Prototyping, Fabrication, and Making

What is Prototyping, Fabrication, and Making?

Prototyping, fabrication, and making are related terms that in this context refer to the use of tools to build objects to solve problems or express ideas. Both the types of tools and the types of objects created vary widely. Tools in Lauinger’s Maker Hub include 3D printers, laser cutters, LEGOs, electronics, sewing machines, printing presses, woodworking tools, and many more. Created objects may be extremely low-fidelity, or completed, usable products. “Making” also includes the act of repair. Additionally, “making” as a practice is also studied apart from the created objects, as an activity with value for community building, enhancing creativity, and supporting personal wellness.

Why use Prototyping, Fabrication, and Making?

Prototyping is done to test a solution or to learn more about a problem space before creating a final project. Putting an object, even an imperfect one, in a user’s hands for immediate feedback is often a preferable or complementary approach to user surveys or academic research. Beyond the prototype, fabrication can be used to develop limited runs of completed products, providing the advantage of rapid customization and the ability to solve problems for niche audiences.

Making is also used within the Liberal Arts and Sciences to expose students to material culture, historical practices, and to facilitate conversation about complex abstract topics, such as gender studies, pedagogical methods, and rhetoric.

Additionally, making is practiced by students on campus as a creative outlet, to relieve stress and build community.

What can I do with Prototyping, Fabrication, and Making?

Entrepreneurship

Students on campus have use fabrication resources to develop prototypes for products, which are then used to enhance pitch competitions, user testing, and marketing. Examples include the air-quality monitoring system GUAQ and the blood-oxygen monitoring system OxiWear. Students also use fabrication tools to create salable creative products, such as handcrafted journals and laser-cut Georgetown maps.

Communication and Facilitation

Courses, clubs, or administrative organizations have used the fabrication tools of the Maker Hub to facilitate conversations about difficult or abstract concepts. For example, a gender studies course created presentations of 35mm art slides to interrogate gender stereotypes. A group working on curriculum design used LEGOs to unpack the meaning of Ignatian Pedagogy. A course embarking on group projects used the Maker Hub to develop group avatars that embodied team values. More examples of this type of work can be seen on the Maker Hub’s curriculum integration page.

Wellness and Community Building

Throughout the semester, but particularly during reading days, students engage in making activities designed to reduce stress and promote self-care. Simple activities such and art-making, snowflake-cutting, and disassembling electronics are made readily available during the Maker Hub’s De-stress Days.

How do I get started with Prototyping, Fabrication, and Making?

You can learn more about the resources and opportunities in the Maker Hub by: