Student Computer Innovation and Fabrication Institute (SCIFI)
Audio - Visual Studio
If we can have a robotics lab why can’t we have our own news channel at the College? Well, actually, now we can! The AV Studio is used for many projects aside from the student news station Phoenix News. Here students with these interests capture and edit high quality audio and video for streaming and broadcast. There are many ACS students with interests both in the professional audio and video equipment, and in standing in front of the camera. Gaining a deep understanding of the hardware and the processes involved in making a high quality production can enhance a lifetime hobby or possibly lead to a career in the field. The AV studio student team supports the College’s numerous events and projects. Imagine how with the help of a green screen, a student doing a science project and talking about Saturn through post processing, could add Saturn as background. The essential skills to choose from at the AV studio are acting in front of the camera, working with the hardware, and editing - crucial! - the production with the help of available quality software.
Electronics and Robotics Lab
Our Electronics and Robotics lab was the first section of our makerspace to open its doors to students for regular use. In the lab, you won’t see - at least not for now - large robotic arms that can lift whole cars and reproduce a masterpiece weld countless times. What you will see are the two most popular development platforms for learning electronics and programming: the Arduino and the Raspberry Pi. Combining electronics, programming, and some mechanical parts, we get robotics. And the beauty of these two platforms is the ease of learning, the sheer massive size of educational materials and projects, as well as the awesome community from all over the world that is ever willing to help. Combined with the other facilities at SCIFI, the students’ imagination is the only barrier. Innovative Technologies with Electronics Club and Physical Computing with Raspberry Pi elective are already using the lab.
3D Printing and Computer Aided Design (CAD) Lab
Welcome to the realm of 3D printing and CAD! Thanks to the magic of a 3D printer you can imagine a model, draw it on a computer (with the help of CAD software), and in just a couple of hours you can hold the model in your hands. 3D printing is pushing the limits of our technology, from creating the until recently impossible, nozzles for the largest turbo jet engine, to printing a pizza on the International Space Station, or titanium implants for injured people.
At ACS, we have three 3D printers, the Prusa i3, the Ultimaker 3 Extended, and the Form 2. The Prusa is the budget workhorse, though that’s not all it is. It can reproduce itself as all of the orange parts are 3D printed and with the help of a laser cutter, only the electronics will need to be bought for the replica. The Ultimaker is a reliable state of the art machine that is faster and more capable than the Prusa. But they are both from the same family, the Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) family, which basically means that the material, a solid polymer extruded as a long wire and then wound onto a roll, is the hero at work. The Form 2 on the other hand uses a liquid photopolymer and, with the help of a precise laser, solidifies the model upside down layer by layer.
The Laser Cutter
The computer numeric control (CNC) laser cutter is a dangerous machine in the wrong hands and a powerful tool in the right ones. It has a powerful 100W CO2 laser tube that produces the laser and then goes to the cutting head through a set of reflection mirrors and lenses. The material under the laser could be different kinds of wood, plexiglass, leather, and fabric among others.
The Student Workshop is a more general purpose workshop that is used with larger groups of students making posters, assembling, gluing projects, and other SCIFI related projects which utilize the Chromebooks that every ACS student is supplied with. The four machines in the workshop are the thermoforming machine, the vinyl cutter, and the two sewing machines.
The vinyl cutter is a rather small computer controlled machine that can cut really intricate designs and it could be used for making posters and stickers. The thermoforming machine with the help of heat and vacuum can create a copy of an existing object, making it ideal for a higher volume job. And, of course, there are the sewing machines. One is standard, the other is for leather. The students from the Cosplay Club already love them.
This is the kingdom of the most dangerous tools at SCIFI. But fear not, the safety of our students is our number one priority, which is why we are developing the most robust and thorough safety procedures based on the expertise and experience from facilities around the globe. The Fabrication lab at this point is accessed only in the presence of teachers that have experience using power tools. The table saw, the miter saw, and every other machine capable of cutting, drilling or sanding are the best possible quality and heavy duty product of Bosch. The core idea of the lab is to fill the gap between the realm of digital tools and good old fashioned hand-held tools. The only computer controlled machine is the small CNC mill. Large objects could easily be created at the lab. Currently, Biology teacher Bernie Hoffman is initiating a project whereby special tables for growing different cultures are to be created.
SCIFI is yet to become fully utilized. This first year, we will be using the spaces for clubs and electives mostly and of course they will be available for students who want to tinker, do some additional projects or just explore the space. Our plan is to eventually open the space to the whole ACS community. As educators we are eager to implement some of the possibilities of our makerspace within the curriculum so that every ACS student can experience the technologies first hand. Because you do not always know if you will like something before you actually try it and we are hopeful that among our students there are those that will become lifetime makers or choose a career path, which they may trace back to their ACS SCIFI experience.