Do you have a favorite creative outlet that puts you in a good mood after a bad day? For a lot of College of Engineering and Computing students, that place is the Makerspace. The Makerspace is a place for the students of the CEC to explore their creativity and imagination through technology. Whatever a student can imagine can be made at the Makerspace using their 3D printers, coding devices and plenty of other tools. There are maker-mentors and other staff who are available to assist students in bringing their ideas to life.
Rori Pumphrey, a maker-mentor, showed her love for her job when she stated, “It's incredible. I love teaching students skills on all things making.” Pumphrey works at least ten hours a week to assist with these projects and help them come to fruition, occasionally even staying after her shift. Through grants awarded to the Makerspace, the staff is able to keep their passion alive and be compensated for their work. Through smaller projects and workshops, the staff help to foster a new passion in engineering students, giving them a safe place to foster their ideas without the pressure of a grade. Students can create designs from some of their wildest dreams, within reason of course, inside this safe place that has been created. One of their most recent projects, a 3D printed sunflower that can detect and turn towards the light, is a great example of the interesting creations from the Makerspace.
It is not only a haven for the students, but the staff as well. Pumphrey explained how the job has affected her, “I love helping people get to where they want to be. I'm going to hopefully stay in academia and be a professor. So, this gives me a lot of great experience to understand what people want to do, and then help them bring it about independently, while also just functioning as a mentor. This has been a fantastic outlet to do that.”
The space was created by Dr. Jed Lyons, the senior assosiate dean of the College of Engineering and Computing, along with Sowmya Raghu in 2021. The collaborative space created a new space for students to work on their own ideas without classroom constraints. With the assistance of staff and technology, they are able to become hands-on with their own projects.
Not only is it beloved by the community, but also by the minority population within the CEC. By putting on workshops and planning projects for women in STEM and first-generation college students, the space tries to bring these populations together and garner new connections within the college. Pumphrey said, “The CEC can be kind of isolating. Especially, if you're in a specific or large class, and you don't know anyone. So, I feel like that's been a really valuable resource to a lot of people to get to know, those who are similar to them.”
The space tries to cultivate an idea outside of the typical stereotype of the general engineering student. Pumphrey shared, “We are the absolute opposite of the engineer stereotype, which is great to bring that out in people. Because when you're stuck in the grind of classes you can fall into the stereotype pretty quick. I think it's nice at least to have an outlet, not to do that. Be crazy, do fun things, for no reason except, why not?”
A unique freedom lies within the Makerspace, one where students don’t have to worry about getting funding or creating a proper thesis, they are able to build their knowledge with their own ideas and creativity.