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Jake Dvorak, director of the Makers Lab.

Staff Spotlight: Jake Dvorak Directs the Maker Lab

PhD student Jake Dvorak is the first director of the MABE department’s Maker Lab in the Dougherty Engineering Building. He also works with Professor Tony Schmitz in the Machine Tool Research Center.

“Generally, I help make things that are hard to make,” said Dvorak. “Come see me for manufacturing specialized ‘stuff.’ That could be 3D printing, machining, design for manufacturability, material selection—the list goes on. The Maker Lab and I are meant to be a resource at your disposal.”

Dvorak works directly with students and research groups on their projects.

“I rarely turn down a project unless it’s outright impossible,” he said. “Even if it’s something I’ve never done before. I take these as a learning opportunity for the both of us.”

Challenges can include cutting millimeter-wide slots in graphite, machining acrylic in a way that keeps it clear, or 3D-printing massive parts that take a week to finish.

“This is necessary as research inherently requires weird parts to be made,” said Dvorak, who works diligently towards growing the scope and capabilities of the Maker Lab.

“There is a strong demand for more specialized equipment for in house work with 3D printing and machining,” he said. “Eventually, I want to have a full team to help support UT and its advanced manufacturing needs. We’re also hoping to have more offerings for students interested in training and manufacturing education.”

Tennessee native Dvorak built his skillset from the spark of a strong personal interest in the maker movement. He started in his undergraduate days as an assistant with Matthew Young, the Rosenberg Associate Professor of Practice, recently completed his MS working in additive manufacturing with Professor Chad Duty, and now focuses on subtractive manufacturing (machining) with Schmitz.

“This puts me in a diverse spot manufacturing-wise,” he said. “My current research involves ‘bridging the gap’ in metrology for hybrid manufacturing. This experience sets me up for keeping the Maker Lab at the cutting edge.”

He feels that his interest in business has also helped him progress, as the Maker Lab operates in many ways like an independent business.

“I love making sure that every step of the process is seamless, from ordering to pick-up,” he said. “This makes sure the Maker Lab is practical for all to use.”

In his free time, Dvorak enjoys—surprise!—making stuff.

I’ve got a family of printers in my garage and play around with selling 3D prints online,” said Dvorak. “My latest project has been designing Knoxville-themed models for 3D printing. You might see a 3D printed Sunsphere in a local shop sometime soon.”

He and “patient fiancé” Meredith are also preparing to make a life together.

“After over six years together, we are recently engaged and looking forward to a wedding at a lovely spot in the Smokies,” he said.

Vols interested in the Maker Lab can visit makerlab.utk.edu to learn its capabilities.

“I think there’s a way for us to help with nearly any research group or senior design project,” said Dvorak. “And please let me know of any capabilities you would like us to get so I can set new goals.”

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