makeLab Grand Opening

The grand opening is a blur to me, but from what I understand it was a great success.  Our soft opening was in August of 2010 when makeLab arrived to an empty room with a concrete block wall (we were happy to have it).  The activities and events that have unfolded since are at times overwhelming but always wonderful. Now that we are officially open it is time to reflect on the key moments that got us here.  It goes without saying that there are many colleagues and family members (thank you Brooks!) that have helped so this is not intended as a thank you note, but more as a time line of the significant moments for makeLab, thus far.

When someone told me “no” I heard “yes!”

I was that guy, the one at every faculty meeting who would raise his hand and asked how we could get a digital fabrication lab on campus.  “No”, or better yet, “not now” was a common response.  After two years of persistence (or whining) Dean LeRoy put pressure on the issue and made it work.  For this thank you to all the Lawrence Technological University administration and, in particular, Dean Glen LeRoy.

Beer + Couch = Wall

Yes, this is the couch!

In the summer of 2010, Steve Kroodsma and Ryan Hartstuff helped me transform a sketch of what would be the makeLab storefront wall into a plausible digital model.  The key event was Steve’s initiative – he wanted more, he wanted to make the wall.  The question was how could we pull this off?  An academic would say we “created a new economic model for design,” but in reality what we did was a very simple trade, one that has existed for many years in the world of couch surfing.  This deal was more than just beer in exchange for a place to sleep, it was a buy-in for a group of makeLab students that where less concerned about beer (this is debatable) and more willing to make sure Steve had a free place to stay so the wall could be finished.  What started out as a 4-week project turned into a semester long endeavor that resulted in our storefront and the formation of the “makeLab design fellowship.”  For this, thank you Steve and your lenient landlords.

Dust – Interference – Noise – Interference

To say I have lost sleep over dust and noise is an understatement.  Making is messy, dusty and noisy.  The makeLab is located in simultaneously the worst and best location at the University.  The makeLab, located at the intersection of two major hallways, gets a lot of attention and curiosity from students.  We purposefully provided the orange frame in the wall to engage students from the outside and encourage them to come in.  In contrast, the staff members down the hall are not quite as excited by the noise, dust and yes even the students talking (God forbid).  What I hope we have now is a few things:  First, we have a new dust collection system that, for now, seems to be keeping the worst at bay.  In addition, there is a much stronger awareness on the student’s part of how to minimize their noise and dust.  Regardless, I will continue to take any heat necessary.  Making is more important, student engagement is more important, innovation is more important.  Make – be considerate – be safe – and make some more, I will worry about the rest.  That is the plan.  For those who put up with us on a daily basis – thank you.

The A-Team

Not sure how I got this lucky, but I hadhave one of the best groups of students (don’t tell them I said that) and two great Research Assistants in a row – Lindsey Pickornik and Shawn Calvin.  All of the students and researchers not only engage in makeLab but they crave engagement.  The success of these students only verifies my point that the University and the profession of architecture does not do this enough.  They run, clean, police, and activate makeLab.  To all the students – thank you.  Now, get back to work.


It takes lots of money to keep us going.  In the past few months we have been lucky enough to receive the Coleman Foundation fellowship for Entrepreneurship, A University Seed Grant from Lawrence Tech’s Provost, the Kern Grant for collaboration with Engineering and a Quest Grant for the AccessMOD project.  Believe it or not, it doesn’t even come close to what we need.  Recently we almost had to hold a bake sale to have baked goods for the grand opening – that’s our style.  I am very pleased, however, that we have received a few donations via our blog’s Donate to makeLab sidebar link.  I am humbled by the  $20 donations from students; students I know are borrowing money just to go to school.  So for all of those that have supported the makeLab – THANK YOU.

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