NCCU, MIT team up as part of high tech lab program


DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – North Carolina Central University’s new fabrication lab is developing the next generation of entrepreneurs at the university.

The high tech lab opened in May and is already fostering an environment of creativity, something Dr. Faye Calhoun said is a giant step forward.

“…We want to build on the legacy of African-American creativity and innovation,” said Calhoun.

The lab, which opened in May, is a joint venture with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Fab Lab program.

The fabrication lab is the first at a historically black college in the United States.

The program helps to foster creativity and spark entrepreneurship. It has given biology major Nicholas Speaker a creative outlet.

“[You can invent] and collaborat[e] with students that you’re not going to collaborate with every day. And be your own inventor. I’ve always read about black inventors and now I’m able to be one,” said Speaker.

Eric Saliim manages the lab that includes 3D printers, automated vinyl cutters and even a digital sewing machine. He’s overseen several projects getting national attention, including a device worn around a student’s wrist that, when pressed, sends a signal to an app warning friends or family they’re in danger.

“It was all student generated. It was a student idea to say we need more security,” said Saliim. “They came up with what they need to do to fabricate it…they also developed the dressing that goes around it.”

Calhoun said she’s working to help the lab grow by reaching out to Triangle companies. She hopes African-American inventors of the past can inspire a future generation.

“I think many of us remember back to time when without formal education, African-Americans contributed to the building of this country in so many ways,” she said.

The lab cost around $100,000 to build and was funded in part by the university and a grant from the Department of Education.

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