Introducing the Makerspace at the UNH ECenter
Thanks to an outpouring of support from students, faculty, staff, and alumni alike, the first few months of 2016 brought the early stage implementation and soft opening of the new Makerspace at the Peter T. Paul Entrepreneurship Center (ECenter). For those not familiar with the concept, a makerspace is both a community center outfitted with fabrication tools and equipment, and a community of “makers.” The maker movement represents the democratization of engineering, design, fabrication, and education.
What is the Makerspace at the ECenter?
The Makerspace at the ECenter is a student run organization which operates by three core directives. First, to be as inclusive and interdisciplinary as possible by encouraging students—men and women-- from all colleges and programs to come together in making things that are meaningful to them. Second, to ensure that the maker community establishes all decisions regarding the development of resources. Third, to engage with the global “Fab Lab” network of state-of-the-art prototyping facilities by meeting the equipment band operational requirements set forth by the Fab Foundation (a prototyping facility benchmark).
A student-circulated petition in the fall of 2015 catalyzed the support of the UNH community and resulted in securing dedicated space in the ECenter at Madbury Commons and an initial round of funds generously donated by the UNH Wildcatalysts Network, UNHInnovation, and the ECenter. These funds provided retrofits to the space and an initial phase of equipment, tools, and materials. The Makerspace tools currently include a 40W Epilog laser cutter/engraver, 3D printers, a vinyl cutter, sewing machine, electronics tools, and more.
The Makerspace is run by a group of student volunteers currently working diligently to prepare for the official hard launch in late August while providing access to the space and equipment on an ad hoc basis in the interim. In the new school year, there will be open houses and workshops to help "Makerspace newbies" learn about what can be done and how. The Makerspace also continues to actively pursue additional equipment, monetary donations, grant funding, and new volunteers.
How You Can Get Involved:
There are several ways for students, staff, or faculty to get involved and volunteer. Students sit on an executive board of directors elected by the maker community, or volunteer as mentors. Mentors are present during open hours to provide assistance to users, or volunteer as process/machine masters who are responsible for developing an in-depth understanding of one specific machine. Process/machine masters create training documentation and procedures, conduct maintenance and repairs, propose operational budgets to the board each semester, and serve as a point of contact in case of questions related to their process.
Given the mounting body of scientific evidence establishing the connection between creative expression and overall wellbeing, life satisfaction, and performance in fostering entrepreneurial thinking, the Makerspace student leadership is honored to bring this opportunity to the UNH community. We hope to see it encourage not only entrepreneurial activity, but also inter-disciplinary collaboration and peer-to-peer learning. For example, artists can learn fabrication skills from engineers who in turn learn valuable design skills from the artists. Ultimately, we hope that the Makerspace will stimulate the innovation ecosystem around the University and across New Hampshire, and infuse a broad variety of new ventures and skilled workers into the state’s workforce.
To learn more about the Makerspace and how to get involved, please contact me at Matthew.Griswold@unh.edu.
Matt Griswold, '19
Chairman of the Makerspace Board of Directors