Paul J. Heney – Editorial Director
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Thinking outside the [box]
College has changed a lot since I was a student. Shortly after I graduated from Georgia Tech, the campus underwent quite the building boom, thanks to its upcoming status as the Olympic Village for the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Touring the school in the subsequent years always left me amazed at the new amenities. And I can recall looking at the University of Arizona when I was considering graduate school, my jaw dropped at the prospect of high-rise dorms with huge swimming pools right beside them. It was like spring break compared to what I’d known.
But changes in the college experience today go far beyond mere physical structures. While touring the new Sears Think[box] innovation hub on the campus of Case Western Reserve University, I was blown away … what these engineering students have at their disposal today is incredible.
Think[box] functions as a comprehensive fabrication laboratory, a place where the University hopes members of the engineering, design, arts, humanities, science, medical and business communities will interact. The goal is to help both students and faculty become the entrepreneurs and technology leaders of the future. Think[box] is also open (and free!) to the public, which I think will add a great mix to this campus hub.
Think[box] has been around since 2012, but it’s just moved into a new $35M home, a seven-story, 50,000 sq-ft building. The layout of the project is quite impressive:
The first floor includes interactive presentation and workshop areas, an inventor’s hall of fame and social meeting spaces focused on users from outside the university, including K-12 students, industry groups and community groups.
The second floor has open space to support generation and development of ideas. There is a range of informal, re-configurable spaces for users to meet, think and develop their ideas. It will include multi-media equipment to support group collaboration and expression.
The third floor focuses on prototyping, with a wide range of state-of-the-art digital manufacturing equipment for users to quickly turn their ideas into some form of physical object.
The fourth floor houses traditional fabrication/manufacturing workshops.
The next phase of the project, to happen over the next year, will add a garage-style project floor; a floor devoted to startup assistance (including business planning, intellectual property and legal advice), and a floor for incubating startup companies that develop both within and outside the university.
I’ve been told that top-notch universities have been visiting Think[box], to see how to create similar spaces on their campuses. My thought was: What a great recruiting tool for CWRU. I tried to imagine prospective engineering and design students getting a campus tour and then seeing this lineup of toys: 3D printers, circuit-board routers, laser cutters, a computer-controlled ShopBot router, a Lynx 3D Microscope, a 3D scanner, a mixed signal oscilloscope and a vacuum chamber.
What aspiring engineer wouldn’t want to play—and learn—here?
Filed Under: Commentary • expert insight, 3D printing • additive manufacturing • stereolithography, ALL INDUSTRIES
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