MakerSpace Is Making a Difference
Information Technology and Services (ITS) officially launched the SU MakerSpace at the opening of the Fall 2014 semester. Members of the University community increasingly gather there to learn and create using do-it-yourself approaches to creating with technology. MakerSpace shares space with the Kimmel Computer Lab.
Interim Vice Chancellor and Provost, Liz Liddy sees great promise and potential in MakerSpace. “MakerSpace is breaking new ground for the University as it strives to prepare students for success in an ever-changing world. I’m impressed by how it stimulates productive collaboration among students from different disciplines. It’s clearly a valuable resource for nurturing students’ personal intellectual discovery, self-education, and entrepreneurial spirit.”
Jean Henry, an instructor in the Department of Design in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, recently brought students from her “Digital Fabric Printing” course for a tour. “Our major intent was to see the large embroidery machine and its potential for students to enhance fabrics for senior thesis collections. This machine is capable of stitching 16 colors at one time and can embroider a 24-inch square in one hooping. Fashion is trending towards embroidered designs, and our students are very interested in using this technology,” she says. “Then we saw the 3D printers and immediately became intrigued by how that process would mesh—pun intended—with fabric design and fashion production. I can envision 3D printed knit structures, on a large or fine scale, used as fabric or as embellishments and, of course, as body jewelry. The potential for fashion and accessory design using 3D printers is very exciting.”
Henry’s students were equally intrigued. Natalia Forsey, senior in fashion design, thinks the laser cutter and embroidery machine stood out. “I’m making my senior collection right now. I want to embroider or laser cut into leather. It would be so much easier to do here than do it by hand.”
Aimee Mercure, senior in fashion design, says MakerSpace awakes new possibilities and new ways to create things. “A lot of times we think and create in 2D and not 3D. Plastic is something I never thought of as a medium. I think it’s amazing we students can use something this cool and limitless,” she says.
Many students are finding and using MakerSpace to achieve their aspirations:
- Class of ’15 School of Architecture student Omal-Hoda Kassim has used the space for mastering laser engraving for her personal designs. “MakerSpace is a fun place to be. I just love working with all the people here,” she says. “I feel like I would never have come up with these ideas on my own, so working with everyone has helped a lot.”
- Ben Marggraf, a senior biomedical engineering major in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, came upon MakerSpace just as it was getting off the ground last spring. “I was able to 3D-print objects my team designed for our haptic feedback glove project. We had designed the parts but were expecting to have to pay to get them made,” says Marggraf. “John [Mangicaro, electronics technician on ITS’s learning environments team and lead facilitator of MakerSpace] has been a huge help. He’s very knowledgeable, and he has insights into all sorts of fields and tons of electronics experience.” The team, started by Marggraf and mechanical engineering major Tim Meyer, developed a glove that enables the wearer to control a robotic hand with high precision and haptic feedback. Their project won a $2,000 RvD IDEA Award. “MakerSpace is a place you can go with an idea and make it a reality. If you want to make something, they have the means and the skills to help you do it,” says Marggraf.
- Kean Clifford leveraged his MakerSpace experience to launch his start-up, Prey Fishing Tackle. A graduate student in the Entrepreneurship and Emerging Enterprises program at the Whitman School of Management, Clifford holds an M.P.A. from the Maxwell School and an M.S. in fisheries research from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. His firm designs and markets customizable and biodegradable 3D-printed fishing lures that are economical to produce and that anglers find effective. “MakerSpace taught me how to 3D print, and so much more. It encouraged me to pursue entrepreneurship. It lowered barriers to bringing products to market and put me in a network of students who encouraged one another to pursue excellence in their work,” says Clifford. “It’s a hive of student talent, drawing in the ambitious and self educated who wish to be productive and creative simultaneously. It’s a place to find that perfect teammate who can contribute the missing synergy to your big project.”
- DeBorah Little, recent iSchool graduate, entrepreneur and inventor of Lil’MorStix, found MakerSpace a tremendous help in getting from prototype to product. “Without MakerSpace and John Mangicaro’s help, the process would have been a lot more expensive, taken a lot longer and could have led to producing an imperfect product.” Little had been working with commercial prototyping and design firms before hearing about MakerSpace from her contacts at the University’s RvD IDEA Office. “We went through several iterations in MakerSpace before the design was perfect. The MakerSpace is a wonderful resource for students and increases their chances of getting their creations to market successfully.”
Students at Syracuse University are not the only ones who can learn at MakerSpace. This summer, as part of the University’s Summer College program, MakerSpace will again offer “MakerSpace and 3D Printing,” a two-week course for high school students presented by ITS and RvD IDEA. Students will learn creative ways to problem solve and work in teams to develop their ideas. They’ll explore topics such as business model generation, customer rsearch and market validation. Faculty, industry professionals and other mentors will provide invaluable feedback about their ideas. The Summer MakerSpace Experience will culminate in a competition where students will present to a panel of judges and compete for prizes.
Makerspaces will have a profound impact on higher education within the next five years, according to the “NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition.” The report finds makerspaces becoming increasingly relevant due to significant changes in “what types of skillsets have real, applicable value in a rapidly advancing world. In this landscape, creativity, design and engineering are making their way to the forefront of educational considerations as tools such as 3D printers, robotics,and 3D modeling Web-based applications become accessible to more people.”