ShopBot one of the most popular tools at think[box] maker space

thinkbox makerspace at case western
Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] is arguably one of the largest and most dynamic maker spaces in the country. think[box] is located at Case Western Reserve University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and provides a space for anyone – students, faculty, and alumni and members of the community – to tinker and creatively invent. Housed in a 7-story, 50,000 square foot facility, with 3 floors occupied and more to undergo renovation soon, this $35M project is one of the largest university-based innovation centers in the world. By numbers, think[box] receives over 5000 visits each month!
       I recently spoke with Marcus Brathwaite, a Lab Technician at think[box]. One of Marcus’ responsibilities is to train people in use of the full size ShopBot tool in the maker space. Marcus graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2013 with a B.F.A. degree in Ceramics.
profile photo of marcus brathwaite
       As a member of the team his mission is to bridge the gap between science and the arts by facilitating and developing art experiences in and around think[box]. His artwork investigates the past, present and future of human relationships to technology. Marcus said, “I was first exposed to the ShopBot when studying at Cleveland Institute of Art, which introduced art students to tools more commonly used by engineers. I visited Case Western to fabricate my art projects.”
       think[box] serves students, alumni, and the public at large. The vast majority of users are students of mechanical engineering, computer science, biomedical engineering or aerospace engineering. Marcus said, “They use the ShopBot for project work — they all take 3D modeling classes and use SolidWorks primarily. The ShopBot is one of our most popular tools. I train folks to run this and other tools.”
       Overall, noted Marcus, “the projects made here range from artistic to engineering-focused.”  Here are just a small sample of the projects which make use of the ShopBot:

card reader

       Portable Proximity Card Reader (a new-fangled ‘people counter’) In an effort to streamline the process of checking students in at large events, Case Western’s Student Affairs IT office has designed and made several hand-held proximity card readers compatible with Case ID’s. This completely in-house design costs less, has a greater capacity, and is significantly faster than the previously used magnetic stripe card readers. The ShopBot was used to mill a wooden mold for the thermoplastic clear cases of the counters.

two students at desks
       Jaswig    Students from Kent State milled all the pieces for prototyping this adjustable-height stand-up desk. It is now being used in homes, offices, and schools around the world.
 condado tacos sign
       Condado Tacos   This custom exterior signage for Condado Tacos in Columbus, Ohio was made from SignFoam on the ShopBot with a v-carve bit.
a custom cnc router made of wood
       Custom-built CNC router    This 3-axis CNC table router was designed and built from scratch by students from the University of Akron. Fabrication occurred at think[box] where parts were cut using the ShopBot.
custom car driving in the dirt
       Mini Baja Car     This vehicle competed in the Society of Automotive Engineer’s annual mini-baja competition where CWRU students designed and built the car from scratch. Although primarily fabricated in the Bingham Machine Shop, many supplemental tasks were completed in think[box]. In particular, students 3D printed mold-making patterns, cut out welding fixtures in the laser cutters, and fabricated composite floor panels for the finished car on the ShopBot.
       Reading Wetu    “Reading Wetu” is a project created with the first grade class of Ms. Erin Shakour at Orchard STEM School located on Cleveland’s westside during the fall 2014 semester. The reading Wetu occupies an 8′ x 8′ x 8′ area in the corner of her classroom, and houses her small library of children’s books. The structure is built entirely from 3/4″  thick plywood and yarn, and fabricated with the CNC router at think[box]. This project is part of a series of works that Marcus created in collaboration with Progressive Arts Alliance, a local arts organization whose focus is to provide STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) programming to the Cleveland Public School District.
       I asked Marcus how students react to being introduced to the ShopBot and what it is like for them to use the tool. Marcus said, “They begin with a total fascination and awe about it, watching the tool move and cut projects. Even though CNC is an older technology it never ceases to engage interest of the new students.”
       The next phase is one of “some intimidation,” noted Marcus, when students begin to understand the steps needed to get up and running. “Once they dive in and read tutorials and start using Partworks, it starts to become easier for them,” he added, “because they see that Partworks is much like software that they’re familiar with. The tool is well designed and intuitive to use, so once students get familiar with the software things become much smoother for them.”
       We look forward to seeing a lot more uses for the ShopBot coming out of this amazing space!

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