Dorotea Macri is a third-year mechanical engineering student from Washington, D.C. who was introduced to the CITRIS Invention Lab early on in her college career. She developed an interest in building in high school and was drawn to the community feel of the CITRIS Invention Lab. She talks about how she became a lab “superuser.”
“I became a superuser last year, but the semester or so before that I spent so much time in the lab that people thought I already was one. The CITRIS Invention Lab is such a community space, and you often see the same faces enough to be comfortable asking for advice or help. I really enjoy sharing what I know about the space — and I’ve learned so much of what I know because of older lab users who’ve done the same for me — so I spent as much time as I could helping with people’s projects even before I was a superuser.
“I’ve done a wide variety of projects here, a lot of them just for the sake of learning how to do them. I’ve worked on making parts for research or classes, but my favorite work in the lab has been personal projects. With advice from other superusers, I taught myself how to design and cut custom PCBs, and got much more comfortable with circuits and ICs than I would have from just my ME courses. I’ve also done sort-of art projects — I made these lamps on the laser cutter with patterns cut into them, and when you turn them on in a dark room they project patterns on the walls. Some of my projects have been utilitarian. I’ve made a lot of modifications to my bike and designed a series of ‘open-source’ furniture. College kids are always moving around, so I made tables and shelves that just need a couple of 3D-printed pieces and rectangles of plywood. The idea is that anyone can make them fairly easily, and they can be taken apart and packed or recycled fairly easily as well.
“A lot of facilities around campus support class projects and research, but the Invention Lab is one of the only ones where you can really build something from the ground up. There are people here who can help you with a physical prototype, electronics, all the way up to aesthetic and graphic design. Part of that is because this isn’t just an ME facility, or an EECS facility, or anything like that — it’s really interdisciplinary, which facilitates a lot of sharing of ideas and unique work.
“The people here really make it what it is — the space is centered around exchanging ideas and expertise, making, and learning, whether it’s for class, research, a portfolio piece, or just for the sake of doing.”
Photo: Kuan-Ju Wu
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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