Friday, February 03, 2017

[282] Creative opportunities abound as MTSU shows off its Makerspace equipment



The James E. Walker Library celebrated the success of its new “Makerspace” area with an official grand opening and dedication ceremony earlier this week in the second-floor Digital Media Studio.

The area provides equipment that enables students to design and work on projects, as well as write computer code or other specifications with which they can replicate those projects.

“The idea is that you don’t have to be a whiz coming in,” said Bonnie Allen, dean of the Walker Library. “You’re just going to be one leaving. We will show you. We will train you. This is way cool stuff, new toys, and it crosses every discipline on campus.”

Students and faculty crowded into the area at the Feb. 1 grand opening to watch student workers demonstrate three-dimensional, or 3D printers, a resin printer, a laser cutter/etcher, a vinyl cutter, virtual reality and kits full of parts that can be used to build just about anything one can imagine.

The kits contain plates, brackets, beams with holes in them for screws, sensors, joysticks, Wi-Fi modules, Bluetooth modules, temperature and humidity sensors, compasses, drive motors and belts.

Library student worker Michael Dailey, a computer science major from Lascassas, Tennessee, demonstrated a mechanical arm that manipulated a Sharpie. The arm was created with one of the Makerspace MakeBots kits.

They’re kind of little erector sets for adults,” Dailey said as the arm moved the Sharpie over a blank surface.

Dailey also demonstrated a Raspberry Pi, a $35 collection of sensors and electronic parts that can be used to build larger digital items. By speaking in the direction of the colored light-emitting diodes attached to the motherboard, Dailey could make the LEDs light up.

“It’s basically just a minicomputer that you can hook up all kinds … of peripherals to,” said Dailey.

Ben Becker, a computer technician with Linebaugh Public Library in Murfreesboro, said his employer might follow suit.

“We’re working on it,” said Becker. “We’ve got a couple of 3D printers in house now, and we’re hoping to open our new community technology center in the next year or year-and-a-half.”

Dr. Saeed Foroudastan, associate dean of the College of Basic and Applied Sciences, was impressed and said students definitely can use Makerspace for numerous class projects.

“They’re going to get more interested in this technology,” said Foroudastan. “If you can imagine something and come and make it, they will study more.”

Allen also put in an appeal for students to work in the Makerspace area to be trained to help students become accustomed to the equipment.

“It’s super cool,” said Spencer Butler, a biology major from Lebanon, Tennessee. “The university has gone above and beyond.”

For more information about Makerspace, contact Neal McClain, director of library technology, at 615-898-2572 or neal.mcclain@mtsu.edu, or coordinator Valerie Hackworth at 615-904-8545 or valerie.hackworth@mtsu.edu
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