A Design For the Future

In Room 341 of Zurn Science Center, among the voltage meters, 3D printers, aerial drones and spools of wire, there are two olive drab cots, and they tell you almost all you need to know about GUBotDev. 

“We do all-nighters here,” said Nick Devine, a graduate student from Harrisburg who is the group’s chief operations officer. “Your 3D print could take six to seven hours to finish, so why go home? Set up, sleep, start again.”

Like the 3D printers that have become a trademark of the group, GUBotDev never stops. 

A steady flow of gadgets emerge from GUBotDev’s combination laboratory and factory in Zurn. But the most valuable product their nearly three dozen members create is innovation.

Getting GUBotDev Started

The group began in 2015 with a half-dozen computer science majors who assembled to work on a self-propelled robot called Clementine. 

“I saw a pile of fried electronics and circuit boards,” Devine remembered. “The group members were all software guys and they didn’t know how to hook things up. Jeremy Korte, who was also an electrical engineering major, and I got involved. We left the programming to the computer science majors and together, we built things.”

Gannon Drone

Drones built by GUBotDev

The composition of GUBotDev soon changed to incorporate more members from various and unexpected disciplines. “I saw these guys flying drones and I thought that was cool. I met all my friends in GUBotDev,” said member and criminal justice major Bill Green.

Creators of Innovation

GUBotDev came into its own with a signature project, a 10-foot-tall 3D printer that they believe to be “among the three biggest filament printers in the world.”

The project arose from drawings on the back of a napkin in Amman, Jordan where Steven Rowland, Devine and Korte were teaching a robotics workshop. Forty-five days later and the three had designed and made parts for the delta-style filament printer.

“Someone suggested that we build something big enough to print ourselves, and after all the joking, we decided that we had to build it,” Korte said.

Manufacturing Day

GUBotDev students present at Erie’s Manufacturing Day.

The finished printer is no joke. To build it, the GUBotDev team machined all the blocks, plates and wheels in Gannon’s mechanical engineering lab and assembled the electronics entirely from scratch.

Using Robotics for Service

The group has taken 3D printing to heart, and into the community. In July, GUBotDev conducted a six-week camp for 50 Erie County high school students from the Upward Bound program, where they built inexpensive 3D printers using a curriculum and parts designed by Gannon students. 

GUBotDev is also conducting research with Erie’s Purple Martin Conservation Association in collaboration with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Presque Isle State Park. GUBotDev designed technology to measure the birds’ heat index in Presque Isle Park’s reedy lagoons to help estimate their population.

“Supporting the research of students and faculty has been one of our goals, and it’s great to have a service aspect, too– it’s growing all the time,” said Mark Blair, instructor of computer science and adviser to GUBotDev.

GUBot Dev

View a video about the GUBotDev team.

Designing Our Economic Future

“An organization like this should spell danger for big corporations,” said Blair. “We are disruptors. When you have a group like ours that uses open-source technology, that changes things. We’ll not only show you how much our stuff costs to make, we’ll show you how to make it. In that way, we create more than just a product. We create an entirely new economic commodity: trust.”

A lot of economists and futurists point to this model as a path for American manufacturing to restore its global preeminence; and GUBotDev might be prototyping the future of the industry.

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