Reported by – Isara Tillekeratne (E/17/352)
The core program of the Department of Computer Engineering of the University of Peradeniya requires Computer Engineering students to design and develop Cyber-Physical systems and Embedded systems-based tech products, where they work on building hardware components along with the network and software components. Some students go beyond the course requirement and come up with commercial products while being supervised by the academic staff.
The lack of modern design and manufacturing equipment in order to efficiently produce high-quality products has been one of the major hurdles for several years.
To address this issue, Dr Isuru Nawinne came up with the idea of establishing a fully equipped MakerSpace for student use in the department, which would also enhance their enthusiasm on product development. With a strong belief in project-based experiential learning, Dr Nawinne envisioned this laboratory as a space providing all facilities for students to just walk in and exercise their curiosity and creativity in hands-on engineering projects. Mr Nuwan Jaliyagoda from the E15 batch followed this idea and started designing the MakerSpace in August 2020. Subsequently, the space and the funding were allocated for it in late 2021, and phase one was successfully completed in August 2022.
The term “MakerSpace” is usually used to define a place in which people with similar interests can come together to work on projects and convert their ideas/dreams into real-world functioning units.
The MakerSpace lab is now established under Embedded Systems and Computer Architecture Lab (also known as ESCAL). Recently, it was opened for Computer Engineering students for their ongoing projects.
The layout of the MakerSpace is structured in a way that the students can easily work on different stations and sub-divided areas based on the requirements of their projects.
The main room of the MakerSpace comprises several workstations dedicated to Measuring, Soldering, Assembling, Testinging, and 3D Printing. Each station has separate units to hold the tools and equipment needed to work in it. Each workstation can be accompanied by a group of students at a time.
A separate room is allocated for heavy machinery works such as cutting, drilling, polishing, sanding etc… as the Machinery Room, with a large range of machines, tools and safety equipment along with the raw materials.
Another room is assigned for the purpose of carrying out robotics-related projects. It is proposed to have special areas for the department’s ongoing Swarm Robotics project, space for building and testing robots by accessing modern robot build kits.
A special thanks must go to the fund-raiser project done by the E15s to purchase essential tools, machines, and raw materials. The generous contribution given by the students of the E15 Batch in volunteering as donators is highly admirable and it certainly made the project MakerSpace a reality.
A smart software system with AR and VR technologies is currently being built for resource reservation, and inventory management by the department students.
Two technical staff officers are there in MakerSpace at all times to accompany students in case of any emergency or technical support.
As the Department of Computer Engineering, we are in high hopes that ESCAL MakerSpace will be beneficial for our undergrads to be innovative and increase the quality of their projects using the modern design and manufacturing facilities provided.