Monday, May 7, 2018

Meet Mark Liu: EnVision Maker Studio lab manager

By Kritin Karkare
Mark Liu in the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio
First the EnVision Arts and Engineering Maker Studio doubled in size, and now it’s expanding its full time staff to better support students. Undergraduate engineering and visual arts students using the space to build, tinker and design projects are in for a treat: Mark Liu joined the studio as the new lab manager in April. He’ll be providing students with support as they work on projects requiring tools like laser cutters, 3D printers, soldering irons and more.

EnVision supports the Jacobs School of Engineering’s Experience Engineering Initiative to ensure all students have a hands-on or experiential engineering course or lab every year — starting freshman year. There are engineering and visual arts courses held in EnVision’s classroom space, and students are able to use the studio for class assignments or projects of their own on weekdays from 9 am to 8 pm. 

Liu will help students with questions about the tools available in the studio, provide input and guidance when requested, and serve as a resource to the more than 1,000 students who use the studio each quarter.

Get to know Mark in this Q&A, edited for clarity.

Q: You have a background in mechanical engineering. What drew you to that?

ML: I always liked building stuff-- as a kid I played with Legos, built little robots, and have done FIRST robotics competitions for the last 10 years of my life as a student and then mentor. FIRST Robotics, which organizes youth robotics competitions around the world, is where I got experience running a lab, since I’m a mentor and run a FIRST team. I helped build the machine shop the team uses, and help the students use the tools.

Q: Is that what you’ll be doing at EnVision?

ML: I’ll be helping Jesse DeWald (EnVision Maker Studio Staff Director) with keeping everything running. In particular, I’ll be working with our students, staff and faculty to ensure that all of our classes have everything they need to be successful.

Q: How many different tools and technologies can students use at EnVision?

ML: We have 15 3D printers, laser cutters, CO2 laser cutters, a vacuum-former, and a printed circuit board oven. There are soldering irons, microscopes, a drill press, 10 computers with software for analysis and design including: CAD, MatLab, Adobe Suite and more. There’s also a lot of bench space so students will come in here to work on homework or projects and even hold meetings. It’s a great general workspace for both engineers and artists.

Q: What do you like to do outside of the EnVision studio?

ML: I’m into BattleBots and aerial photography with drones and quad copters. Two years ago Battle Bots was new to me but some friends had been doing it and I decided to join them. The team that I joined had been doing it for 15 years. Battle Bots are basically robots that can be remotely controlled and have weapons to fight other robots in big televised competitions.

 And way back when I was a freshman in high school I took a video film class as an elective for art since I can’t draw for my life. I took the video class because a few of my friends were in it, but I picked up photography editing and really liked it. So now I enjoy drones and aerial photography. That’s part of the reason why I think it’s cool that arts students can use EnVision as well.

Q: What are you most excited to work on?

ML: I’m excited to expand the space. Over the summer, we’re going to knock one wall down to push into the room next door so we can rearrange the studio portion. We’re also trying to establish a components store—a lot of students come in and need a resistor or capacitor, and now I have to say I’m sorry you have to go find that. So we’d like to start a store that has arduinos and resistors and small components for students. That’s a project we’re working on.

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