CITRIS Invention Lab Superuser Spotlight: Eldon Schoop (PhD, CS)

CITRIS Invention Lab Superuser Spotlight: Eldon Schoop (PhD, CS)
Photo Credit: Kuan-Ju Wu

Eldon Schoop is a Ph.D. student in computer science at UC Berkeley. He first saw the CITRIS Invention Lab through the Berkeley Engineering T-PREP program which introduces transfer engineering students to the College and campus. One of the first projects that Schoop worked on is the Maker Pass card reader, used in the CITRIS Invention Lab and Jacobs Hall. 

The first time I saw the CITRIS Invention Lab, I was in a program called T-PREP, a two-week bootcamp for incoming engineering transfer students. When I was first admitted, before I even started at UC Berkeley, one of the stops we had at T-PREP was the CITRIS Invention Lab. I met Professor Eric Paulos [Faculty Director of the CITRIS Invention Lab] and thought, ‘I’d love to be a part of this.’ About a year later I started doing work at the CITRIS Invention Lab.

My advisor is Professor Bjoern Hartmann [Faculty Director of the Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation]. I worked with Bjoern on the Maker Pass project to create a new generation of card readers and access control for the CITRIS Invention Lab and Jacobs Hall, even before the building opened. I’m proud of the Maker Pass system and the card readers because many students have joined to work on the system, and because thousands of students per semester interact with it. Our system has been used to badge people in almost half a million times. It’s nice to know that you’ve made something that people use.

Working with [Invention Lab Senior Lab Manager] Chris Myers and [former Lab Manager] Mark Oehlberg, I became more proficient with 3D printing and laser cutting. I had never seen a laser cutter before coming to the Invention Lab, and I was super excited to try it. It’s so easy to build a prototype on a laser, whereas, on a 3D printer, you need to tweak your CAD model a lot and then cross your fingers that the first few layers go right — then you need to check the next day to see if it’s finished. With a laser cutter, you load up a file, tune it a bit and in a couple of minutes you’re done. My favorite tool is a fancy circuit board mill called the LPKF Protomat, which allows people to mill double-sided circuit boards to nearly a hundred-thousandth-of-an-inch precision — a very advanced tool and I learned to use to make a part for the card readers.

Within Computer Science, I’m a Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) researcher. When I first started out as a PhD student, I wanted to work in digital fabrication, to build systems to help people create physical objects and construct physical things. I ended up making Drill Sergeant, a platform that augments power tools with sensors and projectors to coach people through fabricating an assembly of physical parts like cutting, drilling, and gluing. Over time, my research interests have shifted, and now I’m creating tools to improve machine learning models by making them easier to use and more accessible.

I’ve been a lecturer and GSI for many design or mechanical engineering prototyping classes. As an instructor, I appreciate the CITRIS Invention Lab as a really valuable place to support courses that integrate design or prototyping as a key component. Students can go to that space and have the support network of Chris and the Superusers for guidance and to develop their prototyping skills.


The Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute drive interdisciplinary innovation for social good with faculty researchers and students from four University of California campuses – Berkeley, Davis, Merced, and Santa Cruz – along with public and private partners.

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