The University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) has opened a high-tech research laboratory for its Computer Science Department in response to the growing demand for skilled professionals in the technology industry. Known as the Orion Lab, this facility provides students, faculty, and staff with access to state-of-the-art tools and equipment, including 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters and engravers, computing, cyber security, and fabrication equipment. The lab aims to provide students with hands-on experience and to equip them with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the competitive job market.
According to Joshua Smith, a UIS computer science instructor and director of the lab, the lab's experiential learning environment can help students develop problem-solving skills, creativity, and critical thinking skills. The Orion Lab has quickly become a hub of activity since its opening in January, attracting students from various disciplines eager to experiment with the cutting-edge tools and equipment on offer.
The Orion Lab has also become a hub for entrepreneurial opportunities for students. Smith says the purpose of the lab is to give students the opportunity to develop and test their own product ideas. "This can be a valuable experience for students interested in entrepreneurship and may help them gain practical experience in product development, marketing, and other business-related skills," he says.
Logan Buchele, a sophomore Information Systems Security major, is one of the many students who frequents the lab. Buchele has used the lab to build a hydroponics tower that can grow plants in a limited footprint, a model airplane, an arcade machine, and a gaming console. Buchele says, "the lab has given me hands-on experience with technology, which I wouldn't have been able to get from traditional classroom learning alone. Being able to actually build and program things has given me a deeper understanding of how these systems work, as well as the challenges involved in developing them."
The Orion Lab was funded by the Computer Science Department, with help from UIS Facilities and Services and fundraising efforts. The lab plans to add a Cyber Warfare Range, additional 3D printers, high-end computing workstations, and electronics workbenches in the next few months. The lab's success is expected to continue as technology continues to evolve and students continue to benefit from its cutting-edge resources.