Housed in the University's flagship Diamond building, our innovative facility, The iForge, is giving students the opportunity to collaborate, create and 'make' outside of their academic studies.
A makerspace for Sheffield
“The ethos of the whole space is that anyone can come and create anything with any idea they have,” explains Aerospace Engineering student and iForge Rep, Amy McLauchlan. Amy was inspired to help set up a makerspace after spending a year at the University of Oklahoma in the United States as part of her course. There she saw first-hand the positive benefts that a makerspace can bring to a university. Once home, she became part of a team of passionate students, academic staﬀ and technicians – headed up by Dr Pete Mylon, a University Teacher in Multidisciplinary Engineering Education – who set about trying to establish one here in Sheffield. “Working with academics and a really keen group of students, things snowballed and there was a real momentum behind it,” Dr Mylon said.
Believed to be the first of its kind in a UK university, the iForge is managed by a team of 24 student Reps. This student-led approach has seen University staff relinquish control of the space, allowing students themselves to make decisions about how the iForge is run. As well as supervising and assisting other students for three hours a week each, they manage everything from procuring and maintaining equipment and materials, to developing relationships with industrial partners and alumni.
"I am the External Events Manager for the iForge," says Amy, "meaning that me and my team organise and oversee all of the events run. As well as that, as an iForge Rep I spend a minimum of 3 hours a week working in the space, managing it and helping users who come in to create their projects. It has been such a success so far and we are all so proud to be a part of it. It is allowing Engineering students to put their theory to practice and unleash their creativity in a place that has no structure or assessment, just other students who are there to facilitate their creations and bring their ideas to life, no matter how out of the box they may seem," she said.
We don’t give students enough credit for what they can do, for the industry links they can bring, the ideas they have and the leadership they can show if given the opportunity. It’s been amazing to see.
Dr Pete Mylon
Amy’s course mate, Will Proud, is a fellow iForge Rep and he’s enjoying the experience so far. “We’re learning as we go and it’s a really exciting project to be a part of. My main role has been running the space with the rest of the team, alongside developing new ways of getting companies to collaborate with us. We’re really growing and I believe that the space has a very bright future,” he says.
Housing a wide range of equipment, from traditional hand tools and a sewing machine to state-of-the-art laser cutters and 3D printers, the possibilities for what can be made in the iForge are limitless. So far hundreds of students have produced a diverse array of products, including battle robots, 3D printed Christmas decorations, parts for tribology research and a fully moving Thomas the Tank Engine cake. They’ve also made components for large-scale ventures, such as the ambitious project, Formula Student, to design and build a single-seat racing car.
Makerspace: A physical location where people gather to co-create, share resources and knowledge, work on projects, network and build. They help users develop skills and creativity, particularly inspiring younger generations to engage with the STEM agenda – Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.