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Students Bring Innovation to Life in New UMaker Organization

UMaker, cofounded in the Spring of 2018, is a new multidisciplinary student organization focused on robotics, 3D printing, outreach, and innovation. The organization allows University of Miami (UM) students to gain experience by attending and delivering workshops, where they are constantly working closely together with people of similar ambitions, creating an environment where students can freely express their ideas and thoughts and stimulate a creative space.

The student organization, one of almost 300 on campus, started off as a simple organization focused solely on robotics-based projects. “During the 2017 fall semester I searched for a robotics organization in UM and found nothing available to undergraduate students,” explains Sebastian Gallo (BSBE ’19), president of UMaker. “I was shocked by what I found and decided to do something about it.”

Gallo proceeded to speak to classmates in the College of Engineering (CoE) about starting an organization focused on robotics, and eventually cofounded UMaker with the help of Andrew Escobar (BSBE ’19) and Marco Fernandez (BSME ’21).

Over the span of a few months, the organization has become more than a robotics-based organization. UMaker blends robotics, Computer-Aided-Design (CAD), 3D printing, and microcomputers to guide people who have an idea but do not know where to begin. Led by Fernandez, UMaker also holds workshops at middle and high schools as well as at the university level to teach the basics of these programs.

“During the Spring semester, as part of a UM event, I taught grade school children the basics of assembling an Arduino board, why there must be positive and negative connections, as well as how to write simple code to control pre-programmed movements,” says Gallo. “After a brief lesson, I supervised the children as they assembled a robotic arm and input a line of code required for movement. It was very nice to see children taking interest in science-related fields at such a young age. This event set the tone for UMaker to be an organization also focused on outreach.”

This summer, UMaker has been working on building a robotic arm that can follow pre-programmed sign language as well as mimicking individual hand movement. The organization has designed and 3D printed the individual parts using the MakerBots provided by the UM College of Engineering-Johnson & Johnson 3D Printing Center of Excellence Collaborative Laboratory.

“The robotic arm has become a learning and outreach tool for the students,” says Diana Arboleda, senior lecturer in the CoE’s Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering and faculty advisor for UMaker. “It is also going to make an appearance at the Burningman festival in Black Rock Dessert, Nevada during Labor Day weekend.”

The Burningman festival – a temporary metropolis dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance – is held annually, influenced by ten main principles: radical inclusion, self-reliance, and self-expression, as well as community cooperation, civic responsibility, gifting, decommodification, participation, immediacy, and leaving no trace. Each year, the festival is governed by a different theme that guides the ticket artwork, events, and artwork on playa. This year’s theme is “I, robot,” fitting perfectly with UMaker’s multidisciplinary focus on robotics.

Even with their rapid growth as a new student organization, UMaker has even larger ambitions for the current academic year. “We plan to explore a project like self-driving cars, delivery drones, or submarines to measure toxicity levels in water,” Gallo says. “We also will continue conducting outreach in hopes of expanding to communities of underserved students in Miami as well as hosting events in UM aimed at increasing diversity.”

“UMaker gives students the opportunities to pursue projects that they are passionate about and collaborate with other students who are just as passionate,” says Escobar. “Through these opportunities, UMaker has allowed us to get out of our comfort zone and advocate for something we find important: the pursuit of discovery through creation.”

To learn more about UMaker and the available opportunities for engineering students, contact Gallo at sag222@miami.edu.

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