Makerspace celebrates first anniversary of supporting student creativity

The third floor of the library at California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) is typically one of the quietest venues on campus where one can retreat for a reflective read or opportunity to focus on studies without distractions, but a visit to Room 3125 – the home of Makerspace – on Mondays between noon and 2 p.m. and Fridays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. will find a hub of collaborative activity among students, faculty and staff.

Given its launch in Spring 2018, Makerspace – the brainchild of Frank Wojcik, dean of the library – is now celebrating its first year anniversary.

“Although Makerspace has been on campus for a year and free and open to all CSUMB students,” said Corin Slown, assistant professor in the College of Natural Sciences and an on-site coordinator of the project, “many on campus are unaware of its existence.”

Hundreds of CSUMB students have already participated in a wide range of creative activities including acrylic painting on canvas, laser design cut art, 3D printer operations building technical prototypes and iterating engineering designs to terrarium creations, crochet and button making, and even learning how to design items using a sewing machine.

“The library reclaimed the physical space for the Makerspace out of an area that was formerly designated as book processing and backroom storage space,” said Wojcik. The idea turned to reality as a result of collaborative library, College of Education and College of Science planning among students, faculty and staff. Practical support was provided by a Chevron California State University Pathways grant (in collaboration with Sonoma State’s Makerspace), an El Camino grant and the New Generation of Educators Initiative.

As defined by Makerspace.com, “A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools [that help to] prepare those who need the critical 21st century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. They provide hands on learning, help with critical thinking skills and even boost self-confidence.”

The somewhat universal mission statement of makerspaces is “to facilitate a collaborative environment wherein people can explore and create intersections between technology, science, art and culture.” Collaboration is the key word for Makerspace at CSUMB. A multi-dimensional and talented team is the lifeblood of its operation and includes “three amazing student leaders” as said by Slown, “Luis David Calderon, Isabelle (Izee) Gutierrez, and Madeleine (Maddie ) Church, who are also training up the next generation of Maker leaders.”

Staff includes “the amazing John Brady from the library,” said Slown, “who has been instrumental in supporting the 3D printers and laser cutters in the space, as well as Jeff McCall and Sophia Vicuna.” Faculty members of the team are Ryne Leuzinger of the library, Corin Slown of the College of Science, and Dennis Kombe, Megan Sulsberger and Mark O’Shea – all three members of the College of Education.

The purpose of Makerspace, as said by Slown, is Makerspace aims to emphasize the long-term objectives and the benefits accrued from creative exploration and activity, and productive collaboration.

“Agency and Identity formation has long been established as an important developmental goal of the collegiate education,” said Slown. “To adequately support students’ strong psychological need to explore and affirm their different social identities, it is important to understand how those identities develop and intersect. In order to persist in their education, however, all students need to feel they are in a campus community that supports and values them, where learning opportunities are developmental, and where they feel a strong sense of identity and affinity with the school.

“The feeling that they are cared about and seen as part of the campus community is tied to students’ sense of belonging; this feeling in turn is tied to student persistence. The Makerspace Activities will build a sense of community (design buttons for your major, learning living community, or club) as well as celebrate individuality and diversity (door signs and name plates) or explore prototypes and designs relevant to their majors or future careers. The emphasis is hands on inquiry, exploring the complexities of the world we make and the components therein.”

The long-term goal as shared by Slown is to create institutional capacity for the Makerspace and grow the cohort of “Maker Leaders or Otter Makers” that would make possible more open hours for more students, additional students and staff who are trained are needed. Students interested in volunteering should contact [email protected].

Slown commented, “We always wish for additional consumable supplies, more materials for Makers to utilize in their designs and projects. Some of the nonconsumable items that are on the wishlist are additional tables and chairs as workspaces, a large vinyl cutter and CNC machining and digital photography/media equipment, as well as computers.”

Some of the challenges facing the Makerspace at CSUMB, Slown responded, “The current challenge is drawing students into the Makerspace as many students still don’t know that it exists and that it is for them!”

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