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UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering

EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio doubles in size

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Engineering students conduct an experiment in the new EnVision Arts and Engineerng Maker Studio classroom. Photo by David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

San Diego, CA, Feb. 12, 2018 -- A team of freshman engineering students at UC San Diego began developing a tool to aid the visually impaired by wirelessly detecting the proximity of objects around them in their Fundamentals of Engineering Applications course. The product wasn’t quite complete at the end of the three-month class, but the engineers saw the value of bringing the tool to fruition.

In the months since the class ended, the team of four has spent several hours of their personal time each week using the newly expanded EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio on campus to complete their prototype, and are now applying to The Basement— a UC San Diego entrepreneurship program— to start considering commercialization options.

"Access to the EnVision space set my partners and I in an environment of potential creativity,” said David Markov, an aerospace engineering student and one of the four students developing the product, called Sentio. “The Studio itself invites us to consider all tools and machines available. We trained for and used several stations for our project in the ENG 10 class, and half a year later we still use the space to make new iterations to our project. We would not have been able to do so without our accessibility to EnVision."

That’s exactly the goal of the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio: to provide undergraduate engineering and visual art students with a space where theoretical coursework and hands-on experience intersect, regardless of whether they have a class in the space or not.

The studio, which is equipped with 3-D printers, a laser cutter, welding and soldering irons, wire foam cutters and more, opened in January 2015 and quickly filled to capacity. During the spring 2016 quarter, 500 different students used the space more than 2,500 times-- and that was just during the 40 hours a week of “open access hours,” when engineering or visual arts classes weren’t being taught in the lab.

Seeing the need for increased access to the maker space, Jesse DeWald, the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio director, championed an effort to double the size of the space, creating a separate classroom for lectures, thereby freeing up the maker space itself for greater student access. The new classroom extension and expanded Maker Studio hours debuted in the fall quarter and the increase in usage was overwhelming: during the 2017 Fall Quarter, 1,000 students used EnVision 5,500 times.

Students like Markov have made use of the space to work on class projects outside of class time, but others like George Troulis, a first-year computer engineering student who has not had any classes at EnVision yet, use the lab for projects of their own.

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Students use the lab component of the EnVision maker space to work on a class project. Photo by David Baillot/UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.

Troulis used the Maker Space to solve a vital problem: a Halloween costume. He planned to dress up as Rick from the hit animated sci-fi television show Rick and Morty, and what upstanding engineer could be seen in public with a less-than-identical replica of Rick’s portal gun, used to dimension hop?

He started the project at home over the summer, and was thrilled to learn he had access to EnVision as a first year student.

“This has been my dream since like, 5th grade--I always wanted access to a space for soldering stuff and building,” Troulis said. “I have a few things at home but not as much as this. So it’s just incredible that students even get open access to such a space. I’m completely thrilled.”

Professors who hold classes in EnVision are just as thrilled.

Aaron Drews, a chemical engineering professor who teaches several courses in the space, said he’s seen firsthand the effects of expanding access to the EnVision maker space, including in a class that requires students to design and produce a 3-D printed item of their choosing.

“I taught a pilot version of this course to a lab when we didn’t have access to the 3-D printers, laser cutters, and computers that are here,” Drews said. “It’s such a change because the students used to turn in little plates or something like that. Now this guy over there is hand-fabricating a pump from a 3-D printer. We still get the more traditional designs, but now we also have more students coming up with completely different and more complicated concepts.”

The new lecture room component of the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio features a large classroom with sheer dividers that can split the room into three smaller classrooms, or one large and one small room. The walls are coated with whiteboard paint so students and professors can write on them, and is equipped with state-of-the art audio-visual tools. The rooms are available for instruction for every department in the Jacobs School of Engineering, as well as the Visual Arts Department of Arts and Humanities. For more information, please contact envision@ucsd.edu.

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Media Contacts

Katherine Connor
Jacobs School of Engineering
Phone: 858-534-8374
khconnor@eng.ucsd.edu