Armed with 3-D printers, robots, laser cutters and a lot of hard-earned knowledge, they are ready to bring students’ ideas to life.

Somewhere on the University of Virginia’s Grounds right now, there is a 3-D printer whirring, spooling out layers of plastic to make a model of a patient’s skull, perhaps, or bringing an architecture student’s drawing to life.

There are also spinning robotic arms, drilling and making cuts that are accurate to thousandths of a millimeter. There are laser cutters, computer-controlled routers and even wind tunnels, all tucked into the nooks and crannies of labs, shops and studios around the University.

There is a buzz in these spaces, a special energy that comes not just from the tools, but from the people using them to turn ideas into reality. They are faculty and staff members who have carefully honed their craft, who are passionate about bringing the latest technology to UVA and who work every day to help UVA students from the Department of Drama to the School of Engineering and Applied Science find the best way to make their ideas happen.

They call themselves the “Makers of UVA” – an ever-expanding group of faculty and staff running a growing network of “Maker Grounds” spaces around the University.

Melissa Goldman, School of Architecture “FabLab”

Goldman, the daughter of a math teacher and a sculptor, always loved making things. As a student at Harvard University, she ran her own set design group, building new worlds for each undergraduate drama production. After graduation, she didn’t want to stop.

“I wanted to go even bigger than theater, so I went to graduate school for architecture at Columbia University, where I got bit by the digital fabrication bug,” she said. “After that, I knew that I wanted my own shop, and that I wanted to teach.”

That’s exactly what she did. As fabrication facilities manager, Goldman now runs the Fabrication Lab, or “FabLab,” at UVA’s School of Architecture.