Local Partners & Makers in CU

Historically, resources for design thinking, including rapid fabrication and prototyping production tools and techniques, have been open only to highly privileged individuals such as designers, engineers and researchers in university and corporate settings. The CU Community Fab Lab broke this mold in 2012 to become a more open and inclusive maker space network by partnering with and investing in anchor institutions in our local community based on ties initially established by the iSchool. These partnerships and collaborations help us to foster the skills of remixing, reverse engineering and tinkering, which we believe build critical capacities to enable individuals to contribute to progressive social change. Our goals for partner-driven community development include an adherence to asset-based and needs-based analysis, as it’s important to recognize and make actionable the knowledge our patrons have, including teens, as well as teaching and learning strategies that cultivate metacognition.

As of October 2018 we are working with a mixture of schools, libraries and after-school centers, but have worked with museums, companies and even living assisted homes in the past. When we partner with an organization we don’t just “air drop” tools, we also commit time from a talented staff person who helps to run activities and develop opportunities for collaborative program and research development.

Formal Community Partners

All Local Public Middle Schools

Urbana School District 118 (Urbana Middle School) and Champaign Unit 4 (Jefferson, Edison and Franklin) are working with the CU Community Fab Lab as part of our MAPLE grant, focused on makerspace learning and engagement in STEAM classroom settings. More information can be found on the grant website.

The Urbana Free LibraryUrbana Free Library

Contacts: Joel Spencer, Lauren Chambers, Sharon Han, Emilie Butt and Jared Dunn

Teen Open Lab on most Tue/Wed/Thu

210 W Green Street Urbana, IL 61801 

The Urbana Free Library has earned a positive reputation on account of the quality of its collections and for outstanding service to patrons of all ages over the past few decades. It is the home of The Champaign County Historical Archives, which comprises an entire section of the second floor, and has a sizable portion of its staff and facility dedicated to Children’s services. Several of the staff also work as adjunct faculty at the University of Illinois, and are able to use this as an opportunity for professional advancement, by refining skills, knowledge and relationship networks. The library is at the very heart of community life in Urbana and continues a longstanding tradition of provision of public computing and digital information access.

The Urbana Free Library’s Teen Open Lab serves local middle- and high-schoolers aged 11 to 18 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 3:00 to 5:30, with 20-50 teens attending depending on the day. The program boasts four sewing machines, three 3D printers, several graphics tablets to use with Photoshop or Paint tool SAI, guitars, keyboards, recording devices and amps, cameras and greenscreens, screen-printing materials, computerized sticker and vinyl cutters, video games, laptops, and more! Staffed by library volunteers, faculty, and Fab Lab employees, Teen Open Lab has a colorful variety of resources and teachable skills available for teens and preteens who want to create, work on homework, or just hang out. The program is hoping to expand to be open on Fridays as well.Check the calendar for availability!

Urbana Neighborhood Connection CenterUNCClogo

Contacts: Janice Mitchell, Emilie Butt and Jared Dunn

After school daily

Hartle and E Main Street Urbana, IL 61801

Urbana Neighborhood Connections Center’s vision is for a healthy, compassionate, progressive community where all children and families have access to services and supports that empowers successful development. To bring that vision into reality, UNCC provides quality educational, social-emotional, spiritual and recreational enrichment to youth and their families within the context of a safe, structured and nurturing environment. Janice Mitchell is the Parent and Community Outreach Coordinator Liaison who began the efforts to establish the UNCC.

The Fab Lab maintains three computer labs (for 60+ learners) with multimedia production and fabrication software at UNCC. Thanks to a recent UC2B Community Benefit Fund Grant they have access to permanent fab lab tools, including maker tools like 3D printers, electronic cutters, digital cameras, 3D scanners, microcontrollers and graphic tablets. UNCC is a key partner for several NSF-funded research projects, facilitated by the Fab Lab.

Champaign-Urbana UI Extension and 4H (Oakwood Public Library)

Contacts: Tammi Helka, Sharon Han, Jared Dunn and Ginger Boas (4H)

Science Saturdays 

110 E Finley Ave Oakwood, IL 61858

STEAM programming for kids at the library occurs one Saturday a month, usually geared towards kids ages 7-12. Oakwood has electronic cutters, 3D printers, small electronics, programs established in partnership with the DILP grant and UI Extension in 2015. There are also desktop computers and laptops available, the latter which have access to a variety of CUC FabLab provided open source software (some listed here).

Past Community Collaborators

Champaign Public Library – From 2014-2017 the Champaign Public Library hosted a mobile maker space for use during the teen lounge after school, originally established in conjunction with the Digital Literacy 4 All DCEO grant and the UIUC Saturday Art School. Equipment included laptops, digital drawing tablets, 3D printers, electronic cutters and more. The Fab Lab still helps with staff training and machine upkeep, with the goal of furthering library capacities.

Kenwood Elementary School – Previously our collaboration included Kenwood Community Tech Time, a before-and-after-school program that ran four days a week, where students were able to explore and examine the hardware, software, and social aspects of technology. Activities included work with Scratch, small board electronics like Raspberry Pi and Arduino, electronic cutters to make paper automata and more. The Fab Lab helped to provide programming and equipment as part of the DCEO Digital Literacy 4 All Grant.

Urbana Makerspace – Makerspace Urbana is dedicated to enabling the blend of arts, humanities, science and technology. Their mission is to provide an open community space where people of diverse backgrounds can learn, teach, tinker, collaborate, share, innovate, socialize, and create. We share some volunteers, run some programs together and lend equipment to one another. The Makerspace runs a Makerfest once a year, too! You can find more information about their operations on Facebook.

Clark Lindsey Retirement Village – Clark-Lindsey is a not-for-profit continuing care retirement community. Until their passing we worked with several residents and program staff to help them make effective use of their own workshop and makerspace equipment, including laser engraving and 3D printing. Currently the Illinois Informatics Institute still assists with basic computer help on Fridays.

CTRL-SHIFT – A social group comprised of school teachers, community members, entrepreneurs and U of I folks discussing and celebrating computer science in the K-12 schools.

Tap In Leadership Academy – A key partner location for after-school programming during the DCEO Digital Literacy 4 All Grant.

Volo Broadband – Sponsors us by providing our website service!

University-based Maker Related Organizations and Units

Illinois MakerLab – The first makerspace based in a business school. It provides a unique and valuable resource for students and faculty to gain hands-on experiential learning with 3D Modeling and Printing, a technology gaining adoption at the consumer level.

Arch Annex 1 Detail + Fabrication Lab – Faculty and students in the detail + FABRICATION Program explore architecture as a creative process of making, with emphasis on experimentation and theory of contemporary methods and materials.

Art and Design Laboratories – The school of Art and Design includes many areas related to fabrication, including industrial/graphic design, new media, metals and more.

lIlinois Geometry Lab – This is another fabrication lab on campus, located in Altgeld Hall. The Geometry Lab focuses on serving students of, guess what, geometry. Undergrads, grads, and postdocs collaborate on projects that I’m sure generate some pretty cool 3D shapes: shapes that may even have practical value.

Visualization Lab@ Beckman Institute – The Visualization Lab is conveniently hosted out of the Beckman Institute right here on campus (405 N. Matthews, Urbana)! For a monthly fee any student can gain access to “2D/3D/4D image analysis and quantification, scientific visualization, ultra-high speed video, macro-photography, macro-video, video production, 3D animation, high-resolution 2D scanning, 3D object scanning, full-color 3D printing, research presentation, publication graphics, and additional capabilities in support of imaging.” The Beckman Institute is one of the preeminent engineering research facilities in the country. As such, it represents an incredible opportunity for collaboration with U of I’s engineers.