Making It in the Makerspace

“NO FEAR” reads the yellow sign in the brightly lit room just down the stairs at Collins Memorial Library.

Yup. No fear is exactly what a student needs to turn some wild idea they dreamed up over coffee into a real “thing”—a thing you can touch, see, and use.

Welcome to the Makerspace: a place, Cambridge Dictionary tells us, “where people can come together to create or invent things, either using traditional crafts or technology.” Puget Sound launched its new Makerspace this fall and held an open house for campus members.

Coming in, the first thing visitors encountered was a “Veggie Piano” using Makey Makey software. Wired to a laptop were four bell peppers and a banana. Touch a veggie, and you’d get a note. Keep going, and you’d have a tune. Off to the left was a 3D printer tracking relentlessly back and forth, creating a miniature Halloween pumpkin out of a biodegradable polyester filament, layer by layer.

Look in anytime of the week, and you might find students full-on at it: clattering on a sewing machine; prodding with a soldering iron; slicing cardstock with the paper cutter: all patiently making whatever “it” is.

Siddharth Ramakrishnan, neuroscience program director, looks ahead and thinks big. “My hope is that students will be creators and not consumers,” he says. “If you want a microscope, you can 3D-print the parts and put it together. If cells need transport in a petri dish, you could make a dish specific to your needs.”

Physical therapy students could print out knee joints, and biology students could re-create delicate bird specimens from Slater Museum of Natural History, he says. Whole classes will collaborate on projects where they design, create, and experiment with the physical elements of their studies. Ramakrishnan says faculty interest is strong.

Two years ago the Makerspace was little more than a bright idea. Faculty conversations quickly became a reality as librarians, professors, and staff found the space, secured a budget, and bought equipment with a National Science Foundation grant.

Get to know some of the Makerspace users! See the photos below to learn more about how students are using the Makerspace.

Max Gawin ’19 found the Veggie Piano “so cool, so addictive.” But the device is much more that. The Makey Makey software driving it allows anything conductive—like your finger on a red bell pepper—to operate a computer software program. The software could be used to create controls for differently abled people—maybe to run a self-driving car or to turn on a TV with a blink of the eyes. Max, a history major, has more modest plans: She expects to use the Makerspace paper cutter and sewing machine to create costumes for theater productions.

Maloy Moore ’19, a psychology major, let her imagination unravel and created giant knitting needle tips with the 3D printer. She then attached PVC pipes, and with some super-thick yarn, she is making a fluffy, giant blanket. Maloy says, “I’m not much of an engineer, but I know what works [in knitting].” She designed the needle tips with Tinkercad software. “It’s like a 3D matrix [on screen] and you can bring in shapes and stretch them in any way, and attach them in different planes,” she explains. The 3D printer then laid down layers of onyx filament, a nylon and carbon fiber, to create the two black tips simultaneously.

Sandra Brandon ’19, a classics major, wants to learn more about the archaeological artifacts in the Doug Edwards papers in the library’s Archives & Special Collections. She was the first to use the 3D scanner, which can replicate an object as a 3D image on a screen. “Open an app, point the scanner at the object, press scan, and walk around,” Sandra says. “It gauges the depth between you and the object. It captures every nook and cranny.” The scanned image is sent to the 3D printer, and the object is built in plastic. Sandra (pictured with Professor Siddharth Ramakrishnan) aims to create replicas of precious antiquities and take them to class. “I love touching things to learn about it. If I break it, I can make another,” she says.

Emma Schintz ’20, a psychology major who works in the library, came to inspect the Makerspace and was rewarded with a free cupcake. “I heard about this, and I was curious,” Emma said, as she inspected one of the two 3D printers. It shuttled back and forth creating a cupcake-sized orange pumpkin with a Halloween face, complete with a lid. The creators used a design found at an online site for 3D printing enthusiasts.

Mary Brehove ’17, an art studio and business major alumna, dropped by to visit her alma mater. She used the laser cutter (kept in the ceramics building) for her senior art thesis last year. She printed and cut 75 acrylic sunflowers and attached them to a 10-foot white wall. “It created this kind of see-through, shadowy, tech thing,” she says. “I had experimented with glass and mirrors, but I wanted to use acrylic, and we had just got the laser cutter.” Her inspiration was the sunflower tattoo she has on her back in honor of a good friend who passed away. “She was just like a ray of sunshine. She was very bright and bold,” Mary said.

Sophia Munic ’19 created this woodcut of a bonsai tree by scanning a hand drawing into Illustrator software and then printing and cutting it in wood with the laser cutter. For her next art project, she’s using the cutter to create shapes that she then spraypaints on fake fur. She says: “It’s just an incredible tool that allows you to personalize your work and build in a different way. I am super happy that this space is here.”



Shirley Skeel
Published Nov. 28, 2017
Photos by Shirley Skeel