BiG FAB LAB brings variety to Woodland Mall

Most students only go to the Woodland Mall to see movies, but many are unaware of the BiG Fab Lab. What was once a department store is now a fabrication lab filled with CNC machines, 3D Printers, laser cutters, electronics workstations, sewing machines and other creation tools. For $39 a month anyone can use their industrial machinery to work on personal projects or their next business idea. What makes the fabrication lab interesting is not just its high end equipment, but also its members. They are a mix of students, professionals and retirees that are hard to find anywhere else.

“It’s nice to have creative people around” says Jess Cowan, a professional who rents 200 square feet of space in the BiG Fab Lab to run her business as a seamstress. Cowan’s business, “Domenica’s Fine Fashions,” sells historical and fantasy clothing online, with a customer base as far away as Alaska. She initially chose to move from her home office to the BiG Fab Lab to help improve her work-life balance. However, since moving in she’s partnered with a jeweler and a photographer who are also based out of the BiG Fab Lab to help make her work really shine.

“I came to the Fab Lab because of the vinyl machine”, said Jason Thompson, a 2006 BGSU architecture alumnus. Today, Thompson pilots private jets for a living, but likes to use the BiG Fab Lab equipment to do fun projects he did not have the opportunity to do in school. What started with the desire to use a vinyl machine grew to include the use of many different machines. While being interviewed, he demonstrated using a laser cutter to engrave the image of the 1903 Wright Flyer onto a hunk of oak. He had just finished instructing the BiG Fab Lab’s newest member on the laser cutter’s use.

Kevin Hartman, a 1994 alumnus of The Ohio State University, professional computer programmer and newest member of the BiG Fab Lab joined to “Get the mind working”. His recent membership does not mean he is a rookie, however, as growing up on a farm taught him woodworking, and university education taught him electrical engineering. While he is the newest official member, he has been interested in the BiG Fab Lab since it was in its conceptual stages, and was present when the BiG Fab Lab founder Mark Bowlus pitched the idea to groups like the .Net meetups organized by Service Springs Corp. in Maumee, Ohio.

“I’m a maker at heart, I love to tinker,” Bowlus said, BiG Fab Lab founder and mechanical engineering graduate of The Ohio State University. Bowlus founded the lab in April 2015. He said one of his favorite projects was an RC Airplane that middle schoolers made was and supervised by local high schoolers. Later, the BiG Fab Lab reused the exercise for some visiting engineers of a nearby solar power company. The engineers loved it, and brainstormed with the high schooler Instructors to conceptualize a unmanned ariel vehicle that would fly over solar fields to inspect for panel damage. He says the BiG Fab Lab is expanding their programs to cover homeschooler groups as well.

BiG Fab Lab will be hosting a networking event featuring Lourdes University Professor Mark Christensen and fashion blogger Amy Christensen on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. Interested attendees may RSVP by emailing Rebecca Trumbull at [email protected]