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Making It Happen: Findings From Processes Implemented to Continue Operating a University Makerspace During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Manufacturing Division Session: Make-it!

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Paper Authors


Samuel C. Lieber P.E. New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Samuel C. Lieber, PhD, PE is an Assistant Professor of Advanced Manufacturing in the School of Applied Engineering and Technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Dr. Lieber’s applied research interest is in Product Design and Advanced Manufacturing. He is a registered licensed Professional Engineer (PE) in the State of New Jersey and has over 20 years of experience in the design, testing, manufacturing, and inspection of Medical Devices. Dr. Lieber has worked directly as a Product and Process Development Engineer in New Jersey’s Medical Device Industry and continues to consult on Advanced Manufacturing and Design projects.

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Justin T. Suriano New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Justin Suriano is the manager of the New Jersey Institute of Technology’s academic Makerspace, which opened in 2018. Prior to managing the NJIT Makerspace, Mr. Suriano could be found on the sets of major motion pictures and television shows in Los Angeles, working as a set lighting technician. He returned to school in the summer of 2014 for a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, completing this degree at NJIT in May of 2018. While managing NJIT’s Makerspace, Mr. Suriano is pursuing a master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering, with a thesis focused on metal additive manufacturing.

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Daniel Brateris New Jersey Institute of Technology

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Daniel Brateris is an electrical engineer and engineering educator currently serving as Director of Experiential Learning for the Newark College of Engineering and Program Coordinator for Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT). Brateris’s areas of interest include embedded product design, design for manufacturing, engineering entrepreneurship, engineering education, and the impact of hands-on experience based learning.

Brateris was educated at Rowan University (B.S. 2009, Electrical and Computer Engineering; M.S. 2012, Electrical Engineering). Before NJIT he founded Atlanticus Innovations a consulting firm specializing in the design of LED lighting, wireless communication systems, mobile hardware, software applications, and design for manufacturing.

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Making It Happen: Findings from Processes Implemented to Continue Operating a University Makerspace During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Manufacturing as a field is built on developing processes and protocols to overcome a myriad of problems. This foundation was put to the test in Manufacturing Education by the disruption brought from the COVID-19 pandemic. This work describes the approach taken to establish processes for the continued use of the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) Makerspace during the COVID-19 pandemic. The NJIT Makerspace is an Advanced Manufacturing facility consisting of additive, subtractive, and metrology equipment. The Makerspace serves multiple areas at NJIT, including the University’s Manufacturing Engineering Technology (MNET) program, freshman orientation/design courses, and open use by the student population for varied pursuits. A process was developed to allow continued operation of the NJIT Makerspace under state guidelines and was implemented in the beginning of the Fall 2020 semester. This process included new training measures towards access of the NJIT Makerspace’s general tools, polymer additive manufacturing units (3D printers), and laser cutters. In addition, processes were outlined for the Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) needed in the NJIT Makerspace, the donning and reapplication of PPE during Makerspace use, cleaning during Makerspace operation, and adhering to the social distance configuration in the Makerspace. The open question was whether these needed processes interfered with student’s achieving their personal objectives. This question was researched under three separate conditions. The first condition is in support of the MNET program, where the NJIT Makerspace houses a junior level manufacturing course utilizing manual machining (e.g. milling and turning). The second condition is an introductory freshman course that provides students with an overview of NJIT’s resources including the Makerspace. This course provides students with training to access NJIT Makerspace systems, which is reinforced with a NJIT Makerspace project that students currently have an option to pursue virtually or in person. The final condition is the general use of the NJIT Makerspace by students with varied interests. The presented findings from Fall 2020 will not only provide guidance for hands-on Manufacturing Education during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also potential options for safety processes that could be used in other applied academic activities.

Lieber, S. C., & Suriano, J. T., & Brateris, D. (2021, July), Making It Happen: Findings From Processes Implemented to Continue Operating a University Makerspace During the COVID-19 Pandemic Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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