By Kyeland Jackson–
With finals fast approaching, U of L students are gathering their resources to finish the year on a good note. Some students, particularly engineers, are tasked to create an invention without the tools to do so. They may not know that FirstBuild, essentially a library of engineering equipment and services, is welcome for their use – for free.
First Build, a partnership between General Electric Appliances and Local Motors, opened the summer of last year. Attached to the engineering garage, FirstBuild allows for anyone 18 and older to enter the premises and use their equipment.
Wilberto Badillo, an employee, discussed the basic functionality of it. He explained that people often come to FirstBuild to work on projects and ideas, some in partnership with First Build. Some ideas are submitted online through an open community. Those ideas are voted upon and sometimes built, allowing for input and community investment.
The products and appliances made can sometimes be submitted for crowdfunding, and eventually endorsement. At GE, a warehouse may be tasked to build upwards of 700 appliances without any changes, he said. Here, we have the freedom to make changes and innovations that could be made into products later.
Justin Blair, a production development technician for FirstBuild, emphasized the importance of the building for students.
“I really wish we had something like this when I was in school,” Blair said. The building has an abundance of machines from 3D printers, to lasers and welding tools. “It’s a great opportunity to apply textbook knowledge into actual machines,” he said.
Students also have the opportunity to work for FirstBuild.
“We’re about to hire on about seven people, four are students from the university,” Blair said. The skills and knowledge they refine at First Build, he said, may help them be more efficient in future careers. FirstBuild has partnered with the university for projects before, and shares resources with students next door in the Engineering Garage.
Keren Callen is a senior mechanical engineering student, and discussed the usefulness of the facility. He and his group have been working on a product as part of their final since early in the year. One member cuts away at a refrigerator with power tools while others analyze models on laptops plugged into electrical sockets hanging from the ceiling. “Not enough people know about this place,” Callen said. “I love it here … it’s like a dream come true.”
FirstBuild operates Monday through Friday from 9am to 9pm and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 pm. It’s open to all students and citizens 18 and older who register, and is free to sign up.