By John Rogan
Makerspaces and similar areas are being integrated into increasingly more college campuses across the United States as education becomes more and more synonymous with technology use and physical implementation of the learning process.
Aaron Sams, assistant professor in the Education Department, described the upcoming Learning/Makerspace as a “classroom, a maker space for students […] [where] classes can go to produce objects [and] prototypes.”
“I [also] believe there is going to be some sort of recording studio [for] audio and video,” he said.
As some of his classes involve the use of Makerspaces, Sams was confident in the school’s decision to implement one in the library.
“[…] [They’re] kind popping up all over the place,” Sams said. “You find them in public libraries, you’ll find them in a bunch of schools and universities […] it’s mostly a place to just create stuff.”
Sams explained that Makerspaces allow students to use “basic arts or crafts or building supplies to make something. 3D printers are [also] popular […] you can produce items in there, or laser-engravers, vinyl cutters, small hand tools […] things like that.”
Sams stated that the use of Makerspaces is definitely a current trend in K-12 and higher education.
“For example, at Texas Tech,” Sams said, “if you go into their library [and] walk by their Makerspace, they’ve got computers and printers that you can set up, that you can do computer assisted drafting […] they’ve got large scale things like that in there.”
Dr. John Smetanka, academic dean and vice president of Academic Affairs, stated that the reason for Saint Vincent deciding just now to implement a Makerspace was that the expansion of the Latimer Family Library currently underway will provide new technology-equipped classrooms and other educational spaces, like a video production suite and Makerspace.
“These changes are part of a growing trend in libraries around the country to create a wider variety of technologically-enabled spaces that are both useful and attractive to students,” Smetanka said.
According to Smetanka, the new Library will retain the truly unique parts of the physical collection, that is, the books, that are used by scholars from around the county.
Through his own experience, Sams provided insight into what student use of the upcoming Makerspace may look like.
Sams stated that in one of the Education classes he teaches at the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit, he will have his students use the Makerspace there in a couple of ways.
“I’ll create challenges for their classmates to carry out, in that they have to use basic tools to build something. It’s kind of a basic engineering type challenge, but I’ll also have them use the materials to visually represent something thy have learned,” Sams said.
Sams was particularly attracted to the idea of a recording studio in the space, describing the upcoming appendix as “a room separate from the Makerspace, but in the same general vicinity.”
“I know the Makerspace will be available to professors to book classes in,” Sams stated.
Sams stated that he thinks Makespaces are important to students because of the potential for creativity.
“The idea is generally just to try to spark a little bit of creativity and ingenuity in people, instead of just producing one form of media to demonstrate your understanding of something,” he said. “You’re giving your students other opportunities or other ways to do that.”
Smetanka discussed the cost and development time of the Makerspace, stating that the entire project will be finished in spring of 2020. However, parts of the new construction will be available to students beginning in the fall of 2019.
“The cost of the new construction and renovations is around $18 million,” Smetanka said.