Two Years, Countless Projects, Abounding Opportunities for Students
The NYU Tandon MakerSpace Celebrates Its Second Birthday
Remember that breathless excitement you felt as a child whenever you walked around a favorite toy store? Tandon’s new Dean, Jelena Kovačević, felt something similar when she first toured Tandon’s MakerSpace. Enthralled by the sheer opportunity the space could provide students, faculty, and youngsters participating in Tandon’s K12 STEM program, she knew that the 10,000 square foot, bi-level space would allow for all their ideas to become realities. After all, who wouldn’t want to “play,” with 3D printers, laser cutters, injection-molding machines, and the many other pieces of equipment on offer there? Forget clay, crayons, and building blocks: for aspiring engineers, the MakerSpace contained everything needed to unleash creativity and possibly even come up with a masterpiece.
While speaking at a festive event to mark the MakerSpace’s second year of operation on September 26, Dean Jelena, an electrical engineer by training, recalled that first visit, exhibiting a contagious enthusiasm that left her audience eager to explore this engineering wonderland further. She made plain, however, that the goal was much larger than mere fun and games.
“This is an incredible space that benefits not only the university community, but the wider world. We have already seen several important and innovative projects emerge, and the ultimate impact is yet to be seen.” — Dean, Jelena Kovačević
Chandrika Tandon, the Chair of the School of Engineering’s Board of Overseers, concurred, asserting, “The MakerSpace is a place where you can apply your learning and use your hands and minds to change the world.”
In honor of the MakerSpace’s second birthday, several projects were on display at the event; it was just a small sampling but it provided a glimpse of just how much can be accomplished when students have the right equipment, proper guidance, and plenty of creative drive.
An asterisk (*) indicates that it is part of Tandon’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP) program.
Going Off-Road *
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 – last year’s bright-purple model was on display there, looking in remarkably good shape despite a heart-pounding roll-over incident on the course – and they are now planning a brand-new iteration that could smoke the competition at the 2019 event.
Averting a Food Crisis*
By the year 2050, experts are predicting that the earth’s population will increase by about 3 billion people, and if farmers continue using conventional methods, much more land will be required to feed them. With more than 80% of the world’s suitable land already being farmed, trouble looms. Vertical farming presents a solution. Vertical farmers grow produce in urban areas in a controlled environment, allowing for year-round growing without the environmentally costly effects of conventional farming. Visitors to the MakerSpace can view an energy-efficient, minimally wasteful, vertical farm system built by students using their knowledge of automation, biology, and waste-derived energy generation. (And, some days, they may even be offered a tomato plucked straight from one of the thriving plants.)
Rocketry Goes Rogue*
Students participating in Rogue Aerospace are on the flight line with jaw-dropping model rockets, flight computers, launch simulations, and other applications. With the arsenal they are currently building at the MakerSpace, they plan to attend IREC, an international event at which participants aim to reach an altitude of 10,000 feet with one of their rockets. Several current members hold official High-Powered Rocketry certifications (HPR 1) from the National Association of Rocketry (NAR).
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. Students at the MakerSpace have designed and prototyped low-cost, highly adaptable, 3D-printed devices for young patients. (As an added bonus, many of the devices were manufactured in eye-popping and appealing colors.)
A Quicker Way to Commute*
Tandon’s Hyperloop team is helping to shape the ground transportation system of the future by designing and constructing a pod capable of travelling over 600 mph. They hope to test and race their newest prototype on the mile-long SpaceX Hyperloop track, erected near the company’s California headquarters, and this year they’ll also be studying the feasibility of erecting a similar system right here in New York. If they are successful, the Long Island Expressway may never be the same.
Covering Ground — Intelligently
The annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC), held in Michigan each summer, give a hands-on experience to engineering students who want to use cutting-edge tools to design one of the most discussed technologies of the last few years: the self-driving car. At the 2018 event, the NYU Tandon team, A.I. Madness, finished at the top of the competition, impressing judges with a two-passenger vehicle boasting a navigation algorithm designed for accuracy and several major parts made from 3D-printed materials manufactured at the MakerSpace.
A New Way to Heal
Patients deteriorate quickly when confined to bed, and a team of NYU medical students recently decided to tackle the problem with the help of Tandon engineers. The result is a lightweight device that attaches to the footboard of a bed to provide a full-body resistance-training program that allows patients to exercise effectively, intuitively, and independently. Look for their startup, Fortify Rehab, to go big in the near future.
On the Rise
While its technology was not on display at the event, Rise — a young company that converts the spent grain left after the brewing process into nutritious flour instead of letting it go to waste — was born right here in Brooklyn, when founder Bertha Jimenez was a graduate student. Now getting attention in the national press, Rise is a real-life example of Tandon-bred ingenuity very literally changing the world for the better.
Helping Make It All Happen
Victoria Bill began her tenure at Tandon in 2015, teaching an Introduction to Engineering and Design course. When plans were set in motion to build an ambitious, new MakerSpace here, Bill, who holds a master’s degree in electrical engineering, signed on to manage it. It was a natural assignment: previously, as coordinator of student programming at the Cooper Union, she had helped launch that school’s maker space, and she knew well the enormous impact such facilities could make in engineering education by encouraging creativity and fostering design and construction experience.
“I was motivated to become the MakerSpace Manager to make a positive impact on the students and space here at NYU,” she has said. Her priorities, as she has explained, have always been to increase student involvement and encourage collaboration: “Having a great space and wonderful equipment wouldn’t mean anything if it wasn’t all useful and accessible to students.”
By all measures, she has succeeded resoundingly in her mission. Within the first two months of opening its doors the MakerSpace was accessed 25,000 times (as tabulated by swipes of NYU ID cards), and that number has since exploded exponentially. In recognition of her efforts, she recently received an NYU Give-A-Violet Award, bestowed upon those who have “gone above and beyond” in their duties. Thanks to her, Tandon’s community of makers and innovators is also going above and beyond.
During the birthday event, MakerSpace founding manager Victoria Bill revealed more happy news: the launch of a new Design Lab overseen by Associate Professor of Technology Management and Innovation Anne-Laure Fayard. Managed by graduate students with deep experience in Design Thinking, the group will operate at the MakerSpace and give students from across the university a chance to ideate, experiment, prototype, and build their ideas, as well as connecting them with NYU’s wide-ranging innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
Among the many events planned for the Lab are a soldering workshop, an introduction to Arduino, a Web development boot camp, and an ideation session with IBM.