The Brown Design Workshop (BDW) is a student run makerspace at the Brown University School of Engineering. Currently staffed by 30 student monitors, the BDW provides resources and tools for the students and faculty to bring their ideas into reality. As manager and a monitor of the space, I coordinate events, develop policy, lead training workshops, and train new monitors.
"Learning by Making"
This is the spirit and foundation of the BDW. Prior to its launch, such spaces were inaccessible to many students as they were primarily dominated by labs. A group of spirited students and faculty came together and pushed to develop a project oriented learning space.
Once a small room that held barely functional 3D printers and a lasercutter with a poor ventilation system, the BDW has grown and expanded to become the campus center for designing, prototyping, and building. Now the facility holds essential hand and power tools, a variety of machine saws for wood and metal, two lasercutters, an army of desktop 3D printers, and CNC mill and lathe.
Developing Curriculum for Training:
Four fundamental training workshops (wood, sheet metal, 3D printing, and lasercutting) are offered and are constantly updated. These workshops give members a quick introduction to tool usage with a focus on safety.
Developing Shop Policy and Future Planning:
As the maker community, monitor team, and makerspace grow larger and the makerspace acquires new equipment, policy development became crucial to ensure safety and to set standards. In addition, the BDW has developed significantly in four years in terms of space, impact, and people. It will continue to grow and future planning is necessary. The following questions help us steer the BDW in the direction we would like for it to go.
In five years...
- who will be using the space?
- what Impact will the BDW have for Brown?
- how will the space change?
- how will courses/curriculum use the BDW?
The BDW hosts events for student run extracurricular group events. We help coordinate logistics and staff monitors to facilitate make-a-thons, workshops, lectures, and meetings.
Developing Monitor Community:
As the community development manager, I want each monitor to feel he/she is part of a team and the other monitors are not only coworkers but his/her friends. I coordinate social events, workshops, and outings to create a stronger sense of community.
On a personal note, I would say the BDW was my college life. I am thankful to have stumbled upon its beginning by chance. Pulling countless all-nighters finishing up my own projects, teaching others prototyping skills and techniques, and troubleshooting machinery helped me define who I am. Seeing the BDW develop both in space and community and seeing students' abstract ideas become tangible objects is an extremely rewarding experience. I would like to thank the Brown SOE, donors, BDW faculty, monitors, and mentors for making the BDW happen.