The NYU Tandon MakerSpace turns five
When the ribbon was cut on NYU Tandon’s MakerSpace on September 20, 2016, NYU President Andrew Hamilton proclaimed that it was not just “a fantastically well-equipped new place for students to transform creative ideas into solid form,” but a way to leverage the school’s “unique blend of technology, creativity, and innovation here [in] Brooklyn, the fast-beating heart of New York’s burgeoning tech sector.”
Since its launch, the MakerSpace — a 10,000-square-feet, bi-level facility located in Rogers Hall, at 6 MetroTech — has encouraged iterative, interdisciplinary collaboration using a vast array of tools for rapid prototyping and digitally driven production. And, as Hamilton predicted, it has become a major artery in the fast-beating heart of Brooklyn, with thousands of users passing through its doors each year — 25,000 visits within the first two months alone according to NYU ID card swipes.
It’s a place that inspires future-focused thinking. But to celebrate its fifth anniversary, we’re taking a look back...
- 5 Landmark Developments
- 5 Big Events
- 5 High-tech Pieces of Equipment
- 5 Vertically Integrated (and very important) Projects
- 5 Other Fun Projects
- 5 Entrepreneurial Successes
- 5 Sustainability Accomplishments and Initiatives
5 Landmark Developments
The MakerSpace was impressive on Day One, but over the last five years, it’s gotten even bigger and better under the direction of founding manager Victoria Bill and assistant manager Elizabeth New.
- The Maker Garage, a satellite facility located at 325 Gold Street, opened in 2018, allowing students working on large-scale projects like vehicles and rockets to have plenty of floor space and storage
- The Design Lab, the educational programming and support arm of the NYU MakerSpace, was launched that same year, with the aim of introducing students to the design thinking process and helping them understand the importance of the user experience. (Professor of Innovation, Design and Organizational Studies Anne-Laure Fayard serves as advisor to the lab and has spearheaded many of its initiatives.)
- Computer-aided design, rapid prototyping and fabrication ... MakerSpace users gain a variety of skills, and there’s now a series of Digital Badges they can earn to prove it
- In 2020, Tandon’s makers took the COVID-19 crisis as something of a call-to-arms, and they brought all their problem-solving abilities, tech-savvy, and creativity to bear on the challenges of the pandemic, designing and manufacturing open-source face shields, 3D printing needed ventilator parts, and much more
- In 2021, thanks in large part to initiatives from the MakerSpace and Design Lab. NYU was recognized by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, for efforts to design out waste and promote a circular economy
5 Big Events
There’s always something happening at the MakerSpace . . .
- In 2016 the MakerSpace was the site of the global symposium “Additive Manufacturing: New Horizons in Research and Industry,” drawing attendees from academia, industry, and government to discuss the possibilities of what is commonly known as 3D printing
- From 2016 on, the finals of CSAW, the largest student-run cybersecurity competition in the world, have been held at the MakerSpace, drawing teams from all over the world.
- In the fall of 2017, the worlds of fashion and tech intersected at the MakerSpace, where you could see a display of little black dresses and unique accessories that would not have been out of place in a high-end boutique in a city neighborhood. The occasion was a panel discussion that touched upon the popularity of bio-inspired accessory designs, the scalability of creating fabric on a 3D printer, and other trending topics.
- The Design Lab at the MakerSpace launched its first-ever Design Week in February 2019, and the jam-packed roster of expert panels, interactive workshops, and demonstrations is now an annual event.
- In 2019 the MakerSpace partnered with 3D printer manufacturer Ultimaker to hold the Inside/Outside Symposium, which drew big names in medicine and architecture to discuss how 3D printing is revolutionizing those fields
5 High-Tech Pieces of Equipment
Sure, there are plenty of 3D printers and laser cutters, but the MakerSpace also features several machines not often found at even the most well-equipped university:
- A powerful water-jet cutter, which can be used on reflective and heat-sensitive materials such as copper or aluminum that cannot be machined with lasers
- A high-speed, high-precision “pick and place” machine, used to place electronic components onto printed circuit boards
- A micro-computed tomography (micro-CT) unit that will non-destructively image the internal structure of objects on an exceptionally fine scale
- A plastic injection machine, which will introduce aspiring entrepreneurs to the process of mass manufacturing
- An electro-dynamic shaker, which tests a product or model under varying conditions of motion, acceleration, and force.
Interesting facts about the equipment:
The water jet cutter uses 60,000 PSI of water pressure mixed with a garnet abrasive sand to cut through almost any material, including up to six inches of marble!
Tandon researchers and students have used the micro-CT scanner to analyze the internal structure of new composite materials, such as polymers and innovative concrete mixes, as well as for medical applications studying bone growth.
5 Vertically Integrated (and very important) Projects
The MakerSpace serves as a hub for teams taking part in the Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) initiative, which allows them to work on one of more than three-dozen collaborative projects that can span almost the entirety of their academic careers.
The annual Baja SAE (formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers) design competition challenges university students from around the world to build an off-road vehicle capable of traversing exceptionally rugged terrain — and to then take part in a grueling four-hour endurance race. The NYU Tandon Motorsports team works diligently to fabricate their designs at the MakerSpace, and each year they plan a new and improved version.
Making a Difference in the Lives of Children with CP
Orthotic devices can help those with cerebral palsy (CP) and other movement disorders tackle everyday activities and gain independence, but custom orthotics are often clunky, expensive, and, in the case of children, quickly outgrown. At the MakerSpace, a VIP team designs and manufactures low-cost, highly adaptable, 3D-printed biomedical devices for young patients. (As an added bonus, many of the devices are manufactured in eye-popping and appealing colors.)
Rocketry Goes Rogue
Students participating in the Rogue Aerospace team are on the flight line with jaw-dropping model rockets, flight computers, launch simulations, and other applications. They were recently named the Overall Winner of the 2021 NASA Student Launch Design Division thanks to their plans to use a Cesaroni 2856L910-P motor to deliver a payload to a target altitude of 3,900 feet, release it, and land safely.
The Steel Bridge Competition, sponsored by the American Society of Civil Engineering (ASCE) and the American Institute of Steel Construction, requires students to conceive, design, fabricate, erect, and test a steel structure that meets client specifications and optimizes performance and economy. Students who participate on the VIP Steel Bridge team gain a heightened awareness of real-world engineering issues, including spatial constraints, material properties, strength, serviceability, safety, esthetics, and project management.
Computer Vision and Control Needed
The UltraViolet team is designing, building, and programming a set of ground and aerial robots to compete in the annual RoboMaster competition, an international robotics event designed to pit university students against each other in an ultimate battle of engineering, strategy, and teamwork.
5 Other Fun Projects
If you can dream it, you can make it, as these creators prove.
- A programmable, smart guitar
- A “climate change” countdown clock
- An aquaponics system
- A high-tech gingerbread house
- Custom graphic cards
5 Entrepreneurial Successes
When the MakerSpace first opened, Steve Kuyan, Tandon’s Director of Entrepreneurship, explained, “Access to prototyping equipment is fundamental to supporting the thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem at NYU Tandon,” and if the number of students who have gone on to found businesses is any indication, he was 100% correct. Below are a few of the startups that had their genesis at Tandon and the MakerSpace (and one founded before 2016 with a close MakerSpace connection).
- Rise – creators of a method for milling nutritious flour using the spent grain from breweries
- Sunthetics – cleaning up the chemical manufacturing process
- We Are the New Farmers – growers of fresh, local spirulina
- LostBytes – sing an AI-enabled biodigester to create fertilizer
- BotFactory was founded by Tandon students before the MakerSpace existed, but the facility is now the proud home to two of the company’s desktop PCB makers
5 Sustainability Accomplishments and Initiatives
- Visitors to the MakerSpace can view the Urban Food Lab, an energy-efficient, minimally wasteful, vertical farm system built by students using their knowledge of automation, biology, and waste-derived energy generation
- The MakerSpace won 2018 and 2019 NYU Green Grants, for proposing feasible, impactful, and innovative projects to improve institutional sustainability
- The Circular Design @ the MakerSpace initiative consists of a plastic shredder and recycling system that combats 3D print waste
- The Design Lab at the MakerSpace runs an ever-growing series of hands-on workshops and talks dedicated to sustainability and circular design throughout the year, including such topics as Composting at Home, Plastic Identification and Recycling, Food Waste and Cooking Smart, and Sustainable Design
- The MakerSpace, in collaboration with Design for America (DFA) of NYU, runs the NYU FREEdge, a food-sharing initiative redirecting food waste from individuals, clubs, and events to members of the community who may be struggling with food insecurity.
Fans Weigh In
Before becoming Dean of NYU Tandon, I had the opportunity to tour the MakerSpace along with my husband, who is a computer scientist. We were like kids at a playground; the possibilities for fun seemed endless, and we didn’t want to leave. But, of course, the MakerSpace means more than just fun for students eager to create and innovate. Over the last five years, our professors have increasingly incorporated working in the space into their curricula, and some serious, experiential learning takes place here. It’s really the best of all possible worlds — part classroom and lab, and part, the engineering equivalent of Willy Wonka’s factory.”
— Dean Jelena Kovačević
I have a particular fondness for the NYU MakerSpace, which made its debut during my first fall at NYU. From the outset it embodied so many of the traits that drew me to New York University - innovation, ambition, imagination, collaboration, and multidisciplinarity. Five years later, it has proven itself to be one of the most exciting, popular spaces on campus, outstripping even our boldest hopes. From 'smart guitars' to NASA-award-winning rocketry, from vertical farming to innovative orthotics for children with cerebral palsy, the MakerSpace has enabled our students to create the things that will change the world."
— NYU President Andrew Hamilton
During my time at Tandon, I worked as a MakerSpace teaching assistant; in that capacity, I guided more than a thousand students, faculty, and visitors through techniques for using 3D printers, laser cutters, and other equipment. It taught me that I have the ability to break down a process into clear steps and convey that knowledge to others. I expect that to be useful both professionally and in other parts of life.”
— Alum Jefferson Hu (Mechanical Engineering ‘21; member of Rogue Aerospace and Concrete Canoe teams)
Tandon's MakerSpace has had a transformative impact on the culture and community around engineering creativity and design on campus. In the last five years, we have seen a leap in capabilities for our senior design projects, growth of our Vertically Integrated Projects Program to nearly 40 teams, and an eagerness to explore the capabilities of the equipment from first year course projects to entrepreneurial endeavors to Ph.D. research. The MakerSpace is the hub for innovation at NYU and to me is surrounded by the magic of the ‘Wonka Factory’ for engineering exploration.”
— Jack Bringardner, Director of the Vertically Integrated Projects Program; Industry Assistant Professor of General Engineering and Civil & Urban Engineering
The partnership with the MakerSpace is really important to our programs at NYU Tandon’s Center for K12 Education. Alongside faculty and Tandon students, it provides another point of contact for learning from scientists and engineers, and experiences with the real-world tools they use. A tour and activity can spark interest, while building models and conducting research provide avenues for deep engagement with STEM content, as has already been the case for hundreds of the city’s K12 students. We look forward to doing even more with the MakerSpace and continuing to find creative ways to support the K12 community."
— Ben Esner, Director of the Center for K12 STEM Education
Over the past five years, the Tandon MakerSpace has become the centerpiece for our students’ project-based learning. Here you can find a wide range of wonderful projects with students working on individual designs, large team builds, and course assignments. Listing project work and advanced skills are all very important additions to any students’ resume as they search for internships and full-time careers, and creating in the MakerSpace can definitely help land that dream job. From my personal experience, I know that the management and student staff have been tremendous in creating a welcoming and dynamic environment resulting in just the right balance between solving really challenging problems and having fun."
— Michael Knox, Industry Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Having the opportunity of using a great space like the MakerSpace has helped me foster the technical skills I learn in class and also helped me expand on projects throughout the years. The mentorship and workshops provided through the MakerSpace TA's has created a community of collaborators and designers that I am more than excited to be a part of. Using the MakerSpace and being a MakerSpace TA has assisted me to not only use all the resources available but to be able to share my knowledge of these resources."
— Angy Lara, Electrical Engineering Student '22
Thanks are due to the MakerSpace Faculty Advisory Committee
- Professor of Innovation, Design and Organizational Studies Anne-Laure Fayard
- Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Nikhil Gupta
- Industry Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering Michael Knox
- Associate Dean for Undergraduate and Graduate Academics Peter Voltz