Toward a Brighter Economy and the Design-Savvy Workforce That Will Build it, NJIT Opens Makerspace

Written by: Tracey Regan,
STEM-learning and manufacturing advocates from government and industry joined the NJIT community to celebrate the opening of the university's Makerspace facility.

Partners from government and industry joined the NJIT community this week to celebrate the opening of Makerspace at NJIT, a training-focused, rapid prototyping facility that is central to both the university’s hands-on learning mission and its growing relationship with New Jersey’s manufacturing community.

The 10,000-sq.-ft. space operates equipment ranging from small 3D printers to large industrial machining centers, such as precision measurement and laser cutting machines.

Moshe Kam, dean of NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering (NCE), said the move from computer simulation in the teaching of engineering to hands-on practice is essential, noting, “It’s easy to teach engineering with simulators … but it will only take you so far in becoming a successful practicing engineer.”

Plans to add electronic devices, a wood shop, a paint booth and soldering machines, among other equipment, and to double the space, are underway.

The “industry-relevant” design, prototyping and practice skills that students will pick up in the facility constitute the “hands-on experience employers want to see,” observed Robert Cohen '83, '84, '87, vice president and general manager of R&D for Stryker Orthopaedics’ reconstructive division, chair of the NCE Board of Visitors and an enthusiastic backer of the Makerspace.

Students also eagerly anticipate the edge the facility will provide to the university’s competitive teams, such as the Baja SAE club, which experienced a dizzying ascent over the past three years from dormancy to a heady perch in global rankings this year: Number 6.

“I have great confidence and excitement for Baja and the other teams,” said Matthew Emmerson ’17, past captain of the SAE Baja Team, who will receive his B.S. degree in mechanical engineering this month.

Christopher Eugenio ’19, a mechanical engineering major and the team’s incoming captain, demonstrated how quickly a student could create a new part on a Flow machine waterjet, which uses high-pressure water and an abrasive – engineered sand – to cut through metal. He produced the NJIT logo in about 10 minutes.

“We’ll be making suspension components, a custom gear box and gears – we’ll probably use all of the machines in here. It’s going to really help us in the troubleshooting phase when we can fix a part on the fly, by printing a new one in a couple of hours. Our sponsors have been wonderful, but the turnaround is a little longer when you have to send your designs out.”

Makerspace at NJIT

Senator Teresa Ruiz, an assistant majority leader in the New Jersey Senate, called the makerspace a “creative space” likely to entice students to math and science, helping to address what she calls “the gap we’re not filling” between unacceptable pockets of unemployment and unmet demand for workers in STEM sectors.

Indeed, Joseph Taylor, former chairman and CEO of Panasonic Corp. of North America and a member of the NJIT Board of Trustees, recalled the scarcity of engineers during a growth period 30 years ago as a "limiting factor" in the company's expansion.

“This is a no-brainer to make an investment in the next generation of leaders,” added Ruiz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee and was a supporter of the $10 million allocation from state coffers that helped Makerspace at NJIT become a reality.

NJIT President Joel S. Bloom called the Makerspace a “dual-use facility” that would create a “workforce of the future,” while also serving the needs of industry, “particularly manufacturing businesses.”

The facility will provide opportunities for industrial partners to participate as mentors, trainers, and instructors, for companies to collaborate with students and faculty members on research and development projects, and for employees to receive customized training tailored to their needs.

“This is what this space means to me: a place for hands-on learning that will encourage what we’re trying to do in the state of New Jersey – bring manufacturing back to our cities,” said state Senator Ronald Rice.

Key features of the NJIT Makerspace will include:

● Product design and prototyping

● Industry Standard Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Machining (CAM) Software

● CNC machining

● Additive manufacturing (3D printing)

● Metalwork and welding

● Electronics design, assembly, and manufacturing

● Industrial metrology (measurement and verification)