After seeing some of the facilities at FIRST@MEZ, I'm interested in how to get facilities like this going.
I would love to see multiple responses from multiple schools/facilities.
1. How are teams getting past liability for machine shops?
2. How are teams funding for the machines (mills, lathes, saws, etc.)
3. How is training managed for the machinery?
4. Who is the ultimate responsible party for the machine shop?
1. I suggest the real issue here is shop safety, not liability. Liability only becomes an issue when there is a failure of the safety program. In terms of insurance, the MEZ is a University of Michigan facility and is covered by their insurance. Second, FIRST is a official school activity, so the school insurance can also apply as well.
2. We have obtained equipment from a couple of sources - direct equipment donations, "at cost" purchases, and purchases using funds from cash donations. For example, Production Tool Supply, a local machine and equipment supply company, has donated equipment and provided at cost sales. We watch Craigs List and monitor commercial auctions for equipment. Since UofM is a 501(C) 3, donors to the MEZ can receive a tax deduction for their cash and in kind donations. UofM also has an account to receive and distribute funds. We were able to equip the MEZ for about $25K - $20K "in kind" donations and $5K in cash donations.
3. Training has a couple of levels - everyone is trained in general safety rules for the MEZ and there is specific training for each piece of equipment. Experienced mentors conduct the training. Monitoring safety pracitices is equally important. Our shop is in a locked room with controlled access - the shop is only opened when an experienced mentor is available to monitor machine usage. We have safety stand downs when dangerous situations are discovered. This year we plan to implement a "near miss" program. We'll ask participants to report situations where someone could have been injured and then work with the team safety captains to develop prevent actions to avoid an actual accident.
4. Responsibility for the MEZ shop is shared by several groups. It is a UofM facility so they have ultimate responsibility. Mentors are responsible for conducting the training and running the shop. Students are responsible for knowing and following safety rules and procedures. But it doesn't start and stop there - one of our basic safety principles is that we are all responsible for each other's safety. If some one is injured, then we are all responsible in some way for allowing that injury to occur.
I can provide info on the safety program at the Michigan Engineering Zone if folks are interested.
The facility and procedures at the MEZ are based on the experience of other teams and similar facilities. You may want to contact Team 217 The Thunderchickens, who have a great facility located in a Ford plant.
Attached are some photos of the MEZ.