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If you dream it, they can built it

Melissa Topey • Feb 17, 2014 at 7:30 PM

Last week I found one of the coolest places in the area — which few even know is open to the public — and I got my geek on.

EHOVE Career Center has a Fab Lab, a fabrication laboratory, that acts as a workshop for digital fabrication of just about anything you can think of and replicate on a computer.

Students in a robotics class were in the Fab Lab designing parts for their robots and then constructing those parts on a 3-D printer. The robots will be part of an upcoming “battle to the death” competition at Wright State University in Dayton.

I worked with the team of Jude Doss, Austin Martin, Jeremy Schafer and Chase Rexroad.

Each team member was working on different parts of the robot. Jude was developing a 3-D computerized design of the robot’s base plate (the bottom) to make sure holes were aligned and large enough to fit things like a gearbox to the robot.

It was a lot of trial and error with occasional mathematical calculations, which took me back to my high school days of physics and astronomy labs.

I loved it.    

We never had anything like this while I was in school — I won’t say how long ago that was.

Austin was building a battery pack to power the robot. Chase was making sure wheel mounts for the robot’s weapon — a spinning rectangular piece of metal designed to either force out or damage a competitor’s robot — would fit.

A wheel mount was already in progress on the 3-D printer; it took about 45 minutes to build the piece from a plastic spool.

These students are smart, and the lab taps into that in a hands-on way that keeps them interested.

I found myself running back and forth from the 3-D printer to the lab’s two laser printers, which allow you to either etch or cut out material, as people were doing different projects such as cutting out band logos or making bumper stickers.

I was a kid in a candy shop. “What’s that? What are you doing?” I found myself asking over and over. Noah Rasor, the Fab Lab coordinator, asked me if I wanted to make something myself. I didn’t hesitate with my answer: “Yes!” I was nowhere near ready to build a robot, which takes weeks, so I decided to make a keychain with the Sandusky Register logo on it.

Rasor brought out a green piece of plastic, and I found the Register “R” on Google Images. With Rasor at my side, I transferred the logo into the CAD, or computer-aided design, program.

I sized it, darkened it to create the strongest image and even set it to cut a hole in the plastic for the keyring.

I put the green plastic into one of the laser printers and watched as it etched the logo and made my keychain.

It’s not just EHOVE students and newspaper reporters who use the Fab Lab. Area companies such as Sierra Lobo use the facility as well, although what exactly they do there is not discussed, as it’s considered industrial secrets.

The public can also use the lab during designated times, which are listed on the Fab Lab’s website at ehove.net/fablab.

My time with the students was so inspiring that I want to take some of the Personal Fabrication classes offered at EHOVE. My next project might be an electric go-kart, a self-powered boat or a remote-controlled airplane, all of which can be made in the Fab Lab. Or maybe, just maybe, I’ll design and build my own robot.

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