November 8th, 2011 Minutes - Operations Committee

Champaign Urbana Community Fab Lab
1301 South Goodwin Avenue Urbana, IL 61801

Business/Operation Committee Meeting
Tuesday November 8, 2011 @ 5:30 PM

K Heller, M Mane, D Rose, L Scharf, L Semeraro, W Street, M Watson


The CUCFL will be very busy with community outreach beginning next year.  We have received the following award, and will be developing plans and strategies for implementation over the next 6 weeks.  If you are interested in being more involved or know someone who is, please contact the lab! Taking advantage of the committee structure of the CUCFL, we would welcome inputs from the curriculum committee for lesson plans, lab to lab communication with CUCFL and the mini-labs from the information technology committee, and student sponsorship strategies from the friends committee, for example.

From the Community Informatics release:

"The Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab (CUCFL; has received funding from the Community Informatics Initiative to create three mini-labs that can be used off-site, in locations that have a computer, monitor, and Internet access. (The Fab Lab itself is located in Urbana at 1301 South Goodwin Avenue [Art Annex 2].) One of the primary goals of the Fab Lab movement is to develop the skills needed to use digital tools and principles creatively. Each mini-lab would consist of about $1600 in materials and equipment* to be housed at a public library, community center or school. These items do not require much space, and they can serve as “spokes” with the Fab Lab itself as the “hub.” Staff of the Fab Lab is available to train people to use the equipment. Further, the CUCFL would design and construct some kits that would integrate the materials and capabilities of the mini-labs with the greater capabilities of the main Lab; these kits have lessons associated with them, in basic electronics, for example. TheCUCFL is committed to assessing the impact and use of the mini labs, so will ask partners to assist with some data collection at the sites, following appropriate research protocols (included in the training.)"

*Equipment includes a small vinyl cutter, speakerphone, webcam, and electronics kit.


A. Electronics and Computers Hack Sessions (Prairie Ohm Resistance)

We would like to see more activity in the electronics lab, and propose that on Thursdays at 7:00 pm  (approximately one or more times a month) we hold an open session for people to tinker, solder, hack, destroy and rebuild/repurpose electronic stuff.  Activity examples might include building wireless mesh networks with old routers (along the lines of the fabfi project), or making sensors (based upon fab academy designs, which could feed into a network such as pachube), machine and robot building, electronic musical instrumentation, programming and building Arduino boards, et cetera.  Luke has assembled a Google Document which enumerates a number of activities which could be addressed.

We would also use this as an additional mechanism to bring new volunteers into the lab. Announcement of monthly meetings would be placed in community calendars (News Gazette, Daily Illini, et cetera), as well as through social networks of existing volunteers. New users who enjoy the monthly open house will have the opportunity to become a part of our volunteer base.

We will use the experience gained during our open houses and open lab times to further refine kits under development for the Fab Lab to Lab Fab project outlined above.

B. Blue Platter Workshops

Given the success of the "Blue Platter" workshops held on repeating Saturdays last October, we will also promote those activities that do not necessarily involve the electronics room.  The laser and vinyl cutters remain our most used tools, and provide a quick and satisfying introduction to the techniques of digital fabrication.  Kat suggested that she hold a chalk graffiti workshop, where stencils are made in the lab, and then chalked in the field in appropriate spaces.  Other suggestions included "T" shirt designs, stickers, patches and other wearables.  Mobiles and toys were also suggested as topics around which a Saturday workshop could be themed.  A Google Document or equivalent might also be assembled to coordinate proposed topics as has been done with the electronics room above.

Possible workshop slogans:

Join the Prairie Ohm Resistance
Turn On - Tune In - Drop By Thursday evenings 7-9 PM

Blue Platter Special

varies according to topic


As we have now been officially open for about a year, and it has become apparent that the lab needs to adopt an easily comprehensible user structure for continued sustainability.  Our committee came up with a few of the following suggestions for continued discussion:

A. Usage Levels

Miscellaneous Income (Banner Code 302300)
$10 per month, or $1 per visit user contribution for using the computer resources in the lab. 

CAD lab usage (Banner Code 141451)
$10 per student, or a group rate (to be determined) for projects which typically involve a group of volunteers teaching an educational group how to design and make a key ring or equivalent with the laser or vinyl cutter.

Shop Materials (Banner Code 121900)
The lab maintains an inventory of laserable material available for purchase at or near cost for educational use.  Cardboard and scraps from previous users can be recycled free of charge, and is encouraged.

Accounts Receivable General(Banner Code 53100)
Currently the lab collects $1 for every 5 minutes of laser cutter usage.  This is a comparable charge as found in nearby student labs at the UI.  This money will ultimately be used to obtain a replacement laser tube, which typically has a working life of 3000 hours.

The lab is reviewing suggestions for equipment usage on other tools including the vinyl cutter, mini mill, and 3D printer

IT Supplies(Banner Code 121300)
Lauren has prepared an inventory and price schedule for the electronics room.  To date, only the fab academy students have made use of the materials available.  With the introduction of kits to be developed in the Fab Lab to Lab Fab project, an inventory of kit types will be assembled and packaged, and made available for purchase by users of the lab.

The above is not meant to be exhaustive or binding, and suggestions and refinements are encouraged as we move forward.


Discussion of introductory tours hosted by the lab, and suggested volunteering levels needed to support these efforts.  Suggested limitations of group size such that users may accomplish simple projects in 1 to 2 hour time frame.  Suggested support levels per user or group to help sustain the lab.

In the ensuing discussion, it was the general sentiment of the assembled that a community group size worked best when limited to about one dozen users more or less;

That 1 volunteer was needed for between 3 to 5 users, depending upon factors such as age and experience;

And that youth less that 10 years of age more or less should be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

VI. Fab Academy Activities

Mercedes will be participating in a "boot camp" at the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry Fab Lab next month.  She anticipated an open house at some point in the program, where local users of the CUCFL would have the opportunity to tour the lab at the museum, and meet the workshop participants.  Tentative dates are early December of this year, contact Mercedes for details, additional information at

Meeting lasted about an hour