A Learning “Playground for Everybody” at the IDEA Lab

The Innovate, Design, Engineer, and Apply (IDEA) Lab is in Sacred Heart University’s (SHU) West Campus, on the first floor of the west building.

According to the SHU Engineering website, the lab is said to, “facilitate a transdisciplinary, problem-based, community engaged innovation environment through digital fabrication and advanced manufacturing.”

“The IDEA Lab opens up new avenues for exploration within engineering. It allows students to go beyond the standard curriculum and learn about emerging technologies, gaining valuable experience and knowledge,” said sophomore computer science and engineering student, Julia Piascik.

The IDEA Lab is not only limited to engineering students.

“The space serves the entire university, it’s an open playground for everybody,” said Tolga Kaya, Professor and Director of Engineering. “Any student can come with any prototypes or ideas.”

Part of what Kaya does at the IDEA Lab is to aid student learning and growth.

“Students in the lab are able to have a place where creativity is fostered, and failures are celebrated,” Kaya said. “Being able to have that place proves to be extremely important for learning.”

“I love the IDEA Lab as it’s an inviting space for all majors, and being in this space seeing other students work on their projects inspires me to continue learning,” said Piascik. “The professors here also constantly remind you that failure is natural, and it will happen when working on a project, but to turn that failure into an opportunity for growth.”

Piascik uses the lab often and is experienced with all the tools there, which includes 3D printing, soldering, laser cutting, and more. To ensure safety, students have to earn badges to use any of the equipment.

With the tools available, “The lab can be used to make so many things,” said Piascik. Some creation possibilities include making circuits, phone cases, motor prototypes, laser cut puzzles, or embroidering on fabrics.

The lab first opened in 2020, right before the pandemic hit, “Which was good timing in the way we were able to help make some PPE supplies, that at the time was in short supply for health care,” said IDEA Lab manager, Michael Altis.

The lab is not only used for creation, but there are also engineering classes held there.

“The lab is the main space that us engineering students take our classes in, and it always proves to be extremely beneficial to learning,” said junior Luke Bellacini, majoring in both computer and electrical engineering.

Bellacini spends most of his time at the lab, whether that is in class, doing homework, working on projects, or even just for fun.

“Students have the opportunity to make whatever they can think of, I’m currently working on making an animatronic Lego hand with the tools available in the lab,” Bellacini said.

“It has also prepared me for the engineering work force, as I can now design, print, and apply theoretical knowledge to practical projects,” Piascik said.

The Lab’s page on the SHU website expands on the capabilities within the facility, encouraging students to experiment with the various equipment within the space.

“IDEA Lab is the space where dreams will come true, but you need to make it happen,” according to the page.

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