Jul 26, 2017
Angela Vanden Elzen is a librarian and assistant professor at Lawrence University, Appleton, Wisconsin. In this article, she shares her story of setting up a makerspace, as well as some of the creative projects that have come out of it.
The library is at the heart of any college campus. It is a place where students from all majors gather to study, interact, and work together. When a group of professors, librarians, and support staff from all over campus began the planning process for a campus makerspace, the library was unanimously chosen as the home. The vision was to have a space that, like the library, would support the creativity and academic work of students from all academic disciplines.
After writing a successful grant proposal, and with support from many departments on campus, we were able to build the Lawrence University Interdisciplinary Makerspace for Engaged Learning (though we usually just call it "the makerspace"). We’ve been very happy with the response it has received from professors and students from across campus. I’m happy to report that after almost two years in operation, students and professors have used the makerspace for projects in Anthropology, Art, Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Conservatory of Music, Computer Science, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Physics, Religious Studies, and Theatre. That’s not all of the majors and programs represented on campus, but we think it’s a good start. Additionally, a group of students representing an even wider range of majors and interests has formed the Makerspace Club. Students in the club are able to use the makerspace for non-academic purposes.
3D printers have by far been the most popular pieces of equipment in the makerspace. Easy to use design programs like Tinkercad and fascinating object databases like Morphosource make 3D design and printing in academic settings easier than ever. The opportunity to work with such popular, cutting-edge equipment is also a big draw for many students. For those of us who do training sessions and manage the makerspace, it’s wonderful to see students come to us with an idea and watch it come to life. It’s also great to see them become comfortable with a type of equipment that is initially completely unfamiliar. Many students return with ideas for additional projects, spread the word to their friends, and often assist others with the machines.
The best way to show how the 3D printers have been used across disciplines at Lawrence University is through some examples. The photos below contain projects that were designed and 3D printed by students (and a professor) in our makerspace. Many more examples are shared on our website.
These were just a few of the amazingly creative projects students have made thanks to our 3D printers. We look forward to many more---and are especially excited to see what students make with our recently-purchased Ultimaker 3.