EXCHANGE: Community invited to learn about lab technology



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JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — A new lab at Joliet Junior College houses technology that can create almost anything people can imagine.

Student Eric Wilhelmi was in the new JJC MakerLab on April 13 and held up a small house in his hand that was designed and created with the digital fabrication equipment in the lab.

"It literally jumps from your mind to your hand," said Wilhelmi, who uses the lab to work on architecture projects.

Sitting on one the tables in the lab were other objects that have been created, such as a finely detailed dinosaur skull and the Eiffel Tower. Those objects and more can be made at the JJC MakerLab, which has been at the college since January.

The lab has 3-D printers, scanners, a carving machine, a laser cutter and other equipment that students studying architecture, engineering or orthotics and prosthetics technology can use to hone their skills.

There also are plans to have the community visit the lab and learn how to use the technology as well.

"Getting people involved and taking away that 'I can't do it' attitude is kind of something I want to push with the lab," said Steven Mark, MakerLab technician and JJC graduate.

Mark said the MakerLab is a space where JJC students and the community can create anything. He said it is exciting to see JJC move in a direction where everyone can use technology that is becoming more common.

"It's really exciting that everybody is starting to use the technology, and it's kind of widespread now," he said.

JJC held an open house for the MakerLab in March to demonstrate its capabilities. U.S. Rep. Bill Foster, D-Naperville, attended the event.

He previously brought a portable lab known as the Fab Lab to JJC in 2013, according to the school. Children and adults use the lab to invent, design and manufacture prototypes.

The equipment in the MakerLab was used throughout campus in the past several years, but the new facility brings it together, Mark said. Students can make their models a reality or make a mechanical piece, he said.

Wilhelmi said the lab allows him to extend his own skills and create increasingly complex projects, especially when he is designing stairs.

"It enables me do a lot of bigger things," he said.

He said the 3-D printer technology is a big deal because it is technology that NASA was using so astronauts would be able to create their own tools. Now, it is something a community college student can use, he said.

"Just based on the limits of their imagination," he said.

Mark said the laser cutter can be a cool device when people figure out how to use it and make designs with it. He showed a business card holder made out of plywood, and the laser cutter put surface cuts into the material to make it more flexible.

"There's so much you can do here, and you really are limited (only) by your imagination, especially when you learn how to use the tools," he said.

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Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News, http://bit.ly/1SgtKn0

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Information from: The Herald-News, http://www.theherald-news.com/

This is an AP-Illinois Exchange story offered by The (Joliet) Herald-News.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Felix Sarver(joliet) Herald-News

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