Diving into The Deep

How I became an MIT maker
SEP 2019
Duncan
O.
Mechanical Engineering

Ever since high school, I have been a maker to my core. I spent almost all my free time in an art room and my evenings were often spent wrenching on old motorcycles. One of the biggest threats to my academic success during undergrad was spending too much time on Instructables (an online source for do-it-yourself projects), reading articles by Make magazine, and 3D printing miscellaneous household items. As an undergrad, I only had a few opportunities to learn about fabrication for my various robotics and heat transfer projects, and my resources were often limited. The tools at my disposal were manual machines or lower quality equipment, and the shop hours rarely fit my schedule. More importantly, I never had a mentor to teach me how to build and design the things that I had imagined. I never had the chance to push myself as a maker, but everything changed when I got to MIT. 

I was hired on for the summer to do research on a grant that had not yet received funding — I needed to make many expensive parts and my budget was $0. Some shops were closed for the summer, some had odd hours, and others were inside access only. Then I found The Deep

The Deep is MIT’s newest machine shop and has all of the best tools and latest equipment. The Deep is a perfect resource regardless of whether you are doing an art project, an architectural design, or an engineering prototype. Unlike most makerspaces, there is a ton of support to help the members of the shop. This is in part because the shop operates under a hybrid leadership model; the big honchos upstairs do the paperwork, maintain the equipment, and organize the place, while volunteer mentors keep the shop doors open, teach people how to use the tools, and offer guidance on new projects.  The people around are the best part of the shop. The Deep maintains values of respectfulness and collaboration, which makes the shop feel far more welcoming than any other I have been to. 

When I walked in for the first time, my eyes were gleaming at all the shiny new tools and properly labeled drawers. Even the floors were clean! I knew right away that this was no ordinary shop. Day after day, I kept returning to the shop to make parts for my lab. I was running the laser cutter, the 3D printers, and I was on one of the CNC machines (a programmable machine used to carve away metal parts) almost every afternoon. I began signing up for trainings in the evenings; I learned how to weld, got set up for full 3 axis CNC work, and I ran a waterjet for the first time.


You can make almost anything with the tools available in The Deep.

In just a few weeks, I became a pro-level user of several machines in the shop. Other members in the shop started asking me about my work and wanted guidance on how to make their own projects. I was happy to help and always felt like I learned something from their projects as well as my own. Soon after, one of the Deep shop managers came to me and said, “We would love you to be a shop mentor.” Almost overnight I had become an MIT maker

Since becoming a mentor, I have helped members laser cut puzzles, design giant metal hoops with lights, machine medical device parts out of Teflon, and I have even worked on a CNC training for future users at the shop. In my own time, I have made a thermal press for plastic bonding research, a vacuum chuck for my mini-mill, and even a ukulele hanger for my office. Becoming an avid maker on campus has saved my lab thousands of dollars and has easily been one of the most fulfilling things I have done since arriving at MIT.


Clockwise: A ukulele hanger for the office, a puzzle piece made by a shop user, the machine shop logo, and a CNC milling machine.

If you have any interest in learning how to make things and are searching for a welcoming and creative community, please come and dive into The Deep with us!
 

The Deep is MIT’s latest machine shop and offers trainings and support for all makers in the MIT community. View their schedule of open hours and trainings.