UNL Maker Space will be hands-on gathering place for creative minds

Hands-on students at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will soon have an outlet for their creativity in the form of the Maker Space, a proposed facility on UNL’s Innovation Campus.

Shane Farritor, a professor of mechanical and materials engineering and member of the Innovation Campus faculty advisory committee, proposed the idea of Maker Space at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

“I think such a place could really help UNL students in a lot of ways,” Farritor said.

Farritor said he wanted to put a Maker Space on the UNL campus to allow students to use machinery for metalworking and woodworking, learn new skills and pursue their creative passions in a student-run environment.

The concept behind Maker Space is already in practice in other parts of the United States, such as TechShop in San Francisco. TechShop allows anyone with a membership to use their facilities, Farritor said. Each TechShop includes laser cutters, plastics and electronic labs, a machine shop, a wood shop, a metal working shop, a textiles department, welding stations and a waterjet cutter, according to its website.

Farritor has spent time at some maker spaces around the Unites States, such as the Hobby Shop at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and said it was very influential to him.

“It made me a better engineer and it made me a more creative person,” Farritor said.

Mamur Hossain, a graduate research assistant and Ph.D. candidate for the UNL College of Engineering, said he’s excited for the Maker Space and is looking forward to the benefits it will bring to UNL students.

“It’s an innovation campus, so we should have something innovative, of course,” Hossain said.

Though there are other similar places around the country, Maker Space will be innovative because of its proximity to the Business Accelerator, another part of Innovation Campus that will help entrepreneurs refine their ideas and get their businesses off the ground.

Farritor’s vision for the Maker Space is that it will fill a similar role to the Campus Recreation Center, but instead of students exercising their bodies, they would exercise their minds.

“There’s a campus-wide push for fitness,” he said, “and I think we need that same thing for creativity.”

To help bolster creativity, Maker Space is designed to get people from multiple disciplines working on different projects in the same physical space.

“There will be a mixed dynamic of people doing things they’re very passionate about,” Farritor said.“Incredible things come out of those environments.”

Students wouldn’t be the only people at Maker Space either. Like the Rec, anyone will be able to get a membership and use the Maker Space’s facilities for their own enrichment.

Certain aspects of Maker Space, such as an introductory 3-D printing course, could help people take advantage of new technologies, Farritor said.

“Instead of going to Wal-Mart and buying a set of plastic furniture for your daughter’s dollhouse, you could download a file, pick the color and customize your own,” he said.

Another reason Farritor proposed Maker Space is that it allows UNL to cater to students who need practical outlets to use what they have learned in class.

“I’m a believer in learning by doing,” Farritor said. “We have all these hands-on people (in Nebraska). Maker Space will encourage and develop that.”

The existence of the Maker Space depends on funding, which is still in the works, but Farritor said that they hope to open the Maker Space for student use either in fall 2014 or early 2015.

The Maker Space would be a great addition to UNL because it will get students more experience working hands-on with machines, Hossain said.

“It’s experience that matters,” he said.

Article by Sam Egan, The Daily Nebraskan