Jul 6, 2017
At a recent 3D printing conference, a Makerspace guru said that he hated the word “curriculum.” I understand his point – structured assignments can kill creativity and innovation. But university curricula provide the structure that drives the academic program – and academic libraries provide resources that support the curriculum in many ways.
Although the Stetson University library has much of the equipment found in a traditional Makerspace, and we welcome non-curricular experimentation, we consider ourselves first and foremost an Innovation Lab that supports the curriculum. Of all the learning technologies we offer in the Lab, 3D printing is integrated into the curriculum better than any other. In fact, our library has won two competitive Innovation awards – not for offering 3D printing, but for collaborating with faculty to integrate the technology into the classroom.
Similar to the experience of many other institutions, we found that the chemists, biologists, mathematicians, and computer scientists were the first to see the pedagogical value of 3D printing when we acquired the printers four years ago. We have also seen that student reaction to science lab and curricular assignments involving 3D printing has been highly enthusiastic.
Lately, however, we are seeing the art faculty and students take interest as well. A long-time Stetson art professor, Dan Gunderson has created numerous pieces for national exhibitions. In the past, he created a similar series by painstakingly collecting plastic “give-away” toys from fast food chains (which Dan considers images with which he works) that he used in his finished pieces. Working this way, he could not change the fixed scale of the toys, and thus his creativity was limited. Hearing about the library’s Innovation Lab, Dan approached us about helping him recreate the toys in various sizes that would give him unlimited artistic license to create. Although we first experimented with scanning the toys to create scaled pieces, the scan quality was too poor to use in our printers. We also had some copyright/trademark concerns with replicating commercial toys.
As an alternative to scanning, we introduced Dan to Thingiverse as a potential source of 3D printable objects that he could use in his work and easily print in a variety of sizes and scales. He was thrilled with the choices Thingiverse provided, and that he could print in a variety of colors. Much of his work is done in bright primary colors which is particularly well-suited for 3D printing. It did not take long for Dan to produce a number of beautiful creations – all made from pieces printed in the library’s Innovation Lab. We love his work, and one of his first pieces hangs at the entry of our library’s Innovation Lab.
Dan took his Innovation Lab experiences back to his studio and inspired his students to consider 3D printing as an art medium. We look forward to his students developing their own unique creations and expanding the use of 3D printing in their discipline.