Chemistry with the Design Lab

A light-blue 3D-printed thruster shroud

A 3D-printed thruster shroud

I vividly recall sitting in Shapiro’s instructional lab at the start of my freshman year, hearing a staff member talk about the many resources that the library would be able to offer us during our time at the university. Given that this was a lecture for my research-based chemistry lab, I knew this would primarily involve searching for and filtering through the many peer reviewed journals and research papers that were housed in the library’s database. Expecting to jump right into the process, confusion hit me when words about the Design Lab began to flood my ears.

Though the lecture quickly transitioned into tips for finding and making use of the best research papers, the Design Lab never left my mind. Immediately following the lecture, I got out my laptop to read more about it. Upon reading through the description, I fell in love. A collaboration hub that explores a wide range of technologies and is intended to help people find and explore their interests? All I wanted to do was learn how to get involved. Soon after, I ended up on the job listing page that sought Interns for the Design Lab, and the rest is history.

Having worked in a variety of teams prior to my involvement in the Design Lab, I knew I loved collaborative projects. However, working in the Design Lab took this love to a whole new level. While most of the teams I previously worked with were on a single track, for instance, to build a robot to play a certain year’s FRC (First Robotics Club) game, the Design Lab allowed for more multidisciplinary collaboration and for me to develop interests in areas that I never would have otherwise had access to, whether it be letterpress printing or vinyl cutting.

This semester, while I dipped my toes into the various projects simultaneously taking place in the Design Lab, I primarily worked with Aaron to build a Prusa 3D printer, which is something I never would have done if not for the Design Lab. Sure, using a 3D printer is one thing, but building an unassembled one was a whole other story. Though there was a guide on how to successfully build the printer, the process was still time-consuming, and some construction errors were made along the way. In seeing the printer completely unassembled in its box to now fully-functioning in the Design Lab (one of its first prints, a thruster shroud, pictured above!), I’m extremely happy to have helped with the project. Not only is there a new printer in the lab, but the construction process taught me to be more patient with my work. Developing a functional product takes time, and it is important to be conscious of the steps I take along the way. This is not to say that I will not embrace and use my mistakes as a learning opportunity, but that I have learned to be less hasty and more careful with my work.

As the year comes to an end, I thank the Design Lab for developing both my hard and soft skills. I experienced the wonders of multidisciplinary collaboration, and just how much people love to share their interests with others. I believe the best way to learn is through simply speaking with others. In doing so, I was quickly able to learn their interests, and hey, some of them also became mine before I knew it!