Makerspace tackles traffic ahead of move

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The Makerspace at Brock has been running workshops, holding drop-in hours and generally assisting students to learn a variety of skills while preparing to move its extensive array of equipment to a new space.

Currently in the James A. Gibson library, the Makerspace will be moving to the Rankin Family Pavilion, which is under construction.

According to Makerspace assistant David Potts, the new location will be significantly larger, allowing for an increase in the equipment available for student use.

“We are in a huge period of transition right now. We’ve gone from having that small room and having a staff of two to three at a time to moving to a space with more than three times the square footage that we currently have,” said Potts. “We know we’re going there, we have a lot of equipment, we’re training our staff and getting prepared. While right now a lot of our core offerings are surrounding workshops and more in-the-door materials. We’re revving up for a huge, explosive period of growth when we move into the new space.”

Currently, some of the equipment students can use includes a wood carving machine, a paper and fabric cutting machine also used to make stickers, circuits and electronic components and equipment for loan such as audio and video recording equipment.

Potts describes Makerspace as a low floor, high ceiling endeavor.

“All of our students are very friendly and we create a low floor entry level in that you don’t need a lot of tech skills. You don’t need a lot of experience working with technology in order to come in here and start making things on the very first day that you step into the room,” said Potts. “There are also opportunities for students who are looking for challenges or looking to make something possibly more sophisticated, either on their own or in collaboration with other peers, either something that’s in a focused discipline like 3-D printing or something that’s interdisciplinary.”

According to Potts, students utilize the space for a wide variety of reasons, including some using the busy room to study, take breaks from doing so, or spend time with other students present.

“In addition to all the making happening, there are also a lot of students coming in here to be a part of the space,” said Potts. “You might call it a soft space on campus. There’s not an explicit tie to academia; there’s not an explicit tie to social clubs. The students make their own culture in this space. While the Makerspace staff work hard to try and create opportunities for making in the space and do what we can to facilitate the culture, it’s highly driven by the students.”

The student culture is also influenced by the student staff that work at the Makerspace, including computer science student James Sargaent and third year Nursing student Kateryna Zvenyhorodska. Recently, Zvenyhorodska was working on creating a 3-D wooden puzzle in the shape of a bee, using the Carvey machine to cut out pieces.

Potts, Sargaent, Zvenyhorodska and the rest of the team will be contributing to large-scale interdisciplinary projects in the future, such as a cube made of programmable LED lights.

“The idea would be that while we’re building this we’re developing the core skills we need, the soldering and electronic awareness, to tackle larger local problems here on campus and in the community and really develop our skills,” said Potts. “While we develop a lot of our skills in the context of fun, inquiry-based projects the idea is that in engaging in these projects is that these skills are transferable to solving, in an innovative fashion, real local problems.”

Potts noted the role of 3-D printing and other innovative making strategies in initiatives such as creating prosthetic devices and even laying concrete foundations. On a more local scale, a student used the space to model and print a new lid to his expensive water bottle when the first lid broke, aiming to reduce the waste of throwing away the entire bottle. While this endeavour took multiple attempts, Potts cites this as an integral part of the learning process.

“In this space there’s a lot of learning through failure. It’s happening every day where we’re prototyping, working, going back to the design board, re-designing and learning from our failures,” said Potts.

The Makerspace is open daily by the library elevators, featuring workshops such as 3-D printing tutorials and woodcarving. Further information can be found on ExperienceBU.

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