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UNLV Makerspace gives students, faculty access to new and old tech

Updated September 6, 2019 - 7:11 pm

UNLV students looking to add some technological pop to their studies now have access to 3D printers, laser-cutters and video and audio production equipment as part of a new “Makerspace” at Lied Library.

A $1.8 million renovation turned 3,500 square feet of old offices and storage areas into separate studio pods for different kinds of projects. On one side, the Makerspace offers students and staff access to machinery like seven 3D printers, a laser cutter and a traditional sewing machine, all of which are available for free use after they complete a mandatory orientation.

Across the hall, soundproofed video and audio recording pods are aimed at students looking to develop podcasts or record videos for their classes.

Associate Dean of Libraries Pat Hawthorne said the space is the culmination of three years of planning and design, modeled after other academic libraries that have added “makerspaces” to their traditional stacks and aisles of books.

“We’re trying to provide as many tools as possible for as many interests as possible,” Hawthorne said.

The space has been open since classes began and has already attracted the interest of students like freshman Mark Mata, who was in the 3D printing studio Wednesday to design UNLV logos.

“I kept walking by, waiting for it to open,” said Mata, who also works as a student staffer in the Makerspace.

While makerspaces are growing in popularity, they often charge a subscription or hourly fee for their use, said RC Wonderly, the library’s making and innovations specialist. But UNLV students will pay only for the cost of materials, which works out to about $1.50 for a sheet of plywood, or 5 cents per gram of 3D-printer material.

STEM majors may find the tools immediately applicable to their studies, but use of the facility is open to all comers. In fact, one of the first classes to be held in the Makerspace classroom will be an English class, working on models of shields and crests from “The Iliad.”

“The idea is that we’re taking the research and making it more physical,” Wonderly said. “They can read ‘The Iliad’ and relate it back to what they’re doing and then add their spin.”

Faculty, too, have expressed interest in the video production space in particular, according to multimedia and design specialist Leah Howd. Professors who teach online classes, as well as those who may need to record interviews with guest speakers, can now do so with professional cameras.

And aside from academic uses, the Makerspace and multimedia areas are also meant to offer a recreational outlet to college students who are exploring new interests, Howd said.

“All of our students are whole human beings and not just their majors,” Howd said. “You can be a bio major and have a podcast. We’re giving them a space to develop those talents.”

Contact Aleksandra Appleton at aappleton@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0218. Follow @aleksappleton on Twitter.

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