Prosthetic hands in Brock Library Makerspace

Brock Library Makerspace

What does it take to set up a successful makerspace from scratch? Pioneer Tabitha Lewis is here to share her story.  

Over the past year since the journey began, there has been a growing interest and fascination with the new service of 3D printing at the Brock University Library Makerspace. We have had students and staff from a wide variety of disciplines come into the space and try their hand at 3D printing.

Biology 3D print
Student printed a Cochlea for a biology course

There have been many ideas that have streamed through the makerspace, from printing missing game pieces to prototyping new inventions.  

There was a project that I was personally excited to develop after being inspired by the stories of Easton LaChappelle and RIT professor, Jon Schull’s grass roots organization e-Nabling the Future. My first step was to download the 3D modeled files from Thingiverse and the process began. I quickly realized I needed help so I found ways to connect to e-Nabling the Future through Google Groups, Facebook, and Twitter. I reached out to others on the campus who had 3D printers to see which could print in the best quality.

By simply printing out the separate parts people at the university were amazed. The 3D prosthetic hand was completely assembled in time for our grand opening. We had a special guest from the Ontario government such as Deputy Premier Deb Matthews, Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development, and the Honorable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.

We found out that in a few years there will be a new 2000 sqft space dedicated to the library makerspace. I took the initiative to learn Sketchup and design a conceptual model of how a university makerspace should look and function. Visit the website to see the model for the Brock Linc Makerspace.

In the beginning

In the beginning, the journey to learn about 3D printers was one of self-interest. The printers were purchased with the hopes that one day a makerspace would become a reality. Through many failed prints, promotional events, hack-fests, and maker days the space was gaining traction amongst professors and students. Today the Brock Library Makerspace has become a feature of the Brock University Library, not only for the Brock community but for the Niagara Region.

3D printed prosthetic hands

Stages of building a university makerspace: From nothing to something

Stage 1: Learning the hardware

Stage 2: Researching 3D printing and modeling best practices

Stage 3: Creating events where students and staff could experience the 3D printers

Stage 4: Creating a structure of a library makerspace at the university. Since most makerspaces are thriving in the K-12 institutions, I recognized the opportunity to research and shape how makerspaces look in post-secondary institutions.

Stage 5: Making it official and launching the space. This includes providing scheduled workshops, demos, and creating a working group on a campus that would connect all the various ‘Maker’ like groups.

3D modelling software for educators

Most if not all of the hardware and software used was open source or something that already existed in the library systems inventory of supplies. It really took vision and creativity to take it from the idea stage to reality. Through these various stages of learning about 3D printing and building a makerspace and culture on the campus, our goal remains to connect community and provide opportunities for people to experience and learn using this technology.