UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS COURSES

The Fab Lab’s main mission is to support education through promoting interdisciplinary design thinking, digital literacies and makerspace pedagogy.
We offer a number of classes hosted exclusively at the lab and collaborate with other units to provide workshop time and project support for related and visiting classes.

INFO 490 - MAKERSPACE INTRO: OPEN STUDIO

Fall Course Offering

This course introduces learners to a variety of rapid prototyping and fabrication techniques in collaboration with the CU Community Fab Lab. Weekly class lecture will introduce students to trends and ideas in Makerspaces, Peer-to-Peer learning, design processes, creativity, computational thinking, and practicing makers. Each week students will be provided a general project prompt and set to work with a tool area in response to a simple design exploration challenge. Over the course of the semester they will have an opportunity to become familiar with the basics of several advanced small-scale manufacturing tools, such as 3D printers, laser engravers, digital embroidery machines, graphic drawing tablets and small board electronics. While there is no studio fee students will be expected to find, purchase, borrow or otherwise provide their own materials for several projects. The class will have both group and independent work and make use of Moodle for assignment hand-in and peer-feedback. Please note that this course will emphasize self-guided learning and time management, students will need to rely on online tutorials and information resources to explore methods and complete much of the work in a rapid-response fashion; students will need to come into Fab Lab open hours outside of normal lab times to complete projects. Projects will be small and contained, in order to allow for exposure to several tools and mediums. Students who have taken a prior Makerspace course at the Fab Lab are eligible to participate in this class, but it is also not a requirement.

THEA 449 - TECHNOLOGY AND COSTUME CRAFTS

Fall Course Offering

This is a mixed-level course for students who are exploring costume technology in depth. Modern technologies such as 3D printing, use of programmable LED lights, fiber optics, laser cutting, and other innovations are the new resources available to create cutting-edge costumes. During the course students will learn the theory and foundations of these technologies and their practical implementation.

INFO 490 - MAKERSPACE: ESCAPE ROOMS

Fall and Spring Course Offering

This course will explore the intersection of storytelling, interaction design and user experience through a focus on fabrication and computational thinking concepts relevant to the design of escape rooms. The combination of teamwork, immersive narratives, and engaging puzzles provides a friendly yet complex platform for students to learn about applied computing related to information studies. Over the course of 8 weeks, they will first rapidly design the narrative, script, props and setting and then move to focus substantially on puzzles and interfaces to be ultimately presented as a portable escape room, which will be exhibited for the public in a high profile venue. As part of the process, they will become familiarized with several manufacturing tools often available in makerspaces, such as laser cutters, 3D printers, graphic drawing tablets, and small board electronics. Much of the class will focus on introducing learners to relevant electronics hardware, code libraries and interface design concepts to create a series of interconnected internet of things devices to control or manipulate puzzles and progress through the room. Data collected from these devices will provide insight into user experience and aid in evaluation and reporting. Since the class is rapidly paced, students will rely on easy-to-deploy platforms like Micro:bits and arduinos so they can call upon existing code libraries and work at a higher level of abstraction. Additionally, this course will emphasize a degree of self-guided learning and time management, as students will leverage online tutorials and information resources to explore and troubleshoot. Class will meet in the CU Community Fab Lab in Art Annex II. Students who have taken a different makerspace class before are encouraged to enroll. Experience coding is not required but strongly recommended.

INFO 490 - MAKERSPACE: GAME STUDIES

Spring Course Offering

This course is a foray into game studies via makerspace production mediums. Students will study the role of play, tinkering and gaming in design, research and innovation and be challenged to learn a variety of makerspace production tools and techniques to create games. This course will include three major components (1) physical board game design, (2) introductory computer game design and (3) investigation into the narrative themes, artistic production, interaction mechanics and culture that make games engaging. During the course, students will prototype both playable board and video games, followed by iterating through to a final version of a game of their choice.

IS 351 – THE DESIGN OF USABLE INFORMATION INTERFACES

(2012 - 2020)

The longest standing interdisciplinary course to make use of the Fab Lab, IS351 (taught by Jeff Ginger) runs half of its projects with support of the lab. It focuses primarily on introducing learners to the entourage of issues surrounding comprehensive and effective user experience design through remixing and reverse engineering. Example projects broken down by discipline include:

  • Graphic and Industrial Design – building a library of graphic layouts based on remixing the fundamentals of existing information interface designs; examining the role of information and interface in the process of artistic creation
  • Communications, Education and Humanities – a reflective exploration of digital literacy, consideration and critique of narratives present in game design and interactive systems like Facebook, emphasis on the affordances of different media in presenting content interactively, creation or improvement of a tutorial to help users better understand an existing interface for a rapid fabrication tool
  • Engineering, Computer Science and HCI – coding a game with automation and logic puzzles using RPG Maker, modifying code libraries to collect data via sensors with the Arduino platform to make an invention mockup, think-aloud heuristic analysis of the interaction models featured in the most recent Ubuntu-based operating systems, utilizing paper prototyping as an inclusive method for conveying initial prototypes
  • Business – deliverable consulting briefs and development plans for web-based information resources based on real-world prompts, including a focus on making interactivity more accessible for screen readers

This all culminates in a team-based design final where students go through an iterative design process to develop, interpret and present a unique usable information interface invention.

INFO 490 (ARTS 499) – Makerspace (2014-present)

Informatics (Jeff Ginger, Suzanne Linder) and Art Education (Tyler Denmead) collaborated to develop a course series (2-3 related courses each year) to introduce learners to makerspace technologies and techniques. The course has changed format over time but consistently includes several topics and objectives:

  • Mastering the basics of a variety of rapid fabrication technologies, including laser engravers, electronic cutters, 3D printers/scanners, electronics/robotics, graphic drawing tablets and e-textiles like digital embroidery and soft circuits
  • Developing an understanding of principles and processes that comprise design thinking
  • Field trips and guest speakers that engage design spaces and expertise from all around campus and the community – organizations have included libraries, schools, museums, catalyst, startups, clubs, think tanks, research labs and more
  • Hacking together and implementing tools, ideas and proposals to present concepts, execute workshops and assess learning outcomes
  • Learning about digital literacy, community-based art education, informatics and the role of makerspace learning in education from an interdisciplinary perspective
  • Gaining familiarity with open source and proprietary software as well as a range of expressive mediums
  • A large project combining several tool capacities, iterative design and student-determined learning goals

Specialty versions of the course emphasize various topics connected to makerspaces and our community partner network, such as curriculum development and research on processes and products that happen with design thinking pedagogy in informal and formal education settings. We are also strongly connected to the emergent game studies area and have offered classes on critical game design that engage with code, logic mechanics, art, story narratives and usability.

BADM 395 – DIGITAL MAKING SEMINAR

SPRING 2016 - PRESENT

A collaboration between the Business Makerlab and Informatics taught by Professor Vishal Sachdev. The description:

The third industrial revolution is upon us, and we have the ability to create functional products on our desktop by using some inexpensive and accessible tools. This course will help you get trained on many of these tools and technologies and make things. We will explore 3D scanning, modeling and printing to rapidly prototype products. We will experiment with open hardware /micro-controllers such as arduinos  and smaller form factors for e-textiles, to explore the concept of the internet of things. We will also have guest lectures in entrepreneurship, design thinking, digital making and some stories from passionate makers from the community and beyond.This  seminar course was first offered in 2015  by Dr. Vishal Sachdev and now offered every spring. This is one of two courses at the lab, the other being Making Things.

Fab Lab staff assists with various activities and units within this class; several sessions will be held at the Fab Lab.

Additional Classes

Many other courses come to visit us for tours, workshops and series of classes. These have included (in order of recency):

  • Theater and costume design (Olga Maslova, Regina Garcia)
  • Education and Technology (Robb Lindgren, Maya Israel, Chad Lane)
  • Museum Informatics and Entrepreneurship (Mike Twidale)
  • Communications (Sally Jackson)
  • Architecture (Detail + Fabrication Area)
  • Engineering and Creativity (Bruce Litchfield, Joe Bradley, Keilin Jahnke),
  • Writing Across Media (LAS + Informatics, various instructors)
  • Community Informatics (Martin Wolske, Jon Gant)
  • Youth Library Services (Carol Tiley)
  • Art + Physics (Smitha Vishveshwara)
  • History and Critical Technology Studies (Anita Say Chan)
  • And many more we’re forgetting