop complex creations using technology and knowledge previously only available to expert artists and engineers. Our lab specializes in working with individuals, groups and organizations to provide makerspace curriculum and related programming.
We work with a variety of units, including The iSchool, College of Education, College of Fine and Applied Arts, University of Illinois Extension, Department of Business Administration and National Center for Super Computing Applications to collaborate on grants, facilitate classes and support research. Although many places might be referred to as a fab lab, our Fab Lab is part of the global network connected to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Center for Bits and Atoms. This collaborative network connects institutions around the world with common tools, software platforms and ideologies to facilitate the open exchange of ideas and designs.
Philosophically, we believe the open source ethos of the Fab Lab inspires interest and innovation in many fields.
We strive to connect computer-based making and rapid fabrication to many areas, like art and design, computer science, architecture, engineering, mathematics, science, and technical trades. We think community access, provided at a reasonable cost and in cooperation with the global Fab Lab network, builds local capacities by enabling personal growth, economic development and cross-cultural understanding. Activities at the Fab Lab and our partner sites embody the principle of life-long learning by cultivating digital literacies, including cognitive skills like computational, divergent or critical thinking, but also related cultural competencies and other underlying traits that prove fundamental to holistic learning, such as civic engagement or confidence with art and technology.