New YSU Launch Lab Draws White House Notice

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- President Obama is expected to shine the White House spotlight on Launch Lab, a new initiative at Youngstown State University aimed at fostering the maker movement, during the Maker Faire event today at the White House.

Launch Lab, a “collaborative maker space” between YSU’s engineering and art departments, will bring together the concepts of form and function, said Martin Abraham, dean of YSU’s College of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Abraham will attend today’s White House Maker Faire, where Launch Lab is among the maker programs he anticipates the president will highlight.

“The whole purpose of the event is to promote the art of making, the idea that you can make stuff and build things and create opportunities,” Abraham said. “We have some new opportunities we will be presenting to our students and unveiling” at the White House event that will be available to the community as well, he said.

The YSU Launch Lab is expected to be housed at the Butler Institute of American Art’s Beecher Center, he said. It will be “a physical space” that will bring together computational tools and design software to build something in the computer with 3-D printers “so that you can produce prototypes,” Abraham said. “You can take your prototype and make it a finished product.”

The lab will develop over the next few months as funding is put together, and it’s expected to come fully online in early 2015. Although the announcement is expected at the White House event today, no federal funds will be involved, he said.

“This is a culmination or expansion of a lot of the activities we’ve been doing over the past two years, where we’ve been developing the software we got from Siemens, for example, and put that together with 3-D printers we put in place and all the new technologies we’ve made available,” Abraham said.

“All of that goes into the actual concept of making things,” he continued. “Now there’s great opportunities for students and nonstudents, people in the community [to] come up with new concepts, put it into software so they can see what it might look like, and then print it to see what it really looks like.”

Also at the White House event, Abraham will be presenting a letter signed by more than 140 university partners that describes why “making things” is so important to the community. “We have a physical copy of that letter that the folks at America Makes have been printing, which will be presented to the president,” he said.

The eight-page 3-D letter, which Abraham is transporting, weighs about 40 pounds. “It’s going to be a pretty impressive letter when it finally gets to the president,” he said.   

While Abraham is at the White House, events will be taking place at YSU to mark today’s National Day of Making, including an open house at 1 p.m. in Room 2390 of Moser Hall. “It’s somewhat fortuitous,” Abraham remarked.

This week YSU is conducting its Summer Honors Institute for high school students and one of the events involves engineering, 3-D design and rapid prototyping. “Anybody who wants to see what 3-D design and rapid prototyping is all about can see the students in the Summer Honors Institute learning how to do design,” he said.

Also in Youngstown, the Oh Wow! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology will join other organizations in northeastern Ohio uploading pictures and videos of activities marking the National Day of Making.

“We’ll be making physics toys here at the museum and then showcasing the exhibits that the YSU students made for us to show things local students have made here,” said Katie Seminara, assistant manager.

Oh Wow! personnel met with representatives of other organizations at meetings over the past month held at Case Western Reserve University and the Great Lakes Science Center. The idea is to “showcase everything in northeast Ohio versus presenting just as Youngstown or just as Cleveland, because the maker movement is happening across our region,” Seminara said.

Oh Wow! is “kind of an anomaly” because of its focus is on children age 14 and under, she acknowledged, something that will be addressed in the new Inspire (The name includes the symbol for the mathematical expression of pi.) Works space.    

Inspire Works will have four distinct areas designed to work together, said Suzanne Barbati, Oh Wow! executive director. There will be PDCA stations -- plan, do, check, act --- so each of those stations will help our visitors of all ages develop a design, build that design, test that design and then before bringing it to market, modifying that design because, of course, it will fail,” she said. “That’s the foundation of what we want to do in this space -- help people understand that failure is oftentimes a good thing and will help perfect products they are designing.”

The space, which is expected to open this summer, will feature a selection of tools including 3-D printers. “The materials and products that are the focus for a particular month will delineate the tools that we have available,” Barbati said.

“A hammer is not really good for every product,” she elaborated. “There will be sewing machines, there will be fabric. … there will be hammers, there will be power tools. We really want to provide a unique and changing experience for our visitors.”

Copyright 2014 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.
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