I recently went to visit Autodesk’s new facility that is built on a pier in San Francisco. They call it their Pier 9 Workshop. For somebody who likes to build stuff (like me), it’s like being a kid in a candy store. The various labs within the workshop include a digital fabrication lab, woodworking and metalworking shops, an electronics workshop, a commercial test kitchen (shown below), and an industrial sewing center. It reminded me a little of the various workshops we had in high school, just taken up several orders of magnitude.
One of the key goals for the facility is to gain a better understanding of what its customers are trying to accomplish. For example, if a customer wants to build a particular product, the Autodesk engineers can literary build that product in the workshop, and then understand the customer’s pains (and hopefully alleviate those pains using its software). It’s a pretty expensive bet, as the equipment in the workshops is all state of the art, but the early returns are quite positive.
The workshop is primarily open to employees and what Autodesk calls “artists-in-residence.” But the ideas can come from anywhere. To that end, employees can take classes in the workshop so they can learn how to use all the equipment (just like high school!). I was particularly impressed with the 3D printing lab and the laser cutting and printing capabilities (see the image).
And the fun goes right to the top. This go-cart was designed and built by Autodesk’s CEO, Carl Bass. He designed it using the company’s Fusion 360 software. It’s great that the CEO is so hands on and actually walks the walk.
I have a few ideas of my own that I’d like to create. I’m hoping the Autodesk folks will let me loose in their workshop.
@ Debera Harward, these very creative skills of students need to be utilized. Cost definitely is an issue here but Governments or schools could launch a community funding campaign to arrange the funds needed. It isn't difficult because a bunch of schools could afford such a facility on alternate days. It will save them the cost of the equipment and all they would need to do will be the rental.
@ 78RPM, you are absolutely right. It seems like a modern version of teach the students to fish rather than giving them the fish. Such a facility could open new horizons for students who could have hands-on experience on equipment and put their innovative imaginations to work. What would be the point of teaching students the woodwork which is already done more by machines than humans?
I agree a.saji, but the equipment involved here is state of the art, having very costly equipment in the workshops. It costs them a lot of money even to make a small prototype, so they cannot afford experiments by students without any return. Perhaps a separate small setup with cheap and manageable equipment can be designed as a learning workshop for students.
Daniyal, no doubt affordability can be an issue but this will help the students in a variety of ways. I have met a lot of students who are very creative and enthusiastic but they are unable to utilize there creativity this will not only help them to utilize their creativity but will also enhance their learning and analytical skills it will be a very good exposure for them .
@Ali: Indeed it will be too costly for students but I feel there should be some sort of a way or a sponsor to fund these things for students. At least a bank in a long term re-payment plan too would be ideal.
Very right 78RPM. This facility if open for students could enhance their learning skills, they would be able to practically implement their new and unique ideas in shape of products, and maybe create something very useful in the process. But then again, like Richard said, it's going to be quite expensive, and i don't think the high school students would be able to afford it.
This seems like a twist on 3M's old idea of "10% time" -- which allowed employees to work on anything they wanted. 3M executives believed the company benefitted -- Post-It Notes were invented by a 3M employee who wanted to make removable notes for his church hymnal.
I hope Autodesk opens the facility to high school students and teachers. I recently ran into a high school teacher who teaches engineering classes. At the Maker Faire two of his students, a girl and a boy, were demonstrating their Arduino robots. He tells his peers that he doesn't want to teach woodworking; he wants to teach kids to design the machines that do the woodworking. This facility could do a lot to update education to the 21st century.
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