UCD makerspace creates programme for students to design the future

28 Oct 2021

Participants at a 3D printer build night held at UCD's MakerSpace. Image: UCD.

The multidisciplinary programme at UCD is run by the co-founder of one of the first commercial makerspaces in the US.

University College Dublin (UCD) has created a new multidisciplinary elective programme aimed at innovators and experimenters.

The Designing the Future elective programme has a strong sustainability focus. It was devised by UCD Innovation Academy’s makerspace to give students a chance to try hands-on experiments and learn about technologies that will be vital for the development of a circular and sustainable economy.

According to Prof Suzi Jarvis, founding director of the UCD Innovation Academy, the programme “offers a unique opportunity for students to get hands-on, to learn by doing and to discover skills essential to a more sustainable future”.

Jarvis’s comments come days before the UN’s COP26 climate conference is due to begin in Glasgow.

The elective’s first class kicked off this week. The class of 10 includes students from a variety of academic disciplines including medicine, politics and international relations, computer science, sociology, engineering, law, midwifery and food science.

The elective is being run William Davis, co-founder of FabLab Tacoma, one of the first commercial makerspaces in the US, and founding member of Nation of Makers, an initiative spearheaded by former US president Barack Obama in 2014 to promote manufacturing innovation in the region.

“Designing the Future will empower students to understand and experiment with technology,” Davis said. “It enables students to discover the lost skills of repair and maintenance and to have the confidence to take something apart and put it together again. It gives students a taste of what’s possible with new and emerging technologies and crucially, it’s an opportunity for students from all disciplines to work together.”

The Innovation Academy’s makerspace is one of several similar facilities in Ireland for innovators to come together to share ideas. Until now, makerspaces have been typically discipline-specific, associated with engineering and focused primarily on technology.

UCD’s one includes a range of 3D printers, plastics recycling and repurposing equipment, vacuum forming and mould-making equipment, laser cutters and virtual reality headsets.

The makerspace is facilitated by Convene, a collaboration between UCD Innovation Academy and TU Dublin that seeks to increase university and enterprise engagement.

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Blathnaid O’Dea is Careers reporter at Silicon Republic