Students experience 3-D printer in library’s makerspace

Lawrence University became the first college in the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) to have a 3-D printer. Located on the first floor of the Seeley G. Mudd Library, the Lawrence University Interdisciplinary Makerspace for Engaged Learning houses two pairs of 3-D printers and scanners for everyone to freely use. 3-D printers are one of the newest technologies to enhance our knowledge of science. Following this new technological trend, Lawrence has arranged a part of the library for these devices, which include 3-D printers, a sewing machine and an electronic cutter. Upon arrival of these new machines, students have expressed their eagerness to use these machines.

In the makerspace, 3-D printers have already started to take on various roles. One student invented headgear for measuring brain waves for his computer science project. Many chemistry students have used this technology to print scientific models. Moreover, many students majoring in art and social sciences also visit the makerspace. Recently, students in anthropology have printed ancient navigational tools for their class. “Students sometimes drop by the makerspace to take off stickers on their laptops by using the electronic cutter,” said Reference and Web Services Librarian Angela Vanden Elzen. Any students approved by their professors can get access to the makerspace after completing 30 minutes of training. Vanden Elzen, mostly responsible for directing this whole place with other professors and librarians, expects to encourage a makers’ club governed by students themselves so that they can freely choose to invent their own creations by systemizing their ways of access and usage.

Although the printers only became available this past Fall Term, this project has been planned since last summer. Associate Professor of Chemistry David J. Hall said the college received the funding for this campaign four years ago from Provost David Burrows and other funding from guest speakers and the ACM. The space that the makerspace occupies was made by knocking down a wall between two separate rooms to make one larger space.

Before creating this space on campus, students would go to the local makerspace in Appleton. Hall said that some students visited the local makerspace since it was only two or three blocks away from campus. In the local makerspace, students were free to use their own storage and get a student discount. After the makerspace moved to a different location, students had difficulty accessing it due to the long distance.

A future goal of this makerspace is to expand its size so that students can get access to more up-to-date devices like a razor cutter. Vanden Elzen also hopes 3-D printers become more readily available for the broader range of students with the new makers’ club. She said, “We are looking for new leadership for this club to make this possible.” She expected it would be a good experience for everyone if students themselves engage in managing and governing the makerspace later through their club activities. Other special guest speakers such as Instructional Technologist Arno Damerow and well-known speaker on liberal arts education and technology Bryan Alexander are also expected to visit the makerspace this Spring Term and over the summer to help work the technology into classes. Vanden Elzen and Hall anticipate that these speakers will contribute greatly to the makerspace.