University of Illinois Springfield, in collaboration with Innovate Springfield, its dynamic business incubator in downtown Springfield, is creating a new high-tech lab and class to teach high school students how to turn their innovative product ideas into reality.
A $10,000 grant from the Horace Mann Educators Foundation will play a pivotal role in equipping the high-tech lab with 10 3D printers and aiding in the realization of ongoing and upcoming initiatives. This includes the establishment of a 3D manufacturing lab and the introduction of a rapid prototyping course for high school students.
Starting in August, students at the Capital Area Career Center (CACC), will be able to enroll in a Rapid Prototyping using Edge-Tech class taught by UIS Computer Science Instructor Joshua Smith. The establishment of the high-tech lab, located downtown in the Innovate Springfield building, aims to provide a central hub for innovation, learning and collaboration.
The class will offer CACC students the chance to work with 3D printers, CNC machines, laser cutters and other cutting-edge equipment to turn their product prototypes into tangible objects, fostering originality, invention, skill development and the opportunity to earn college credit through Lincoln Land Community College.
Ben Hage, director of Innovate Springfield, expressed optimism about the potential of this partnership.
“Innovate Springfield, as the downtown business incubator and a key player in the regional entrepreneurial ecosystem, is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between academia and real-world application,” Hage said. “This collaboration between UIS, Innovate Springfield and CACC strengthens our commitment to community development and education, creating a pathway for local students to explore exciting possibilities within STEM fields.”
The collaboration builds on the success of UIS' Orion Lab, launched on campus in early 2023. Named after the university's mascot, the Orion Lab has been a focal point for experiential learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. With an emphasis on networking, mentorship and industry engagement, Smith said, “the Orion Lab provides UIS students with invaluable opportunities and experiences.”
According to Smith, the partnership's vision goes beyond hardware, aiming to provide mentorship and real-world insights to students participating in the Rapid Prototyping using Edge-Tech course. By merging the resources and expertise of UIS and Innovate Springfield, the collaboration seeks to prepare the next generation of innovators and problem-solvers.
“As this high-tech lab opens its doors, we hope it will signify a new era in education, where students can bring their ideas to life and lay the foundation for a future marked by technological advancements and creativity,” Smith said.
About Innovate Springfield
Innovate Springfield, located at 15 S. Old State Capitol Plaza, is the University of Illinois Springfield’s business incubator. It aims to accelerate the growth of startups and established businesses, provide a collaborative workspace and foster a vibrant entrepreneurial community. Innovate Springfield currently supports 80 member companies that have added more than 280 jobs to the local economy.