Looking for somewhere to build a guitar from scratch? Configure components for a low-Earth orbit satellite? Engrave a raw steak with a laser cutter? There’s a spot on campus where you can do all that and more.
Located within the School of Engineering, the Brown Design Workshop (BDW) is a makerspace where students not only push the boundaries of what they can dream up, but what they can create. The nearly 10,000 square-foot space boasts a diverse array of tools and machines, including woodworking tools, laser cutters, sewing machines, soldering irons, 3D printers, and more.
“People might come into this space and see the car team working on their chassis, see students from the biomedical engineering capstone course working on a heart-monitoring device. They might see someone from the community working on a giant speaker cabinet: just a whole range of projects that embody people’s ideas,” says Chris Bull ’79 ScM’86 PhD’06, director of the Brown Design Workshop.
A physical embodiment of the Brown ethos
The BDW has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 2014, when it was no more than a pair of cramped rooms with a borrowed laser cutter, some secondhand woodworking tools, and a few 3D printers. Quickly, more and more students started gathering in the space, collaborating with one another to turn their ideas into reality. Thanks in part to support from School of Engineering and Brown Annual Fund donors, the makerspace has grown into an emblem of the Brown ethos—a place where students have the freedom to explore, collaborate, imagine, and create.
“It’s a space where people are really kind to each other, kind to themselves, and kind to the things they’re creating. Everyone loves to come here to work, teach, and learn from each other—to create something together. It’s the first time in my life I’ve seen it to this degree,” says Arjun Khurana ’25.
Unlike many makerspaces at other institutions, which restrict use to students in certain degree programs or classes, the BDW opens its doors to everyone. Students from all walks of life, backgrounds, concentrations, and interests use the space alongside staff, faculty, and even those from the local community.
“The Brown Design Workshop is one of the most welcoming and inclusive spaces that I've ever worked in, but also just been in,” says Cecilia Valenzuela ’25. “I had no access to resources like this before coming to Brown. Being here has taught me to advocate for people like me who aren’t traditionally in these spaces. It’s something I will continue to do and keep in mind wherever I go, especially as an engineer.”