Dreams turn into 3D reality with expanded campus makerspace


Zack Strub / Clarion

The Truax Camps STEM lab features new 3D printers. College officials are planning to add 3D Printers to an expanded Creator Studio, one that is technologically and disciplinary inclusive.

Megan Binkley, Staff Writer

A row of futuristic cubes squat in the corner of the room. Crimson girders form skeletal frames around central cavities, and chrome platforms gleam from the bottoms. Tiny cone nozzles dangle in the empty space above. The screen of the cube on the far left winks on, and the smell of melting plastic fills the room. The temperature on the monitor begins its slow ascent to 220 degrees Celsius.

These are the new 3D printers in the Truax Campus STEM lab. Affectionately referred to as “toasters” by the STEM Center student employees, they are the first steps in a multi-departmental effort to expand on Madison College’s existing makerspace, the Creator Studio.

As it stands now, the makerspace – a small room on the third floor with an eclectic array of art supplies, dedicated to nurturing student creativity – is often overlooked. It has all the waning beauty of “The Secret Garden” pre-Mary Lennox, a space once full of life and vibrancy now faded with time. It stands as a testimony to the place held by creative play and curiosity in an academic world that prizes industry and production.

One of the caretakers, Mark Perkins, mentions that students often peek in but don’t stay. He describes how, in a world full of deadlines and delineated instructions, students often don’t know what to do in a space where there are no expectations. Playing outside is a dwindling art form, at a great loss to the student body as a whole.

Yet a renaissance is on the horizon. Kevin Mirus, Executive Director of the STEM Center and a hobbyist 3D printer, described plans for an expanded Madison College makerspace. Through the combined efforts of Julie Gores, Dean of Libraries and Academic Support Services, Kevin Mirus, Executive Director of the STEM Center, Bryan Woodhouse, Executive Director of the Entrepreneurship Center, and Kate Radionoff, Dean of Professional and Continuing Education, plans have been drawn up for a space that is both technologically and disciplinarily inclusive.

Building on the existing makerspace, that houses fabrics, sewing machines, computers, drawing supplies, puzzles, and adult coloring books, the enlarged makerspace will bring in an array of new tools. On the short list for the upgrade are a host of 3D printers, laser cutters, an electrical engineering working station, and stations for robotics, among other things.

The envisioned Creator Studio, with a hopeful launch date of early 2018, will carry echoes of a Renaissance person’s inventing lab. At its best, it will provide a space for the marriage of arts and STEM, a point of intersection where creativity and the innate genius of collaboration will flourish.