The corridor connecting this building to Veale Center smells like wood. There’s a pizza vending machine. The outside of the building looks like a layered barcode.
There’s only one place on campus with those three characteristics: the Sears think[box]. One of the reasons I decided to attend Case Western Reserve University was think[box], and now that I’m here, I’ve met people who, for various reasons, want to use the space. Some know what they want to do while others just know they want to explore but don’t have the training or the ideas or the excuse to be there. I’m planning to go to think[box] once I get organized (the first year is hard, people), and I know that some First-Year SAGES classes will spend time in think[box] as well.
There’s a feeling, I think, that you must be some sort of engineering major to use think[box]. That’s false. Project teams that are entirely engineers are often less likely to succeed than teams with varied education and experience. Even if one’s goals for think[box] aren’t for a project, it’s really cool to watch something you’re making take shape.
In my opinion, spending at least a bit of time in think[box] is a must. I’ve heard people say, “I have no idea what to make,” “I don’t know how to use the tools,” and “I don’t have the time.”
Having no idea what to make isn’t uncommon. At my old high school, I faced a similar challenge with a 3D printer. I had no idea what to make that wouldn’t just be someone else’s design. Instead, I talked to some of my teachers and classmates to see if they had any ideas. The learning specialist challenged me to make a fidget spinner. There’s a feeling that one can’t make anything original anymore; all the new ideas are taken.
Don’t start with something new. Start with something that’s been done before. Try 3D printing someone else’s design from a site like Thingiverse.com or design and print a chess piece. Try laser-cutting a nameplate or a little sign that you can tape to your dorm’s wall.
The first step to making something is learning how to use the equipment, all seven stories of it. Most of the equipment on the third floor doesn’t require much training, and think[box] staff (look for green aprons) are extremely helpful. When I visited CWRU as a prospective student, I had no idea how to use any of the software. I asked one of the staff members for help and, with their assistance, was soon able to navigate CorelDRAW and laser-cut a little nameplate.
The fourth floor, which houses the wood and metal shops, requires training sessions to use. However, the think[box] website, easily accessible at thinkbox.case.edu, has a list of available tools and trainings for students. Once the digital section of training is complete, an in-person training session is scheduled to go over the functions of the tools in question. Once both trainings are complete, think[box] grants an ability badge marker for the tools.
Having the time to make something at think[box] is definitely a concern for students at CWRU. Any form of construction takes time, but I believe that think[box] is worth it. There’s something to be said for learning how to use machines like laser cutters, CNC (Computer Numerical Control) routers, 3D printers, metal saws, hand tools, embroidery machines and the new waterjet cutter.
Think[box] is a fantastic opportunity to develop skills, and frankly, a great place to learn to use technologies that have revolutionized prototyping and design.