Student ideas sprout at an accessible CEID

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Photo by Wa Liu.

To access the 3D printers at the Center for Engineering, Innovation and Design (CEID), all economics major and Design for America (DFA) member Paul Singer ’16 has to do is swipe his Yale ID at the door.

The year-old CEID has already become essential to technology-oriented student groups. DFA, which utilizes design techniques to address social issues, depends on its space and cutting-edge tools for developing their ideas. All six students interviewed praised the CEID for being accessible not only to engineering majors, but to anyone at Yale hoping to explore its 3D printers, laser cutters, metal shop, large meeting spaces and other facilities.

“Now we have a visible place on the main street, with glass walls and the light shining in, where students have been able to foster a community of learning and collaboration,” said School of Engineering Deputy Dean Vincent Wilczynski.

Since opening in September 2012, over 1,300 students have taken the online quiz and orientation required of prospective members and have gained 24/7 swipe access. 65 percent of members are undergraduates — 48 percent of whom are majoring in STEM-related fields. But 55 percent are either undeclared or majoring in the social sciences and humanities.

President of the on-campus beekeepng organization Yale Bee Space (YBS) Glen Meyerowitz ’14 said the CEID is an excellent resource for students who, like many YBS members, might lack a background in engineering.

“If someone doesn’t know what a mill or a lathe is, they can still come in here and learn how to make things,” Meyerowitz said.

Meyerowitz emphasized that the CEID allows students from all majors to learn from each other as they work on projects using the CEID’s numerous resources. He said that he will personally lead workshops for YBS members on using the CEID’s design software, with which the YBS plans to invent more efficient beekeeping technologies.

Singer said that before students use more complex equipment like the laser cutter and three 3D printers, the CEID puts them through training in the form of online and in-person tutorials. Additionally, the CEID has two, more sophisticated 3D printers, which students can use with permission, he added.

Students in engineering fields have also benefitted from the CEID. Nathaniel Knapp ’14, a co-president of Engineers Without Borders, said that the group would use the CEID’s lab space to develop a portable device for testing the bacterial content of water samples.

“Having the CEID there encourages us to do more hands-on activities instead of just talking about project design,” Knapp said. “I think the CEID clearly demonstrates to any prospective engineering students that Yale is fully committed to giving them everything they need. It’s made the engineering major a lot more visible [here].”

Wilczynski said that engineering projects were formerly spread out over campus, hidden in labs that agreed to house them. Now, he said, students use the CEID as a central area to “feed off each other” and use its resources to dramatically improve their capabilities. Among the groups that have used the CEID to complete their projects is Bulldogs Racing, whose design won Overall Best Hybrid in the 2013 Formula Hybrid International competition.

Field Rogers ’15, who recently became a member of the CEID, said that she was struck not only by the center’s technological offerings, but also by the willingness of CEID staff members to help students with their projects.

“It feels so absolutely accessible,” she said. “I feel like you can ask them about anything and they’ll take your ideas seriously.”

CEID design aide Alex Carillo ’16 said the center is bringing a “making culture” to Yale.

“I can’t even imagine what people did before the CEID,” he said. “If kids want to do something here, they can.”

The CEID cost $6.5 million to develop.

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