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Makerspace: Professor Aims to Help Students Succeed by Failing

With new 3D printer, laser cutter, CNC mill, you can "fail early and often, and quickly learn from your mistakes."

Biology professor Nicholas Gidmark and new 3D printer

A Knox College faculty member recently installed some high-tech equipment designed to help students fail.

Nicholas Gidmark, assistant professor of biology, installed a 3D printer, laser cutter, and computer-controlled milling machine—supported in part by a grant from the Scripps Foundation—to create a "science makerspace."

"Makerspaces provide the hands-on technology that enable you to test and improve your ideas," Gidmark says. "This equipment makes it possible to quickly and cheaply build a prototype, try it, and watch it fail—which almost always happens the first time you try something."

A makerspace "makes it OK for students to—as the saying goes, 'fail early and often'—and quickly learn from those mistakes," Gidmark says. "They provide the technology needed to succeed. It's a real confidence-booster."

Gidmark and his biology students use the equipment to build custom devices for their research on fish. In addition, Gidmark says, these advanced "tools for building stuff" are available for others at Knox who want to build, test, and refine their own creations.

"You can modify your designs, build prototypes, and try them again," Gidmark says.

It's anticipated that as many as 100 students a year will use the equipment in their coursework. Others taking advantage of the makerspace include Knox's Engineering Club, which is creating the custom water controls for a hydroponics garden.

Knox's "Science Makerspace" Resources:

  • Boss Laser Cutter LS-4055—Focused laser head, capacity 48"x36" up to 1 inch thick (acrylic)
  • FormLabs 3D Printer F2—Stereolithography process (laser cured polymer), resolution to 140 microns
  • Tormach CNC Mill PCNC 770—Metal, wood, or acrylic; digitally-driven via Autodesk Fusion 360

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Biology Professor Nichlas Gidmark with piece created on 3D printer.

#Hands-on technology that you need to succeed... a real confidence-booster

Biology Professor Nichlas Gidmark with piece created on laser cutter.

#Tools for building stuff: design, build, try again...

Knox College

Printed on Thursday, April 25, 2024