What do you do when you have an idea for the next Ipad accessory, or maybe a new Lego, or possibly a next-gen drone. You can’t go to the machine shop to make it unless you turn the gadget into a club or class project, and toys are generally not really related to the aerospace industry. So, there is basically no place to go and tinker except one’s dorm room. So, normally the idea dies because there was no place to put it into action and the world lost what may have been a great innovation (That might be an overstatement but you get the idea).

Embry-Riddle needs a separate facility where students can construct projects on their own time, in their own way, no matter their academic or extracurricular affiliations. To have a place where students can work “outside the box” would give students the opportunity to explore ideas before they begin research, develop a product, or just relax by creating something. Students at Riddle are always academically challenged but before Capstone or research projects there are few chances to implement the knowledge that they are gaining and if a person is not an engineering major they may never see the inside of the shop.

A separate facility is needed because the current shop can’t be adjusted to meet the need. Many would say “Why not just adjust the rules of the shop?”  This is not an option because the shop is dedicated to academic projects and can quickly become crowded to a point where no one can work in it. Plus, with many students that have little machining experience, it can be downright dangerous to have them working in the full machine shop. If there was a place to tinker, then advanced students would be able to create whenever they want, and the less experienced would have a safe environment to learn.

Now, many would also say that “That is going to be very expensive.” They’re right. Full machine shops are an expensive proposition. However, the question that needs asked is, does it have to have a full set of tools or even any tools at all? What would be most important would be to have a location that is dedicated to allowing students to build stuff. This would allow students to take projects out of the dorm room and work on them in an environment where others, which are also interested in creating, are working. Riddle students are capable of locating their own resources. If a space was allocated to an “Innovation Lab” then a group could be created that could solicit sources other than the university such as KickStarter, and former alumni, to get funds and resources to supply tools for the facility.

Students at Embry-Riddle would use such a facility, even in its rawest form. They would even volunteer time in order to let it exist. They would be willing to act as monitors for the facility on a volunteer basis to perform the same function as existing monitors do after-hours in the AxFab. If the University could simply dedicate space to such a facility there are ways that the students can find to outfit it.

To have a shop dedicated to personal projects is something that can be done and should be done. All the students at this university need a place where they can apply their mental power to projects that are not dictated by their curriculum.

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