The KU Makerspace opened its doors last July to provide opportunities for students to pool ideas and hands-on skills in order to produce prototypes as concrete results, thus seeking and testing solutions to real-life problems.
The site itself surprises visitors. The 600 square-meter space houses the Electronic Control Room, Digital Design Room, Digital Repair Room, Making HUB, and Post-processing Room. It is also equipped with expensive equipment and devices, including the latest 3D printer, large laser cutter, UV printer, metal-wood processing machine, and versatile CNC engraving machine. During the planning of the space, a demand survey was conducted targeting students and faculty members. Based on the survey findings, industrial software and equipment for design production, electronic design, and measurement were also installed to allow students to experience prototyping of future products.
Prof. Joon Hyung Shim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Director of the KU Makers’ Space, stressed that the meaning of the space matters rather than its function as hardware.
“Have you heard of the maker movement? The maker movement is a trend in which a growing number of people engage in sharing techniques and processes of do-it-yourself or do-it-with-others to develop products and solutions. Backed on the popularity of the movement, a number of U.S. cities showcase maker fairs. For instance, Pittsburg, once a steel town, is renovating itself into a hub of software, robotics, and education through the maker city movement. Gaining a hands-on experience with producing products is crucial. You may begin with an idea to create something, but sometimes you are inspired by making things with your hands to get ideas.”
Originated from the garage culture, maker culture has evolved into an open-access space. The KU Makerspace functions as the garage of the school where students gather together and produce a prototype to identify problems and seek solutions to them, and this in turn sparks new ideas to develop further.
“Maker experience is essential for starting a startup. If the founder has no experience as a maker, launching a business can be very risky. Apple, founded by Steve Jobs, was also born in his garage after numerous failures. Drawing a concept is important. However, if you cannot verify your idea by turning it into a physical product, you may struggle to make an important decision in the following evolution phase. The iPhone and Dyson would have not been released into the market if the founders had had no maker instinct.”
Makers across the world spontaneously share the drawing or production process of the machine they produced and often give lectures. The KU Makerspace adopts the principle of the maker movement. The site is open to everyone, not only KU students and faculty members but also business people and others, once they receive a special equipment training program before use.
In addition to the KU Makerspace, the X-Garage, under construction on the basement of the International Studies Hall, will open in December. The site is equipped with a 3D printer, 3D scanner and reinforced fiber printer, which visitors can utilize to prepare for public competitions, team projects, research projects and startups.
KU’s maker culture, which focuses on thinking from various perspectives and find solutions through actions, instead of looking for a right answer, is expected to sow the seeds for a better future through innovation.
01_Prof. Joon Hyung Shim (right), Director of the KU Makers’ Space, and staff assistant
02_Metal-wood Processing Room & machine
03_A digital sewing machine for trying out designs