Hackerspace Tours: Pasadena City College

Pasadena City College is putting together an amazing combination of tools, education techniques, and innovative projects pinning them on the map as one of the best hackerspaces in the Southern California area. Led by [Deborah Bird], the Director of the Design Technology Pathway at PCC, and Sandy Lee the DTP Faculty Chair, this Fab Lab provides students with cutting-edge workshops and internships that will define future jobs.

We were invited to the space by Joan Horvath, the VP of Business Development over at a local 3D printing store called Deezmaker, after meeting her at an Arduino electronics class taught by a young, talented maker named [Quin]. When we arrived, we were greeted by several students who were working on a 3D printed portable map for the blind which was created for an elementary school nearby. The team behind the design attempted to step out of the visual world and into unfamiliar unsighted territory. One of the members gave us a tour of the space showing us the tools and resources they had made available to PCC students. A variety of 3D printers, ventilators, CNC machines, laser cutters, metal lathes, and even a chainsaw were found inside.

After checking out the machines, Deborah Bird sat down with us for an interview to discuss the vision that PCC has for this innovative technology program. The focus, as she says, is centered around design and fabrication methods that help to prepare the students for their upcoming careers. The model is based on communication, collaboration, and team work through a series of project-based learning experiences. The technology is not taught as a standalone element, but rather an integral part of the design and fabrication process.

Backgrounds of the students range from incoming high school students, as well as the PCC engineering club and the machine shop department. About 45% of the members are Hispanic, and a lot of the students are first time college students. A good amount of the people coming in also have major financial obstacles, so it’s nice to see PCC attempting to solve those problems and cater to the students in a very personal way. In addition to allowing college members to utilize the resources, community access to the Fab Lab is something that they look to include in the future.

The funding model is based on a series of grants that have been received from the state and federal levels. A very small amount of money was given to the Fab Lab three years prior through an Innovation Fund at PCC which started the process of gathering the necessary tools. This bought them their very first laser cutter. They have also received a Title V grant because of the University’s commitment to serving the local Hispanic community. A lot of wraparound services are provided through this grant including tutoring, mentoring, a college success course, priority enrollment, lab facilities and the technology found in the Fab Lab. An advanced manufacturing grant and the Career Pathways Trust grant for information communication technology was also awarded to PCC providing them funding for the next 4-5 years.

It was pleasure visiting the Fab Lab, and we were able to capture some awesome photos which can be viewed below. All of the following pictures were taken by Jasmine Brackett (Hackaday’s Community Manager) during the tour:


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5 thoughts on “Hackerspace Tours: Pasadena City College

  1. Only in Cali would they have to get “ventilators” for their laser cutters. From the look of them I’d say they functioned way beyond what a HEPPA filtration system does.
    If they need some more space I’d be glad to take one of their lathes off their hands!

      1. Evacuating the smoke from the laser is pretty much required, or just count on continually cleaning/replacing mirrors. They had to go with those very expensive “ventilators” that evacuate and clean the air before discharging it in the same room as the laser because people outside the building were complaining about the smell when they just vented the smoke outside.
        I’ve had someone that was walking down the street while I was painting the house trim stop, come into my yard, then complain they could smell the oil-based paint (it’s more durable for trim) when they got a few feet away from my freshly painted trim.
        I could just imagine some passerby stoping and sticking their nose in the exhaust and complaining. ;-)

        1. The school probably should have piped the fumes into the sanitary water vents. They have a smell all their own you know? A smell that likely would have only been improved by any burning odor. I have never seen anyone intentionally sniff a soil stack. Although in California who knows?

          As far as people complaining about the smell of you painting your house goes I suppose you could always ask them if they’d like to buy you a new house. Because if you do not maintain your house you’re going to need one, sooner, rather than later.

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