Meet: The Institute of Making

Meet: The Institute of Making

Tucked away on University College London’s main campus in Bloomsbury is the Institute of Making, the university’s in-house makerspace and materials library.

Founded in 2013 by academics at UCL, the goal of the Institute of Making is to provide a place where students and staff can get hands-on experience with tools of all kinds – from shop tools to digital fabrication machines to pottery wheels and sewing machines.

A group of women standing around a worktable covered in woodworking tools. They are all wearing black aprons.

Participants at a wood-working class at the Institute of Making. Photo by the Institute of Making

Concerned about the lack of practical skills that were being taught on engineering courses at the university, founders of the Institute of Making set out to create a makerspace that would not only fill this gap for engineering students but also enable students and researchers from across the university to get free access to high-quality tools for creating anything from product prototypes to lab equipment to coursework assignments to Christmas gifts.

The Institute contains a wood-working and metal-working machine shop, a digital fabrication space, and a large multi-purpose area for ceramics, textiles, and crafting. On any particular day you might find students from the engineering school next door rubbing shoulders with students from the schools of architecture and fine art, while researchers work on designing new accessibility devices or sustainable production materials.

Panoramic image of a tidy wood- and metal-working workshop.

A panorama of the Institute of Making’s workshop space. Photo by the Institute of Making

Fittingly for a university makerspace they have a strong focus on research: the Institute manages a busy research grants programme and sometimes hosts in-house PhD students, while the on-site materials library houses hundreds of material samples that are available for material science researchers and people who are just curious about finding out more about the stuff our world is made out of.

A laughing woman holds up an A1-sized black and white lino print. The glass wall behind her is lined with rows of small bottles containing different materials. In front of her a group of students are cutting out their own lino blocks for printing.

A lino printing workshop taking place in front of the materials library. Photo by the Institute of Making

They also have a bustling programme of events and public outreach activities. This includes “masterclass” workshops taught by expert practitioners, lunchtime making sessions, and themed public open days aimed at extending access to people in the local community – my favourite was the slime-making open day.

A young woman stretching out a large piece of white slime.

Slime open day at the Institute of Making. Photo by the Institute of Making

Membership to the Institute of Making is only available for students and staff at UCL, but membership is free and includes unlimited machine time and tool inductions. There are also technicians available to provide help and advice. The makerspace is usually open Tuesday-Friday during term time, with late opening on Wednesdays. Visit their website if you’re interested in joining.

Header image: A masterclass taking place outside the Institute of Making. Photo by the Institute of Making.