Opening of Lili’s Proto Lab: play, imagineer and create

In James Bond films, comic relief is usually provided by the role of MI6’s pseudoscientist and master armourer, codename ‘Q’. ‘Don’t touch that, 007’ is Q’s recurring line whenever Bond gets his hands on another deceptively deadly prototype. But during the opening of Lili’s Proto Lab on 8 March, visitors were allowed to play with all the prototypes without fear of death and destruction.

The lab, no larger than three standard classrooms, held more than 100 visitors during the official opening. The visitors had a unique opportunity to admire and handle the lab’s many prototypes. Under the watchful eye of the lab’s energetic founders, visitors asked questions and received explanations about the various lab instruments on display.

A table in the middle of the lab featured prototypes of various materials, colours and shapes, including high-resolution 3D-printed miniatures of the Eiffel Tower and Easter Island. In a corner of the lab, there was a machine that incites fear in the hearts of many an artisanal chocolatier: one that could automatically produce perfectly-formed bonbons. The chocolates were devoured by the delighted visitors as soon as they left the machine.

The lab also features a computer that can scan objects in high resolution. The scans show the finest details of the objects, which can then be edited for 3D-printing. A lab researcher told the story of how he had once repaired a dishwasher by scanning and printing a broken rack roller.

Pioneer spirit

The prototypes are fascinating in themselves, but what can you actually use them for? In one word: imagineering. Lili’s Proto Lab gets students and other inventive people away from the books and allows them to build what they’ve conceived in theory. Amid the enthusiasm and smiling faces, one could sense the pioneer spirit that infuses the lab. That infectious spirit was intensified by the lab’s proud founders, who explained the lab’s potential interdisciplinary applications during the opening presentation. For example, lecturers will be trained to take advantage of the lab’s possibilities as part of the curriculum.

About Lili’s Proto Lab

The Proto Lab will serve as a hub for UU makers, where they can develop prototypes for both education and research. From experimental installations to testing whether your idea actually works. The lab will pay attention to challenge based learning, where students can make a proof of concept or prototype for their ideas, such as testing whether they can filter fine particulates from the air. The idea is that students and staff can share knowledge and collaborate on interdisciplinary projects to arrive at solutions together.


It was no accident that the opening of Lili’s Proto Lab was scheduled for International Women’s Day. Out of the 11 buildings at the Faculty of Science, a full 10 are named after men. The Caroline Bleeker building is the only exception. The new lab, located inside the Instrumentation Department at the Caroline Bleeker building, also honours the building’s namesake: Caroline Emilie ‘Lili’ Bleeker. The physicist Bleeker’s work included an important role in the development of the phase contrast microscope in the Netherlands. The lab’s mission is to support students, colleagues and other interested individuals in designing and building ideas that might seem impossible at first glance.