NJIT opens Makerspace prototyping facility

NJIT President Joel S. Bloom, center, cuts the ribbon for the Makerspace.

The New Jersey Institute of Technology’s training is getting more hands-on.

The university just celebrated the opening of Makerspace at NJIT, a rapid prototyping facility that will focus on training and business needs.

Makerspace was helped by a $10 million allocation from the state.

The dual-use facility will create a “workforce of the future” while serving industry needs, “particularly manufacturing businesses,” said NJIT President Joel S. Bloom.

The 10,000-square-foot space has equipment ranging from small 3-D printers to large industrial machining centers, including precision measurement and laser-cutting machines.

The move from computer simulation to hands-on practice is essential, said NJIT’s Newark College of Engineering Dean Moshe Kam.

“It’s easy to teach engineering with simulators … but it will only take you so far in becoming a successful practicing engineer,” he said.

Plans to double the space and add electronic devices, a wood shop, a paint booth and soldering machines, among other equipment, are underway.

The “industry-relevant” design, prototyping and practice skills that students will pick up in the facility constitute the “hands-on experience employers want to see,” said Robert Cohen, vice president and general manager of research and development for Stryker Orthopaedics’ reconstructive division and chair of the NCE board of visitors.

Students said they believe the facility will give the university’s competitive teams an edge.

“We’ll be making suspension components, a custom gear box and gears — we’ll probably use all of the machines in here,” said Baja incoming team captain Christopher Eugenio, a Class of 2019 mechanical engineering major. “It’s going to really help us in the troubleshooting phase, when we can fix a part on the fly by printing a new one in a couple of hours. Our sponsors have been wonderful, but the turnaround is a little longer when you have to send your designs out.”

At the opening, he demonstrated how quickly a student could create a new part on a Flow machine waterjet, which uses high-pressure water and an abrasive — engineered sand — to cut through metal. He produced the NJIT logo in about 10 minutes.

In the past three years, the Baja SAE club went from dormancy to sixth in the global rankings.

“I have great confidence and excitement for Baja and the other teams,” said past team captain Matthew Emmerson, who will receive his bachelor of science in mechanical engineering this month.

Makerspace is a “creative space” likely to entice students to math and science, helping to address “the gap we’re not filling” between unacceptable pockets of unemployment and unmet demand for workers in STEM sectors, said state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Newark).

The dearth of engineers during the growth period 30 years ago was a limiting factor in Panasonic’s expansion, said former Panasonic Corp. of North America Chairman and                 CEO Joseph Taylor.

“This is a no-brainer to make an investment in the next generation of leaders,” said Ruiz, who chairs the Senate Education Committee.

“This is what this space means to me: a place for hands-on learning that will encourage what we’re trying to do in the state of New Jersey — bring manufacturing back to our cities,” said state Senator Ronald Rice (D-Newark).