Founded in 2009, the Georgia Tech Invention Studio has grown; representing one of the largest university design and build centers in the United States. The studio exists to support and foster demand for creative, self-initiated learning on the Georgia Tech campus.
We connected with Dr. Amit S. Jariwala of the Georgia Tech Invention Studio to gain his insight about the studio and latest news.
AMazing®: Dr. Jariwala, thank you for your participation. We are very excited to learn about the Invention Studio. How large is the studio and how many people use it? How accessible is it to students and faculty?
Dr. Jariwala: More than 3000 square feet spread across 5 different rooms within a building of the School of Mechanical Engineering. This summer, we are expanding the Invention Studio to yet another room in the School of Aerospace Engineering building.
We have on average about 500 different users accessing the studio per month. It is completely free to use for GT faculty and students during regular work hours.
AMazing®: We understand the studio is unique in that students are encouraged to ‘own’ the space. What exactly does this mean? How does owning the space help prepare students to work in a technical career?
Dr. Jariwala: The sense of ownership provided to students is one of the most unique cultures prevalent at any maker space within any university in the United States.
Students who volunteer their time to staff the studio during work hours, provide mentorship and safety oversight to users, and are collectively referred to as University Lab Instructors (ULIs). In return for their volunteer service they receive 24/7 access to the studio. They also have the power to decide the studio work hours, location of equipment and provide inputs on major purchase equipment acquisition decisions.
Our students graduate to become leaders – either in an existing company or in a business of their own. The sense of ownership that they gain in the Invention Studio provides the students with a sense of responsibility to manage the space efficiently.
The ULIs develop the rules and policies on how to run the space, who gets access and what times, when to schedule maintenance on larger pieces of equipment, etc. They are encouraged to tinker with machines when they break-down. Several of our desktop/consumer grade 3D printers are routinely serviced by ULIs. These hands-on experiences in working closely with fabrication machines, provides an enhanced learning experience that they can take with them long after they graduate. Apart from this, they also have to manage themselves, as well as other ULIs and users. The studio provides a unique learning experience to gain these soft skills.
AMazing®: We hear about co-creation and collaboration in industry between makers, engineers, designers; as well as companies, institutions of higher learning and local businesses as a new business model. How does work experience in the studio help prepare students to thrive in this new approach?
Dr. Jariwala: The Invention Studio strongly encourages cross disciplinary collaboration. Students from all across the campus are welcome to work on projects within the studio and share them with fellow makers.
We also have an online portal, http://design.gatech.edu/ that students use to form multidisciplinary teams and work on real world projects. Our Industry partners also use this site to send their backburner projects which students work on for an entire semester in their Capstone Design Class (http://www.capstone.gatech.edu/), while utilizing the resources from the Invention Studio.
AMazing®: We understand the Capstone Design Expo is an important event for the studio. What is Capstone Design and the Capstone Design Expo?
Dr. Jariwala: Capstone Design is a culminating course offered to undergraduate students in several disciplines at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Students work in teams to design, build, and test prototypes with real world applications. At the end of each semester students showcase their efforts at the “Capstone Design Expo” – which is open to public.
The Capstone Design course provides students the opportunity to work with real-world, open-ended, interdisciplinary challenges proposed by industrial and research project sponsors. They learn and apply the engineering design process: defining functional requirements, conceptualization, analysis, identifying risks and countermeasures, selection, and physical prototyping.
Student teams buy and fabricate hardware to create working, physical prototypes to see their ideas and calculations in action. By working in teams they develop leadership skills and experience group dynamics; dealing with scheduling conflicts, meeting weekly deliverables and deadlines; and communication among team members, project sponsors, and course instructors.
Student teams attend lectures given by experts from Industry and Academia on topics including patenting, industrial design, manufacturing, market research and marketing, business funding, structure, governances, and ethics.
At the end of the semester, student teams display and pitch their inventions and marketability to a panel of judges, invited guests, media, and their peers, while competing for cash prizes. This is an excellent opportunity for sponsors to see how their project was conceptualized by the teams at the expo.
Relating to the earlier question, the Capstone Design Class is an inexpensive skunkworks R&D center wherein a team of 5 graduating seniors work with a faculty mentor in creating innovative solutions to real world industry problems. Projects that require creativity and innovation, engineering analysis and the necessity to build a working prototype are well suited for the course. Companies leverage this course as means to explore creative and innovative solutions to their backburner projects.
AMazing®: With hundreds of students, staff and faculty using the studio, it must be a very busy place. How have the projects evolved over the years?
Dr. Jariwala: The projects have become more and more complex and close to real world prototypes. We are raising the number of patents resulting from undergraduate inventions.
AMazing®: Obviously there have been many amazing projects. Would you share a few that for whatever reason, remain all-time favorites?
Dr. Jariwala: We had a project from GM which involved creating a lug nut starter that can save time on assembly lines. This project won the Capstone Design Expo and would save an estimated $1M annually per plant. For further information press here.
Another project from a local company was to redesign a Pecan nut cracker to increase the efficiency of cutting Pecans into halves than pieces. The Capstone team’s project demonstrated that the pecan nut cracking efficiency can be raised from, 70% to 90% using their invention. This would lead to an annual savings of $7M per plant. For more information, press here.
AMazing®: What role do you think engineering students can play in giving more middle and high school students the opportunity to become a Maker, and one day, engineering student?
Dr. Jariwala: We are already doing this! Many of our ULIs volunteer every summer to organize makercamps for high school and middle school students. This past summer, they created a design-build curriculum and taught the kids how to build a robot or a quadcopter while having fun. Such teaching and mentoring experiences are great for ULIs, while the school kids leave with an inspiration and excitement to stay in STEM fields.
AMazing®: How important are sponsors to the studio? What role do sponsors play?
Dr. Jariwala: Sponsors are the lifeblood of the Invention Studio. Their generous support for the studio helps with operational upkeep of the Studio. Sponsors for the Invention Studio vary from local entrepreneurs to large companies. They provide an open-ended design challenge for the Capstone Design course and technical mentorship to the student team that works on the project. Sponsors receive branding and visibility in the Studio, on the course website and materials, and at the expo. For more sponsor information see: http://www.capstone.gatech.edu/?page_id=14
AMazing®: What advice do you have for other institutions of higher learning interested in creating an Invention Studio?
Dr. Jariwala: The studio is not just about the space and the equipment, it is also about people. Wonderful creations happen when we find the right balance to empower students and yet be able to provide the guidance they need to be successful. We want other institutions to encourage a culture where students, staff and faculty can work together (as we do in the Invention Studio). Providing an open studio with a sense of ownership to volunteering staff is one of the keys to creating a functional makerspace.
AMazing®: Finally, what will the Invention Studio look like three years from now?
Dr. Jariwala: We always had a dream to build the nation’s largest multidisciplinary design-build space right at the heart of the campus. Given the current circumstances, building a common building might require more time. In the meanwhile, we are gathering support from alumni and industry in raising an awareness about the importance of a student driven design-build space for engineering education. We are hopeful that all other schools within the Institute will soon realize this and support the growth of open access student run Invention Studio spaces in the form of an Innovation corridor across the campus.
This concludes our interview Dr. Jariwala. Thank you very much for your participation. We are inspired and very appreciative of the opportunity to learn about the Georgia Tech Invention Studio.
About The Invention Studio
The Invention Studio is a student-run design-build-play space open to all Georgia Tech students. It is staffed by University Lab Instructors and student volunteers who are on hand to train and help with projects. Use of the studio is free for all students, faculty and staff of Georgia Tech, regardless of year, major, or prior experience. Learn more at http://inventionstudio.gatech.edu.
About Dr. Amit S. Jariwala
Dr. Jariwala is the Director of Design & Innovation for the School of Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech. He graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Production Engineering from the University of Mumbai, India with honors in 2005 and received a Masters of Technology degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2007 from IIT Bombay, India. He was awarded a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Georgia Tech in 2013, with minors in Entrepreneurship.
Dr. Jariwala has more than nine years of research experience in modeling, simulation, engineering design, and manufacturing process development, with research focus on design of polymer based micro additive manufacturing process. During his Ph.D. studies, he was also a participant of the innovative TI:GER® program (funded by NSF:IGERT), which prepares students to commercialize high impact scientific research results. Dr. Jariwala has participated and led several research projects funded by the NSF, the State of Georgia and Industry sponsors. At Georgia Tech, he is responsible for enhancing corporate support for design courses, managing design and fabrication/prototyping facilities, coordinating the design competitions/expo and teaching design courses, with a strong focus on creating and enabling multidisciplinary educational experiences.
Georgia Tech Invention Studio Media Contact
Amit S. Jariwala, Ph.D.
Director of Design & Innovation
The George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering Georgia Institute of Technology
801 Ferst Drive
Atlanta, GA 30332
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