Towson University’s Center for the Arts gives its students a valuable skill not always found at the college level: experience. Through the school’s Object Lab, individuals pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts can get hands-on industrial design experience using high-end 3D printers and laser cutters.
Initiated by jewellery designer Jan Baum in 2011, the lab features six machines that utilize four different printing technologies, including Objet, ZCorp and Makerbot 3D printers, that students pursuing their BFA degrees can use to learn digital design and manufacturing skills. Baum describes the purpose of the Object Lab this way, “We’re really training workforce leadership. These students really understand client-to-consumer products, from automotive to medical. They have the ability to apply these skills across industries. They’re really going to be heads and shoulders above others who may only have an engineering background.”
Towson University’s connections to various local businesses and community institutions gives students the opportunity to perform real world design for real world customers. The Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development, for instance, commissioned the Object Lab to produce awards for the InvestMaryland Challenge, a contest dedicated to Maryland start-ups. Baltimore’s local vintage auto retailer, Road Magnet, had the students produce springs for their cars. Most significantly, through a cross-disciplinary partnership, Johns Hopkins University bioengineering students have worked hand-in-hand with the Object Lab to create an occupational therapy device that operates a sewing machine. Baum expresses that the open nature of the lab gives their clients the opportunity to see the planning and manufacturing process first-hand and interact with the product designers in person.
The interdisciplinary nature of the Object Lab is meant to provide students with a diverse set of skills to prepare them to work in any number of fields. For Baum, it’s essential that her students can find work after graduation. The Object Lab acts as an industrial design firm with training wheels, with Baum saying, “Everyone works on the projects together, assisting based on their skill level. Once a project is underway, I pick an intern to be the project lead. They do all the client work—and these are undergrads—and it works just fine.”
To me, I think that the Objects Lab is a great step towards bringing higher education down from the clouds of overly abstract thinking and tethering it back to reality. To be honest, I’m a little jealous that CalArts didn’t have one for me to play around with while I was there. Oh well, I guess. Maybe if there’s an Object Lab in the sky looking over us, maybe my alma mater will be able to shower its next generation of art students with 3D printing goodness.
Source: MD Biz News