Facility will promote innovation and additional hands-on experience
College of Engineering and Computing students will now have the resources in a dedicated space to design and create independent projects. On Wednesday, August 18, the college will unveil the Makerspace Initiative, featuring state-of-art equipment to foster students’ innovation and creativity.
The new facility will consist of two spaces. The Rapid Prototyping Lab (RPL), located in Room 1D25 in the Swearingen Engineering Center, will feature seven 3-D printers and include space for robotics-related projects, including an electronics fabrication station with soldering station, wire cutters, Arduino equipment (for building electronic projects), Raspberry PI (a complete personal computer built into a compact keyboard) and associated supplies. The Student Access Machine Shop (SAMS) at 300 Sumter Street will feature woodworking, welding and other machining and drilling tools.
“The Makerspace Initiative will provide beyond-the-classroom experiences,” says Jed Lyons, senior associate dean for academic affairs. “The university puts value into experiential learning and students enhancing their degree. Unlike an instructional space where students attend class and are graded, the makerspaces are intended to provide additional learning opportunities.”
Second-year Ph.D. mechanical engineering student Sowmya Raghu will oversee the RPL. She believes the lab will enhance student engagement and encourage interdisciplinary collaborative work among the college’s six academic departments.
“This makerspace gives the students an environment to prototype and create things,” Raghu says. “If a student wants to create an autonomous robot, the RPL allows a mechanical engineering student to create the design and work with electrical engineering and computer science students to bring it to life. We want to achieve interdisciplinary efforts in creation and making.”
Raghu also hopes the makerspaces will be a place where students will want to work on hands-on projects. She believes it will enhance creativity and give students an opportunity to believe that nothing is impossible to develop.
“We want to encourage out-of-box thinking among engineering and computing students. In a typical classroom environment, students are constrained by what they can do for a project, such as time and space limitations. We want to give them the opportunity to use this space to work on their own personal projects on their time,” Raghu says.
While the goal of opening a makerspace has been realized, it is expected to evolve over time to meet student needs. “We are starting with a basic set of resources before determining the actual demand,” Lyons says. “We have perceived demands right now, such as some 3D printers, a soldering station and one wire cutter. We will see what gets used and what students are asking for. The idea is to start small and grow smart.”
*The makerspace will be dedicated with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in front of the Rapid Prototyping Lab on August 18 at 11:30 a.m.*