Friday, February 03, 2017

[268] MTSU library unveils 3D printing, more with Feb. 1 ‘Makerspace’ grand opening

MURFREESBORO — Today’s libraries are places of construction as well as concentration, and MTSU is right in step with the changes.

The James E. Walker Library will celebrate the success of its new “Makerspace” area with an official grand opening and dedication ceremony at 2 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 1, in the second-floor Digital Media Studio. Light refreshments will be available.

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.

Makerspace is equipped with 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.

“It’s to give students a place to challenge themselves, to come in and try to take an idea and prototype it and get it to fruition,” said Neal McClain, director of library technology. “It’s a place where they can work together with students from other disciplines.”

For example, art majors can make kinetic sculptures that move due to built-in motorized systems. Education majors can familiarize themselves with LittleBits kits, which are being used by children in grades three through eight. With virtual reality equipment called Oculus Rift, electronic media communication students can envision and create their own animation videos.

McClain, who holds a master’s degree in computer science, sees the library as a totally appropriate place for this hands-on approach to satisfying intellectual curiosity.

“An academic library, once upon a time, was just a place to go do research and study in the dead quiet,” said McClain. “That game’s changed in the last 10 to 12 years.”

To spark interest, McClain has placed colorful little figurines created with the 3D and resin printers at the Digital Media Studio’s front desk. Dogs, cats, unicorns, Pokémon characters and Darth Vader, among others, greet incoming students as Makerspace mascots. They were mere threads of plastic before the printers turned their human creators’ computer code into actual physical entities.

Student programmer and mechatronics engineering major Aldair Nieto said Makerspace is especially important to students with projects they must complete for classes.

“The equipment looks complicated because it may be unfamiliar to them,” said Nieto. “Once they give it a try, they will realize it is actually somewhat simple to use. All they need is a good imagination and be willing to take a chance at trying something new.”

For more information, contact McClain at 615-898-2572 or

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