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Students welding
October 5, 2018

Hands-on projects help students learn shop skills at TEAM Lab workshops

Written By: Sam Million-Weaver

The bottom floor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Engineering Centers Building is a veritable tinkerer’s paradise. Home to the College of Engineering Technical Education and Manufacturing (TEAM) Lab, the facility encompasses almost 14,000 square feet filled with lathes, grinders, band saws, welding equipment, sheet metal forming machines and a whole host of other tools that enable engineering students to transform their ideas into real-world objects.

Although the TEAM Lab offers several trainings throughout the year—required to use its fabrication equipment without supervision—students now also have the chance to gain familiarity with some of the tools in the facility during a new series of introductory workshops.

At the workshops, students from any major in the college can come to the TEAM Lab, learn some new basic skills, and make a project to take home.

“Not everyone grew up making things or working in a shop,” says TEAM Lab instrument maker Paul Kijak. “We want students to get comfortable using the equipment and to realize that the resources are here.”

During an evening workshop co-sponsored by the UW-Madison Chapter of the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) on Oct. 3, 2018, eight students did just that.

“Workshops are great for women who want to learn how to use tools, but might not feel comfortable coming into the shop alone,” says Chrissy Kujawa, a junior majoring in biomedical engineering and the SWE vice president of finance.

Each participant chose one of three projects: a bent sheet-metal bookend in the shape of an elephant, a wooden geometric kitchen rack, or a welded miniature model of the iconic Memorial Union sunburst Terrace chair.

Abby Rahn, a sophomore majoring in civil engineering, opted to try her hand at welding.

“I had soldered before, but I never would have used an arc welder unless I came tonight,” says Rahn.

Gaining experience with and understanding of such fabrication techniques can help students stand out when they go on the job market.

“Employers like to see that you know how to do things outside the classroom,” says Emily Thierry, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering who has worked for the TEAM Lab as a technician since spring 2018.

At the end of the night, once the sawdust settled and the arc-welders cooled, the women headed home with their projects. But more importantly, they also took along some new skills and self-confidence.

“We hope these workshops can be a first step for students to start using their creativity to make things,” says Kijak.

Click through the slideshow below to see more photos from the event. For information on upcoming workshops, trainings and events at the TEAM Lab, visit: