MakerLab is a dedicated space provisioning access to all the tools and skills students need to bring their innovative skills to life and supporting creativity.
MakerLab (http://www.makerlab.si/) is a dedicated space at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Electrical Engineering that provides access to all the tools and skills students need to bring their coding, crafting and other innovative skills to life. Supported by university mentors and encouraged by competitions and other incentives, MakerLab assumes both a passive and proactive role in supporting innovation of students.
The labour market requirements for new employees changed in the last decade substantially. Corporations need new expertise and skills from engineers, among others reducing time needed for on-boarding, more practical knowledge, related to their professional domain, teamwork, entrepreneurship and related soft skills as well as understanding dynamics of working in the modern corporate environment. Also skills about marketing, sales, identifying customers needs, user experience, etc are becoming crucial.
The answer to the challenges described above was to establish an innovative space at the faculty, where students, supported by mentors and necessary equipment (ranging from 3D printers, laser cutters, etc) are able to implement their ideas (applications, robots, devices, services). Makerlab is well connected with ICT industry and companies that would benefit from the new or improved products designed by students and their mentors in the Makerlab. As a result several products were already launched from Makerlab. More info. on http://www.maker.si/
Initially, up to 20.000 EUR were needed to set up a specific equipment within the designated space at the Faculty of Electrical Engineering. The staff and other costs are provided by the Faculty itself. Makerlab activities are also funded through various R&D projects.
Evidence of success
Since the beginning, five mentors that started as student collaborators were trained and now successfully coordinate activities, perform trainings and workshops and participate in projects. The evidence of success is best presented through 6 selected projects, completely developed by students: Robert, an autonomous cleaner robot; Interactive gesture system; T.A.F.R. autonomous electrical farming robot; Smart Froc, a smart, adjustable chair for children; Olympic countdown clock (www.maker.si)
The main challenge MakerLab is facing is, that it can not provide full support to all students and other young innovators interested to participate. Quality support and mentorship in any project coming out of Makerlab is required and lack of experienced mentors is currently the main issue.
Potential for learning or transfer
The practice represents an operational example of innovative physical space engaging students, teachers, and corporations in academic environment. Its accessible and open format provides young people with all prerequisites needed to engage in practical activities, think out of the box, and acquire additional skills and knowledge.
One of the important roles of the Makerlab practice is that it disseminates knowledge through trainings and workshops. apart from that it focuses on the innovative methodologies in product or service development, such as open innovation. Additionally, it provides experience to its members in soft skills, ranging from sales, marketing, to working in teams.
The transfer of this practice can be performed in different scenarios. It doesn’t need to be university environment. It can be in the rural community, engaging local schools and SMEs or individuals, it can be as a part of the larger corporate environment, opening to the public.
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