Engineering Garage will be the ultimate makerspace

Engineering students are laying the groundwork for a $3.8-million makerspace

Richard Cairney - 17 September 2018

(Edmonton) University of Alberta engineering students are rolling up their sleeves and helping build the Faculty of Engineering's newest makerspace.

The 6,000-square-foot Engineering Garage will provide engineering students with new hands-on learning opportunities, using tools and equipment to build devices they've designed.

Tours of the Garage are being held as part of the Engineering Carnival from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sept. 22, and at an alumni event starting Sept. 21 at 5:30 p.m.

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The Garage is scheduled to be fully operational and opened to students in January.

"We are creating an open-access space for engineering students to be able to collaborate, prototype and invent, that emphasizes learning through doing in a social environment," said Engineering Garage director Eric Flaim.

He added that the Engineering Garage will give students a peer-supported environment for learning, collaboration, problem solving and self-expression.

Engineering co-op students are playing a key role in the Garage, working as machine operators, trainers and supervisors.

Erin Whitby and Carter Trautmann are both excited about working at the Garage.

Whitby, a fourth-year electrical engineering student, says she's looking forward to getting experience training others, and about gaining setting up a brand-new enterprise.

"The trouble-shooting experience we gain now, as we're setting up and learning to use the machines ourselves, will be really helpful to others," she said.

Trautmann, a fourth-year engineering physics student and member of the U of A Eco-Car team, agrees that the co-op students will be able to steer students in the right direction when the Garage opens.

"We're in here learning to use these machines and we're making mistakes," he said. "The hope is that we can tell students, 'OK, this is what's going to go wrong' so they can avoid making the same mistakes we do. They'll still make mistakes, but not as many."

Members of student groups are excited about the opening. Taryn Haluza-Delay, a member of the AlbertaSat student team that designs and builds cube satellites, says having access to the Garage will save student groups money and help them develop valuable skills.

"When we actually get to build things here, in-house, it means we don't have to pay a shop to do it for us," said Haluz-Delay, who is in her fourth year of engineering physics. She adds that being able to build devices makes you a better designer.

"When you designs something using a program like Solid Works, it'll let you do anything-no problem," she said, adding that some designs are impossible to build.

"In Solid Works everything is perfect, but in real life, you can't have zero errors."

Computer engineering students Nathan Doraty and Rafaella Grana are looking forward to being able to bring products to life too.

"Software is only half the fun," said Grana. "It's limiting because it doesn't give you anything tangible. Here, we will be able to see our applications at work."

Doraty, who is the Computer Engineering Club's VP in charge of hack-a-thons, says the club is hoping to use the Garage during HackED-the largest student-run hack-a-thon in the city.

"We're hoping we can use the Garage as a space where people can build the devices they've written software for," he said. "It's a perfect match."

Engineering Garage Fast Facts
  • The Garage is a $3.8-million investment in students by the federal government and the Faculty of Engineering.
  • The garage is equipped with one of the largest 3D printer collections in Edmonton, including 11 polymer 3D printers ranging from consumer to commercial-grade.
  • The Garage is home to a Stratasys PolyJet J750 3D printer-one of only three in Canada and the only one in the West. Its ability to print ultra fine layers, about half the thickness of a human skin cell, creates amazingly realistic surface textures. It also offers full-colour mapping, which replicates colour gradients and shadows so accurately printed objects seem to come to life.
  • A Machine Room in the Garage is the 'heavy' work zone, where students will access larger machinery with higher safety, ventilation, and dust control requirements. This area allows them to build with metal, wood, and other materials using tools like CNC machines, injection molders, vacuum formers, saws, lathes, a water jet cutter, and more.
  • Engineering students shared their needs and vision for the Engineering Garage, sharing their creative ideas and making key contributions to the way the space serves them.
  • The Garage is operated by Faculty of Engineering staff working with engineering co-op students. Co-op students will always be rotating through the Garage on work placements serving as mentors, supervisors, troubleshooters, and leaders.