ECE-themed Makerspace Opens in Van Leer

Photo by Taylor Gray

Roughly two years after its groundbreaking, the doors of the Van Leer Interdisciplinary Design Commons (IDC) were finally opened on Sept. 27 for its official ribbon-cutting ceremony.  

President G.P. “Bud” Peterson welcomed several major donors and personnel into the 50,600-square-foot makerspace. Once an auditorium, the IDC now houses three levels of cutting-edge technology open for use by students of all majors. It is located directly north of Tech Green and retains the original rotunda’s iconic circular structure. 

At the event, corporate donors, such as Texas Instruments, General Motors, Harris Corporation and Keysight Technologies, were able to cut opening ribbons for their respectively dedicated wings of the makerspace. 

Several of the Institute’s faculty spoke alongside Peterson and graciously acknowledged the corporate sponsors that made the nearly $11 million renovation possible. Special thanks was given to Harris Corporation, the first company to commit to the renovation, and Keysight Technologies, much of whose equipment lines the rows of the IDC second floor.

“This is going to be a place where our students will be able to dream up and create things in robotics, in telecommunications, in analog devices … and truly, truly push the state of the art in terms of what a modern engineering program would look like,” said Magnus Egerstedt, school chair of the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. 

The IDC will be run by The Hive, a student-led organization dedicated to helping other students in the space. 

“Our vision is to help any student, regardless of major and technical background, to come in with an idea and leave with a prototype that they built. We provide them with equipment, assistance and most importantly, a friendly community to collaborate and create with,” Hive President Randy Deng said.

The Texas Instruments Makerspace, located on the second floor of the IDC, is home to equipment donated by Texas Instruments and Keysight Technologies. Each workbench provides students more access to high-level electronics technology than any other place on campus, as well as ample natural light and open space. 

Hiba Murali, director of logistics for The Hive, confidently led guests downstairs and provided a tour of the new machinery.

Murali showed that students have access in the workshop to sand blasters, laser cutters, 3D printers, drill presses and a massive plasma cutter. Under the supervision of trained Peer Instructors (PIs) and Master Peer Instructors (MPIs), students can do anything from working on a major woodwork project to creating a Harry Potter wand, according to PI Binit Shah.

Although PI applications are currently closed, they will soon reopen for the spring semester. William Cuthbertson, director of finance for The Hive, said students who wish to apply for a PI position for Spring should  come see the IDC and become acquainted with the environment.

Currently, the IDC is open weekdays from 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Students of all majors, even those with no experience in making things, are invited to visit.