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

University of Illinois Classes

The Fab Lab’s main mission is to support education through promoting interdisciplinary design thinking / learning and computational tinkering. 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. Some examples are provided below. Professors and units seeking to schedule a visit or host a class at the Fab Lab should contact us directly.

LIS 351: The Design of Usable Information Interfaces (Fall 2011–2017)

The longest standing interdisciplinary course to make use of the Fab Lab, LIS351 (taught by Jeff Ginger) now 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 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 A: Design and Engagement (Fall 2014–2017)

Informatics (Jeff Ginger, Suzanne Linder) and Art Education (Tyler Denmead) collaborated to develop a course (see syllabus – 2016 and 2015) taught entirely at the CU Community Fab Lab on campus!  Initially offered in an 8 week format, it is now available as a regular fall semester studio. Between all three years we’ve had 72 students from a dozen majors (sophomore to graduate-level) enrolled in the class. All groups combined have run 9 workshops for community organizations and the general public and produced lesson plans and tutorials for a variety of makerspace activities. Class topics and objectives include:

  • Learning about digital literacy, community-based art education, informatics and the role of makerspace learning in education from an interdisciplinary perspective
  • Mastering the basics of a variety of rapid fabrication technologies, including laser engravers, electronic cutters, 3D printers/scanners, small board electronics, graphic drawing tablets and e-textiles like digital embroidery and soft circuits
  • Developing an understanding of principles and processes behind prototyping
  • Hacking together and implementing tools, ideas and proposals to execute workshops
  • Critiquing, test and report on real-world examples of makerspace-oriented curriculum
  • Practicing multiple styles of expression (i.e. artistic organic forms, product development) for different real-world contexts
  • Gaining familiarity with open source and proprietary software
  • A final project combining several tool capacities and iterative design – for Fall 2015 this was solar panel inventions

Students who want to continue projects from this class into the spring can do so via an independent study.

INFO 490 – Makerspace B: Open Studio Lecture (Spring 2017-2018)

In response to rising demand for classes related to makerspace technologies and design thinking we have added a 40 seat lecture + lab format class for students, particularly those in informatics, education, art and library and information science. This class includes:

  • A one hour lecture on concepts related to design topics like user experience design and education topics like metacognitive learning strategies
  • The occasional maker panel where we invite artists and entrepreneurs to talk about their work in response to prompts
  • Lecture-based “unplugged” making and ideation activities
  • Flexible lab access time and collaborative projects
  • An exploration of several fundamental areas of production at the Fab Lab, with focus on iteration

This course was developed by Jeff Ginger and Suzanne Linder but draws upon many staff at the Fab Lab for instruction support.

BADM 395: Digital Making Seminar (Spring 2016-2018)

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

At a general level, you will convert Bits(digital) to Atoms(physical) and back. We will explore 3D scanning, modeling and printing to rapidly prototype products with additive manufacturing. We will experiment with desktop Lasers and CNC machines to understanding the power of subtractive manufacturing on your desktop. We will code on 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.

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

Additional Courses

Many other courses come to visit us for tours, workshops and series of classes. These have included (in random order): Communications (Sally Jackson), Education + Game Design (Robb Lindgren), Usability and Museums (Mike Twidale), Architecture (Jeff Poss), Creativity (Bruce Litchfield), Engineering (Joe Bradley), Writing Across Media (Katherine Flowers), Art + Physics (Smitha Vishveshwara), History and Technology (Anita Say Chan), Theater (Regina Garcia), Community Informatics (Martin Wolske, Jon Gant), Youth Library Services (Carol Tiley) and many more we’re forgetting.