FirstBuild: Creative 'think space'

Innovation and Creativity at FirstBuild

There are lots of "think spaces" at the University of Louisville. Some are quiet, and others let you be creative and build things. 

For Jamal McFarland, the latter was FirstBuild, an on-campus microfactory and makerspace backed by Haier's GE Appliances. There, he learned to use 3D printers, laser cutters and water jets, between meetings on product design, marketing and sales.

"It's just innovation," he said. "You have a think space. You have a place that allows you to be creative to your maximum potential." 

While at U of L, McFarland applied for a summer job assembling ovens in the micro factory, then was offered a job teaching his fellow students to use equipment for their projects. He said the access to those tools is unusual for a university, and allows students to apply what they learn in  a classroom. 

"There's not many places like this, really, in the country," he said. "You have free access to all of this high-end equipment... You can't get that anywhere."

During his time at FirstBuild, McFarland got to help with the rollout of GE Appliances' Opal Nugget Icemaker and the Paragon Induction Cooktop. That taught him to develop products and commercialize them. 

Now that he's graduated from the U of L Speed School of Engineering, McFarland uses those skills he as an engineer for Ford Motor Co., where he helps find ways to save the company money by making the plant run as efficiently as possible. 

"Working here (at FirstBuild) was really, really good for me," he said. "I learned way more about... how to run a business while I was working here." 



It’s just innovation. You have a think space. You have a place that allows you to be creative to your maximum potential.
— Jamal McFarland, UofL grad and cost engineer for Ford Motor Co.