Student Innovation Center promotes campus involvement in Makerspaces


Jack McClellan

The Student Innovation Center is home to eight different Makerspaces, which students can use to practice innovating and fabricating their various ideas.

The Student Innovation Center (SICTR) is working to increase student traffic in the Makerspaces, where faculty, staff and students at Iowa State can gather and develop ideas and projects.

Open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. all week long, the Makerspaces are ready for collaboration and creative design to take place. SICTR is preparing for an open house to display and promote these multipurpose spaces.

The Makerspaces include eight different shops and studios: the assembly metal and wood shop, digital media production studio, electronics, textiles and 3D printing shop, digital modeling and visualization laboratory, heavy metal shop, paint and finishing shop, composites shop and rooms for dynamometer engine testing, according to Inside Iowa State.

Lane Larson, the media production specialist and shop supervisor, shared his thoughts regarding the Makerspaces and the Digital Media Production Shop in an email response.

“My job is to keep the Digital Media Studios in the Student Innovation Center in working order and assist its users in bringing their vision into reality,” Larson stated.

Larson stated that the makerspaces are underused by students on campus. He emphasized that the spaces are a great free resource to help students build valuable and marketable skills.

“The Student Innovation Center’s Makerspaces could do with some better automation when it comes to student access,” Larson stated. “As of now, to make a reservation one would have to email a shop supervisor with a range of times and hope that one of them is available.”

Larson stated he would want to see some change in the organization of the space reservations. He suggested that reservations be put online for easier booking ability and to help students with busy schedules.

Larson stated that shop supervisors are always happy to find time for Makerspace users and their groups.

Danielle Orris, media production manager for SICTR, said the Makerspaces offer opportunities for students to benefit from the resources.

Orris said that the goal of the Makerspaces is to be a resource for students all across campus.

“Once students are able to do some online training, they can come in and do hands-on training, and then they have access to all the different tools and equipment in the spaces,” Orris said. “The sky’s the limit to what you can create.”

The spaces are meant to be the place on campus where everyone that has an interest in developing an idea or design can explore that opportunity.

“To open the door a little bit and get more people interested, we are actually doing Making 101 workshops, and these are going to be available–some are bi-weekly others are weekly–for small groups to come in and do actual demos and projects in the different spaces,” Orris said.

Orris said different Making 101 workshops will be held in the electronics textiles and 3D printing lab. One of these includes obtaining experience with the Melco Embroidery Machine. Participants can learn how to take your graphic or design from a computer to an actual piece of fabric and have it embroidered.

Other workshops include podcasting, photography, wood lathe training, hands-on bowl-turning experience and more.

“We’re trying to provide these workshops as a gateway to scratching the surface of what you can create in our Makerspaces,” Orris said.

Orris said that whatever project or concept someone may dream up, the objective is that the Makerspaces can provide the resources to make them happen.

SICTR will host a housewarming event from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday to open the doors of the building and display the resources at hand.

There will be a scavenger hunt with different activities on each floor of SICTR, Makerspace demonstrations, prize giveaways, food and many opportunities for people to see all available resources.

“We’d love to have a great turnout of students because we think they will get the most out of this space,” Orris said. “We also welcome faculty and staff because the more people that know about the Student Innovation Center and have seen all of the different things we have to offer, then word will continue to spread around campus.”

Rebecca Nation, the learning and development specialist at SICTR said that it is important for students to feel comfortable and not be intimidated by the Makerspaces and Making 101.

“We want to make sure innovation isn’t intimidating, and we want to make sure that students feel they are capable of being creative,” Nation said.

Nation said that a large aspect of the Making 101 workshops is to help students come in and create something they are passionate about and feel proud and accomplished.

“We want to show that that’s the beginning stage of the innovation process; [it’s] coming in, making, being creative, working with other people, students and machines that you normally wouldn’t work with,” Nation said.