Digital Fabrication Education at USFLN in Edwardsville, IL

usfln hat

From March 13-15, 2017, ShopBot Tools attended the 2017 USFLN Symposium at Lewis and Clark Community College’s St. Louis Confluence Fab Lab in Edwardsville, IL. This year’s theme, “Stairway to Making”, featured a number of workshops and sessions highlighting the various steps that Fab Labs and Makerspaces can take to start, grow, and succeed in bringing digital fabrication education to the communities they serve.

For the symposium, ShopBot’s Sallye Coyle brought a Handibot, which she used to showcase the workflow of a project from design to finished product to educators, makers, and those looking to start up digital fabrication spaces. She was also joined by ShopBot’s Digital Marketing Specialist Tim Babiasz, who was fresh off representing ShopBot at USITT just down the river in St. Louis.

st. louis confluence fablab

The event featured multiple hands-on demonstrations in Lewis & Clark CC’s state-of-the-art Fab Lab.

Tools of the Trade

From large-format printers to laser cutters, just about every type of digital fabrication tool imaginable was on display at this year’s symposium. Seeing a range of different tools in one location really helped attendees get a feel for the versatility that’s so important in a successful Fab Lab or Makerspace.

At the ShopBot booth, Sallye and Tim showcased a typical project workflow on the Handibot from initial conception to finished product, and showed off a few samples of finished works in a range of materials, from foam to aluminum.

handibot at usfln

Sallye Coyle shows a USFLN attendee the range of projects that can be cut on the Handibot.

Maker Education

ukulele making at usfln

An hour-long session held in the USFLN lab showcased the workflow involved in ukulele making.

Throughout the symposium, the maker’s mindset was applied to every aspect of digital fabrication, including how to create and curate a space. Included in the schedule were sessions dedicated to education, staffing, training, program implementation, and operations, which provided a launchpad for those looking for ways to spread the culture of Fab Labs and Makerspaces in their area.

Electric guitars at St. Louis Confluence FabLab in Edwardsville, IL.

Guitars on display at the Confluence Fab Lab were made by students using a combination of CNC, electronics, and handcrafting.

Sallye led two different ShopBot sessions. The first was dedicated to workflow, and followed the path of a project from conception through design and toolpathing, all the way to cutting. The students were lively and engaged, with many even staying after just to watch the Handibot cut the finished product, a wooden skull. To explain the different levels of detail and cutting speeds, the left half was done with a 1/4″ ball nose bit. The right side was cut with a 1/8″ ball nose. A portion of the roughing pass was left on both sides for reference.

wooden skull

Wooden skull cut on the Handibot, with roughing pass on the outer edges.

Sallye’s second ShopBot session provided a deeper dive into CAD/CAM software education, project innovation, and workflow, allowing for more questions and discussion from attendees.

A Cross-Section of Digital Fabrication

USFLN education presentation

Eugene & Tiffany of NWA Fab Lab talk about Fayetteville, AR’s growing maker culture

All in all, the 2017 USFLN symposium provided a great opportunity to learn, grow, and network with people from all over the country. The final day included presentations from the attendees themselves, which showed how digital fabrication and maker culture is taking hold in every area of the United States and in various forms, from membership-based Fab Labs to free library and children’s programs. It will be exciting to see how things have developed at next year’s event!


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