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Illuminant & Annual Report | 2020

The Illuminant is a production of the Miami University Libraries' Office of Strategic Communications.

Makerspace creates opportunity in King Library

A wooden board is clamped into a Carvey CNC routing machine. The Miami University Libraries logo has been engraved into the wood.

For anyone with an idea for a product or design, a dedicated space in King Library offers the tools and guidance to make it a reality.

The University Libraries debuted its Makerspace on the third floor of King Library at the beginning of the 2019 fall semester. Equipped with 3D printers, a laser cutter/engraver, CNC routing machines, paper and vinyl cutters, a dye-sublimation printer, heat press, and sewing and embroidery machines, the Makerspace (King 303) is a collaborative and hands-on learning space open to Miamians of all majors and disciplines.

In its inaugural semester, the Makerspace saw more than 500 walk-in students and was embedded in three different courses.

The Makerspace is another example of the Libraries’ commitment to providing the cutting-edge tools and guidance that make a Miami University education exceptional in preparing students for an ever-changing workforce.

“One of the great benefits of makerspaces — especially in the neutral space of the campus library — is the opportunity for transdisciplinary collaboration,” said Sarah Nagle, creation and innovation services librarian. “Students of all majors and backgrounds can learn through making in ways they might not experience in their courses.”

Sarah Nagle gestures to a Carvey, which is an automated routing machine, in the University Libraries Makerspace.

In the course of bringing a concept to reality in the Makerspace, students gain direct experience in all stages of the ideation, creation, and revision process, developing skills in areas like 3D modeling, CNC design, and introductory computer programming.

With open hours every weekday, Miamians can drop in at any point in the semester to begin exploring the equipment and possibilities of the Makerspace. During the pandemic, would-be makers simply make an online appointment.  Trained staff demonstrate safe use of the equipment and are on-hand for guidance and troubleshooting. In addition, the Libraries regularly hold workshops aimed at introducing students to the equipment and possibilities of the Makerspace.

But beyond independent projects, Nagle sees big advantages for instructors.

“By incorporating maker-type assignments or projects into their curriculum, faculty not only increase student engagement but also open the door for students to develop new skills — and not just with technology. Students also learn transferable skills like critical thinking, teamwork, design thinking, and problem-solving, all of which benefit students regardless of their chosen major or career.” Nagle explained.

The potential applications are as numerous as they are diverse. Nagle and her colleagues have facilitated several course meetings at the Makerspace across disciplines, and some instructors have embedded Makerspace projects into their courses.

A photograph of a person's two outstretched hands holding a wooden keychain engraved with the Miami University block M logo and a small 3D-printed octopus.

Whatever the project, the process itself can be just as valuable as the end product. The methods used in creation and revision — creativity, problem-solving, and trial and error — have applications in all fields.

“Most importantly, students gain a ‘maker mindset’ that extends beyond the physical things they are making and develops into a worldview that embraces curiosity, empathy, and learning through failure,” said Nagle.